"The Sims 3" offers more options that you can possibly pack into one life. That’s why I’ve created an entire household of digital people.

Brian is charismatic and friendly and his life’s ambition is to be surrounded by his loving family. However, Jasper is clumsy and mean-spirited and aspires to become the "Emperor of Evil."

With the new version of Electronic Arts’ digital doll house, selecting such personality traits and lifetime wishes is just as important as choosing the right hairstyle when you’re creating a new character. Traits and ambitions affect how your Sim will react to certain situations and how much pleasure — or irritation — he’ll experience when certain events transpire. And they also add new options to certain activities and interactions. For example, Jasper loves washing with "evil soap."

Of course, choosing hair, noses, lips and other physical features are important — and fun — elements of the game. The expended options for tweaking facial details and changing clothing colors explain why both my wife and daughter were immersed in the game for hours before they even considered "playing" it.

Playing "The Sims 3" involves pretty much the same activities as in previous versions. You need to keep your Sim rested, fed, entertained, clean, socially active and visiting the bathroom so he’ll feel well enough to make friends, get promotions and make enough money to buy cool stuff. That is, if you’re into the whole "American Dream" thing. If your Sim is Jasper, he won’t mind falling asleep in the flower bed or setting fire to the kitchen — and reaching the bathroom in time might be optional.

However, even a budding "Emperor of Evil" needs a cool hangout. As a result the game offers expanded options for customizing furniture, fixtures, appliances and gadgets. In addition, building tools have been revised to make designing the ideal home easier.

But your Sim doesn’t need to stay cooped up at home. He can stroll down to the beach, art museum, park, grocery store, restaurant, gym or criminal warehouse. Once there, he can make new friends, participate in challenges and boost skills needed to get promotions. The activities can get rather involved. For example, he doesn’t just buy "groceries," he selects specific items to stock the pantry and use in specific recipes.

With all this action, it’s likely you’ll find your Sims doing something you need to share with the world. In that case, you can create movies featuring your digital creations. Simply capture in-game action, upload it to the official Web site, edit the action, soundtrack and transitions and then share the results with friends.

The game offers a good set of tutorials for newbies. However, there are still a few sticky spots, even for the Sim-savvy. The most annoying is the lack of an auto-save feature. My wife lost a couple of hours of playing time because she forgot about that one.

The graphics have improved over previous editions, permitting finer detail and better representations — though still on the cartoony side.

Overall, Sims fans should enjoy the new options and newbies should discover a fun way to spend a simulated lifetime.

Platform: PCOn the Web:

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