Sims 2: Pets Review - 14/11/2006

Sims 2 has had four expansion packs named so far (as well as two console iterations - the PS2/Cube versions of Pets will be discussed within) and there are probably only two people alive who can name them all.

While Nintendo often get hailed for uniting whingey, boring people with hardcore gamers, EA and Maxis actually perhaps beat them to it with the original Sims game. Combining house building, interior design, a life sim and business management, the games started as diverse and full of life, but over the years (all six of them), they seem to have lost their charm.

Sims 2: Pets is an attempt to revive the series, as although it has a legion of fans that get rampantly excited at the sheer mention of the next Sims 2 Holiday Pack, the more serious gamers have been alienated. The problem I personally find with the Sims at the moment is that you build your house, make your sim, and then, you can’t be bothered to live their lives. It’s not that finding jobs and starting a family is boring, but it just begins to get repetitive, and the lack of a large library of items and extras does mean the experience runs out of fun after a few weeks play. If you’re sexist, then I suppose men don’t want to play family, decorate, and do boring jobs, rather wanting to kill things, play football (English) and insult eachother’s ‘bitches’ – and that’s not the female dog variety, and I suppose that’s the problem for me personally with the Sims. It just struggles to appeal after playing it almost solidly for half a year when the original Sims came out.

In Pets, as the name suggests, your Sims can now own a variety of animals, and purchase a new range of items to keep them amused, and furnish their houses appropriately. We received the PS2 and PC versions, so will go through those along the way, ultimately coming to a conclusion. As with the standard Sims 2 on the PS2, you can control your characters using Direct Control, which allows you to use the analogue sticks to move them around.

You can teach your pets tricks such as playing dead (very funny animation), and more simple commands such as ‘follow’ and ‘come here’. Some are integral to controlling the animals, with dogs digging up the garden, and cats being generally disobedient without proper discipline. Creating Sims is done in the usual easy way, and there are a variety of pet related costumes for your Sims to wear. On the PS2 version however, the selection is pretty limited, with the new apparel seeming to replace old items from the original, whereas on the PC, because it is an expansion pack, the range is, well…expanded.

The same applies for items around the home, and there are still only two televisions, fridges, cookers etc. for players to buy for their property. Usually one cheap one, and one more expensive one. Some original items remain, but the collection is hardly bulging with them – if you own the PC version of the Sims, then might I suggest either downloading new items off the internet, or buy the ‘Stuff’ item packs that EA release fairly regularly.

A more positive point is the actual creation of the pets. You can choose from virtually any breed you can think of, there are literally scores of options (79 dog breeds, 30 cat). Once a breed has been picked from cat or dog, you can then tailor them to your desire, changing ear size and type, head shape, body patterns, size, and many more in details as fine as with the human sims. You can also cross-breed cats or dogs randomly, creating sometimes realistic looking animals, and sometimes monstrous St. Bernard and Chihuahua mutants.

It’s all good fun.

Once you’ve battled through the house building in typically time consuming Sims style, you can begin to live your life. Part of that involves going to the town centre to buy accessories and items for your pets. You can also buy fish there, or hamsters, as just two examples. You can browse the many shops, or simply mix with other pet owners, making friends, and similarly your dogs and cats can have ‘conversations’ if you elect to bring them with you on your journey. If not, you may return to find your house soiled, your children brutally mauled, and you goldfish…Dead. Well not quite (except for the first and last points. You can also meet Hillary Duff if you’ve downloaded the extras for the PC version, which goes to cement the target audience of the game (and that’s girls, rather than sexually charged men).

Which brings us onto the discipline, whereby you must scold your pets when they do wrong, and, depending on the attributes you picked for them at the start (neatness, friendliness etc.), then they should begin to get better.

You get lots of pet related jobs as well, and for owners of the current Sims 2 expansions this is perhaps the best one. All the animals in the game have their own style and character, and there is a whole world of customisation specific for our domesticated friends. You can also buy or adopt pets over the phone or from another Sim, or find a stray in the neighbourhood and pilfer them for yourself.

Your pets can actually amuse themselves by following a career path – choosing between Security, Showbiz and Services. Cats get paid the most, as they are harder to train, and perhaps it is unrealistic to have dogs being taken by a stranger to work guarding factories, but it adds a bit more life to the perhaps otherwise gimmicky fašade of the Sims 2: Pets feature list.

Depending on the (dis)obedience of your pets, they may well ignore any commands you give them, and as you cannot control them like Sims (although you can see their order queue), getting them to listen and respect you is an integral part of the game. You can also open pet shops if you have the Open for Business expansion pack, which is a nice extra, and it’s good to see so much compatibility between the versions.

Graphically, you won’t notice a difference from the other expansions, but the pets in the games do all have the charm and cute factor (unless you create a hideous man-eater) that is present in the Nintendogs games. Throw in a load of animal related secrets (want to get turned into a werewolf anyone?), new futuristic looking items, and some new tools to make navigating the game a little easier, and you have one of the most functional expansion packs yet.

The PS2 and console versions add a lot to the original, but as it is so focused on the pets, it will not appeal to everyone, and is perhaps a little overwhelmingly animal orientated if you don’t have the other expansion packs on the PC. The pets however all react brilliantly, and as they are almost Sims themselves, they really do appear to have lives of their own.

Compared to the ‘new maps’ expansion packs we’re seeing a lot of nowadays, this adds heaps to the PC original, and while the PS2 version is a bit more of a virtual pet game rather than a life-sim because the other expansion packs’ items and features are missing, it is still the better than the only other option, the standalone Sims 2, available for consoles.