The Partners

The McBeal Sims or how not to clone a classic.

14From the interface to the general gameplay, The Partners has a lot of The Sims in its DNA. You can think of it as what happens when your Sim goes to work after choosing a career in Law. You control an office of outrageous lawyers with requisite personal problems, guiding them through the trials of running a high-profile law practice. Each of the three firms has a unique background story and distinguishing traits — from the couple-owned “Gordon & Gordon†to the off-the-wall “Adios & Goodnight†— and you can play a separate seven-mission campaign for each.

Key to the game are the social interactions between the lawyers and the people they meet. As in The Sims, you can specify actions for each person, though the options are a bit more risqué: it’s much easier to seduce colleagues, for example. Character desires and feelings are displayed as icons and meter bars in a familiar interface.

Surprisingly for a law-firm game, you never see the courtroom. Cases are presented with varied and interesting backstories, complete with eccentric clientele. Victory odds accompany each case and supply the cash, but unlike The Sims, leaving your characters to their own agenda leads to disaster, so they require constant supervision. Besides earning money, you also have side objectives like keeping a promiscuous attorney from landing himself in divorce court.

2Your penthouse office, its neighboring surroundings, and all the characters are modeled in full 3D, and the camera controls are functional if not very streamlined. Décor and furniture are arranged to your choosing in the buy mode, but while the available objects match the theme of the game (you can fill the office with condom dispensers), how it’s laid out has little influence on the actual gameplay. A freeplay selection lets you explore the building options, though it’s not nearly as involving as the game’s campaigns.

Control issues and not generally tired design makes The Partners more annoying where it should stand out as being unique. It definitely lags behind The Sims in key areas -not being able to really build your office, but selecting a host of preset floor and wallpaper texture packets to decorate already existing interiors. You do get a lot of stuff to buy, but none of it is that interesting. The game simply lacks the polish and magic that made The Sims great.

System Requirements: Pentium III 700 Mhz, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, WinXP

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