With natural hot springs, snowy nature hikes, soothing bamboo forests, and family meals at the kotatsu table, The Sims 4: Snowy Escape expansion (opens in new tab) is here to provide a relaxing getaway for your simulated humans.
Or so it claims. I wanted to put the zen promise of Snowy Escape to the test by creating the most stress-filled family possible and sending them into the Japan-inspired expansion for a vacation. That's how I discovered getting four people to relax really raises my blood pressure.
Meet the Grouch family, whose psyches are littered with attributes that don't sound even remotely zen. There's Oscar, a hot-headed, wealth-obsessed perfectionist. His wife Opal is a mean, evil, and gloomy city native. They have a teenage son, Junior, who hates small children, and a small child named Tiny, who will stress out Junior simply by being near him. I move them into a house at the foot of Mt. Komorebi to begin their relaxing visit with a single goal in mind: I will try to make all four of the Grouches experience the green "happy" status at the same time.
A couple minor problems crop up immediately. First, I've put the family in a one-bedroom, one-bath home, which is going to be pretty crowded, especially when it comes to bathing and sleeping. More alarming, I've completely forgotten to edit their relationships to one another, so Oscar and Opal aren't married and Junior and Tiny aren't their kids. What I have here are just four stress-prone strangers I've forced to live in a tiny house together before they've even met. Sloppy work on my part.
Rather than standing around and letting the completely unrelated family members introduce themselves to each other, I immediately send them off for a relaxing climb up Mt. Komorebi. For some reason, Tiny can't come—I guess little kiddies aren't up for scaling sheer cliffs with their bare hands in a snowstorm. That's probably for the best.
Oscar can't manage it either, which is especially unfortunate since he's the expedition leader. It's fun watching Opal and Junior scramble up the first cliff, but Oscar is missing. I look for him and discover he's wandered off and is hanging out inside the cozy mountain lodge. I try to teach him to climb by making him scale a practice wall, but as the day passes it becomes clear the expedition will fail because Oscar can't climb even the very first stage of the mountain.
Not completing an activity wouldn't seem like a big deal, but there's a new Sentiments feature in Snowy Escape. Rather than just brushing off failures, Sims can carry the mental baggage of frustration with them, and both Junior and Oscar quickly begin to show signs of embarrassment that the expedition went nowhere. This might make it hard for them to be happy even days later.
Back at home, the "family" is challenged by the sleeping arrangements—since Oscar and Opal aren't a couple (they have not even spoken to each other yet) they won't share the double bed. I throw a couple single beds into the small house, one in the dining room and one in the foyer. It's a fitful night as Tiny is scared by a tentacle monster hiding under his bed (no, really), Junior has a midnight meal on the couch his "mom" is sleeping on, and Oscar snoozes by the front door, the same door Opal walks through so she can do sit-ups on the sidewalk at 2 am.
Day two arrives, and with everyone fairly miserable right from the get-go, I decide to take them skiing. One by one, they swoosh down the beginner slope, seeming to have a good time except for the fact that everyone is hungry and needs to use the bathroom, which I didn't give them time to do because it seemed like it would take all damn day. Tiny wipes out and hurts himself, and Junior is the only one who acquires a happy state.
The kids disappear so they can go to school, something else I forgot would happen, leaving me with just the glum Oscar and Opal. I take them to the hot springs, where Opal, who is completely filthy, stinks up the water. There are showers provided for Sims to clean off before using the springs, but I skipped that in my rush to force the couple to relax. Opal is also exhausted, and falls asleep both in the pool and, a few minutes later, face-down on the bathroom floor.
Back at home in the evening, Opal is curiously happy again, but now no one else is. Junior tries talking to the tentacle monster under his bed, which he then considers his friend (that makes him happy!) but he gets scared of it again in the middle of the night, so he's unhappy. At this point, I'm lucky if a single family member isn't utterly miserable at any given time.
The next day, the family visits a small tourist trap with a bar and a park, but the greatest source of stress in Snowy Escape suddenly rears it's ugly head. Vending machines. The expansion is full of vending machines that sell food, drinks, and collectible toys, and none of those vending machines work. Like, ever. Nearly every time I have a Sim buy something, they either get nothing (and get mad) or get something they didn't want (and get mad) or they shake the machine (and get mad). You want to make your Sims relax in Snowy Escape? Keep them the hell away from vending machines.
Opal and Junior are briefly happy at the same time, but Oscar is stressed because he used a vending machine and it stole his money. Opal loses her happiness due to low energy, and failed attempts to buy a some tea from a vending machine piss her off to the point where she starts shaking it so hard it falls on her. So now she's hurt and more unhappy. Junior finds some monkey bars to play on, but before they can make him happy he has to go to school again.
This is turning into a complete disaster. I take the two adults back to the hot springs, where they both sleep in the water for a while, and afterwards they actually wind up being kind of relaxed and even flirty with each other. Sensing a rare double-happy combo might be in the near future, I rush them back to the house, where unfortunately Tiny is miserable because he's filthy and Junior is miserable because he hates Tiny. And me? I hate all of them.
Then I find something that seems capable of putting everyone in a good mood. While Oscar is walking around miserable, he finds a statue of a mascot named Yamachan and takes a selfie with it. He immediately becomes happy! I call Opal over and she, too, finds happiness taking photos with the statue. This could be my victory, right here. When Junior and Tiny finish school I force them to immediately join us in the snow, and while they seem pleased to not only find the mascot statue but the actual mascot itself, they both are extremely hungry, filthy, and need the bathroom.
Maybe there's still time before Oscar and Opal find something new to be miserable about. I grab Junior and race him to the bathhouse so he can shower, though on the way there he wets his pants, which embarrasses him. Well, if I get him cleaned and fed, maybe he'll get over it with a photo from Yamachan.
Then I notice Oscar has abruptly gone from happy to sad. Turns it it's because he's been crying, and he's been crying because he saw a dead body. And that dead body, unfortunately, belongs to Tiny, because I took him out of school and made him walk around on a freezing cold mountain in his shorts and T-shirt while I was busy scrubbing urine off his fake older brother in the shower.
So... Tiny is, like, completely dead. He's frozen to the ground while a crowd of people including Oscar, Opal, and even Yamachan are all sobbing over his icy little corpse. I suppose it could be worse—I mean, at least it's not Oscar and Opal's actual son, it's just some small stranger they lived with and have never spoken to.
It feels a bit grim to continue forcing this joyless vacation on everyone. Tiny's death is gonna put a real damper on everyone's mood for the rest of the trip, though I notice Opal quickly gets over her grief for another photo op with Yamachan. Hey, whatever makes you happy.