It's shiny, sexy, and perplexingly emerald-green, but more than anything, The Sims 3 - Electronic Arts' groomed and gussied-up digital dollhouse - is an intrepid and wonderful game.

Wonderful, because The Sims 3 is finally the game the original aspired to be, a sprawling valley-sized slice of virtual reality that's yours to tinker with entirely, no longer hemmed in by invisible barriers or repetitious characters.

Intrepid, because The Sims 3's decked-out catalogue of deceptively mundane activities illustrates even better how a game where you "tinker with the uneventful" can be so much more eventful than others conventionally packed with explosions, aliens, and magic swords.

Surprisingly, EA didn't mess with core series values, but then, it didn't have to. When your premise hasn't changed ("strategic life simulation") the writing's on the wall: give your base an order of magnitude more to fiddle with, pretty it up, and make all that "extra" even easier to manipulate.

The Sims 3

Because it does, The Sims 3 represents a triumph of synthesis and style, an evolutionary leap rooted in progressive customisability, a gracefully architected interface, and several strikingly deep creative tools.

Want the year's most compulsively playable, demographically far-flung PC game? You've found it - it's The Sims 3.

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