The third time's supposed to be the charm, at least according to the old adage, but in terms of Stuff packs for The Sims 3, it's anything but. While the two previous add-on packs featured some interesting items that enhanced the game, Outdoor Living Stuff offers little to inspire the crafty constructors, savvy stylists and daring designers that make up the game's core audience.
Taking Cookouts to Another Level
It's outdoor "living" rather than outdoor "activity," so keep that in mind when considering this collection. Instead of your Sims relaxing on a sofa, watching television, cozying up to the fireplace, or going to the fridge to fix a snack in the comfort of their homes, they can now relax on a lounge chair, watch television, cozy up to a fire pit, and open a mini-fridge to fix a snack outside the comfort of their homes. Most of the items here merely extend the same types of indoor comforts outside instead of including things unique to the outdoors. For some that might enough -- but is it so wrong to want, well, a little more "exterior" content?
Outdoor Living Stuff's omissions are plentiful. For an outdoor set, you'd expect a number of trees, shrubs, flowers and rocks. You'll get none of these, although you do get a stereo speaker inside rock-like casing. You'd also expect a variety of fence types, gates, pavers, terrain paints, arches and columns to, as the package states, "create the ultimate outdoor living space." While there is a single gate and fence type, that's about it as far as landscaping options go. You'll also receive one dining table and umbrella type, so patio furniture isn't a focus in this pack, either.
Hot Tub Party
There are no new pool objects -- not even a diving board -- nor are there storage options, recreational activities such as badminton or croquet, and playthings for the wee ones in your Sims family. A few new playground options, play houses, or swing sets would have been welcome, of course, but that wasn't the focus of this release. So what is the focus, you ask? Based on the numbers, it's hot tubs. You have five hot tubs to choose from in Outdoor Living Stuff, the most of any single building item included in the collection. So if you've dreamed of building a backyard filled with hot tubs of all shapes and sizes, you're in luck. Mr. Hefner would be proud.
Sadly, the items apart from the hot tubs are a mix of what, huh, and are you kidding me? There's too much here that resembles things already included in the base game. Yes, you get a massive stainless steel barbeque, an outdoor sink, a compact refrigerator, an island, and a cooking surface, but it's really just a newfangled kitchen set with a brick base. You also have one widescreen television and two fireplace options, so you can also recreate an outdoor living room, although seating options are sparse in this pack -- three upright chairs, one lounge chair, and a rather cute loveseat.
In This Case, More is Less
As with the contents found in previous stuff packs, all items offer three color variants. The 44 building-type items (132 if you count the variants) are grouped under the following categories: plumbing, appliances, surfaces, comfort, electronics, entertainment, lighting, fireplaces, fences, gates and decor. Yet all categories other than decor have, at most, five items. Decor features ten objects, from a lemonade pitcher and appetizer dish to a serving cart and two types of terrariums. None of these items are interactive, unfortunately, so they'll just sit unused like a bowl of plastic fruit or your great grandmother's china set.
Clothing options are similarly questionable. There's only one hairstyle for a male and female Sim and a single shoe type for each gender. Females have four outfits, two tops, and two bottoms to choose from, while males have only three shirt styles and three bottoms. Despite the outdoor theme, you don't get any hats, sunglasses, or swimsuits.
The Not-So-Great Outdoors
It would be nice if the developers behind these Stuff packs would show some consistency in their content, like offering a specific number of male and female outfits, hairstyles, accessories and building types so that consumers have a better idea of what they're getting instead of making a blind purchase. There's not even an instruction manual included, which is curious, since both Fast Lane Stuff and High-End Loft Stuff had them. Maybe the contents in this pack simply defy explanation.
Outdoor Living lacks the creativity and cohesiveness one expects from an official items pack to a high-profile game like The Sims 3, especially when you take into account what some of the community has uploaded to the Sims Store. If you are intrigued by the idea of moving a kitchen onto a patio, or if you believe that you can never have too many hot tubs, then this pack will be worth its asking price. Most will find there's more fluff here than "stuff."