Being a teen is difficult. There are so many new emotions to contend with, friends drifting off for new relationships, and anger over just how unfair life can get. The Sims 4: High School Years understands this well, and introduces a whole new set of daily challenges and gameplay features to The Sims 4 to really evoke those tumultuous teen years. From homework and exams to new stresses, prom dates, friendships and social opportunities, the latest Sims 4 expansion pack does a lot to change up the life of teen Sims – it’s just a shame that it’s bogged down by a variety of technical issues.
The primary feature of this expansion is the ability to follow your teen Sims to school. Previously, schools operated as ‘rabbit hole’ locations where Sims would disappear for hours at a time. Now, they’re proper venues you can visit and interact with. While your Sims are at school, you can have them attend set lessons, make friends, decorate their lockers, order food for lunch, take exams, or ask people out to Prom. This usually works a treat – and there are plenty of options for promoting good grades or truancy, based on your choices – but the transition between home and school isn’t always smooth.
The Sims 4 appears to have major trouble determining Sim locations after the latest game update. Teen Sims will visit school and return home, but their character profiles will remain ‘whited out’ with the game still believing they’re in school when they’re actually firmly out. This locks them off from accessing their inventory, which means they can’t complete homework or advance school projects. It’s not always the case, but the majority of school visits will cause this bug. A simple save reload fixes it, but at the time of writing, it’s very frustrating to deal with on a daily basis and makes romping through High School Years an exercise in patience.
It’s not the only big bug that comes with High School Years. Prom, a new event that marks the end of the school year, is similarly scrappy. While it’s easy enough to get through Prom – if you spend time chatting with friends in school, you’ll usually get a ‘Promposal’ invite or two – the night doesn’t always go off without a hitch.
For some reason, I ended up with two Proms in the space of a week during my playthrough of High School Years, and neither of them seemed to lead to the game’s ‘Graduation’ end state. The first time, every teen Sim had swapped to casual clothes instead of formalwear at Prom, and the second time, everyone but my own Sims had completely vanished, despite the event being in full swing. I also had a major issue when I briefly swapped control to an adult Sim.
There are some clear teething issues to be overcome here, and while many are already in the process of being fixed, they put an unfortunate dampener on what is a solid, much-needed expansion pack. Teen Sims have long been overlooked, with few reasons to dwell on this age. Now, there are whole new activities, emotions, and a snazzy new culture to engage with.
In The Sims 4: High School Years, your teen Sims can become fashion influencers by engaging with a new app known as ‘Trendi’. By visiting thrift shops, they can design whole new outfits, and sell them online for a quick buck. It’s a cute and fun new addition to the game that helps younger Sims build their entrepreneurial skills, and also gives them something to do.
When they’re not thrifting clothes, they can also hop into after school activities like Chess Club, Scouts, Football Club, or
This theme park-like space is one of the best areas in the entire Sims 4 franchise, and includes a number of rides Sims can share together – a Ferris Wheel, a Haunted House, and a Tunnel of Love, as well as scenic views. Each ride in Plumbite Pier can positively impact relationships between Sims, and create energised moodlets to help teens deal with the stresses of everyday life. Here, you can also purchase boba tea or ice cream, hang out with your pals, or just blow off steam – whatever makes your Sim life easier.
It’s a well-designed location, and one that helps to make teen hangouts feel more unique. It also aids the differentiation of teens and young adults in the game – these ages have largely felt homogeneous outside of this pack. But with new interactions, better-defined emotions (stress and anger from school work is fairly common), and a distinct ‘style’, teens now feel far more unique.
This extends to their bedrooms, which can now be designed with new, ‘teen-friendly’ items like LED lights, decorations, and gamer chairs. In this pack, there are new boho beds, colourful paintings, various neon signs, artwork made from CDs, new rugs, light-up mirrors, and plenty of jazzy accessories to make your rooms pop.
The options are fantastic, and there’s enough here to make the perfect oases for your struggling teens, whether they use their rooms to complete homework or just to escape reality.
With an upgraded social phone and a new Social Bunny website to create those connections, there are now plenty of ways for teen Sims to make new friends, raise their social profile, and help make their high school years memorable.
There’s hope that the technical issues with The Sims 4: High School Years will be resolved, but frustrations abound during the launch window. The pack goes a long way towards defining the teen experience in digital form, but there are a few pimples to be popped before it can be considered truly worthwhile.
3 stars: ★★★
The Sims 4: High School Years
Platforms: PC/Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: 29 July 2022
The PC version of The Sims 4: High School Years was provided and played for the purposes of this review.