The best part of playing The Sims has never been playing house so much as it has been turning the human experience into a fantasy. Be it through the perfect job and unlimited finances or living the life of a celebrity or a cryptid, it’s not so much a simulation but a slight reimagining of reality.
Adding to the stable of Sims 4 fantasy content is the latest Stuff Pack, The Sims 4 Paranormal. In it, players can take on the career of a paranormal investigator, live in a haunted house, summon and speak with ghosts through a mystic seance table, and even offer up their own soul to curry favor with the dead. It also hails the much-anticipated return of long-time fan favorite Bonehilda, the skeleton maid who has been a part of the series since the original game.
I like what Paranormal does in terms of building up the ecosystem of supernatural-themed content in The Sims 4. I miss the days of The Sims 3 Supernatural, and all the wild Sims types introduced through the expansions. The Sims 4 still has yet to really achieve that level of depth since, which is disappointing, as the interactions between such different people with such different needs and abilities were one of the better experiences I’ve had with the series. But Paranormal does add items and features that are well-suited for players who also enjoy the Vampires and Realm of Magic game packs. While I generally don’t like using prebuilt lots for my Sims, because I prefer to design and decorate them myself, Duplantier Dwelling is so beautiful that I couldn’t resist. It is truly one of the cutest and coziest homes I’ve ever seen in The Sims, and the few alterations I made were only to enhance the theme: a cauldron from Realm of Magic in the front yard, a few cobwebs and ivy from Vampires, a full seance table and chairs in the back. The seance table was handy for building up the new Medium (minor) skill, which in turn helps with hauntings and hostile ghost activity. But also it lets you summon Bonehilda, whose maid services are as helpful and welcome as ever.
Playing on a haunted house lot is tremendous fun. Because the promotional materials of the game are reserved on details, I was able to be taken by surprise by some of the small stuff. After purchasing a relic that increased the frequency of the paranormal events in my house, I started seeing mysterious piles of goo appear on the floor, which had to be mopped up, along with thorny vine plants springing up on the property. I performed seances and attempted to assuage the ghosts, but instead was met with flashing lights and the appearance of a creepy doll, and later, mysterious knocking. At one point Bonehilda made some cheese pizza and left it on the floor outside near my cauldron, but I have no idea if that was related. Generally, the content retains some of the spontaneity of a haunted house, and the novelty is delightful enough to make it worth the price of admission.
With a name like Paranormal, comparisons to the Supernatural expansion of The Sims 3 were inevitable. But given that it’s only a Stuff Pack, Paranormal delivers as advertised, in that it adds a few new things but is not a substantial or meaty update. The paranormal investigator job reminds me a bit of the ghost hunter career from The Sims 3: Ambitions. While the pack doesn’t necessarily include anything that substantially improves my Sims life, it’s a fair trade-off for the novelty of the haunted house experience.
Holly Green is the editor-at-large of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.