IGN Review of The Sims 2: Pets
Nintendo surprised us all with its 2005 release of Nintendogs, a cute and cuddly Nintendo DS-centric virtual pet simulator for people who can't resist the adorable furry beasts. Maxis is clearly aiming to get a piece of that pie, as the company -- using its incredibly strong Sims branding -- has created a spin-off that introduces loyal furballs to the human equation. The Nintendo DS game totally misses the target in what made Nintendogs so accessible -- sure, the game features the care and maintenance of dogs and cats, but it's cluttered with menial and boring tasks and duties that detracts from an idea that should have been far more pick-up-and-play than what ended up in this DS card.
The Sims 2 Pets at least starts out in the right direction...if you're looking for a Sims game. Past Sims games on the Nintendo DS have been either A) a port of the Game Boy Advance design a la Urbz: Sims in the City, or B) a more direct-controlled rendition of a game that's been far more successful as a "behavior management" design on the PC. This spinoff sequel brings the DS version more in line with the latter, as players take indirect control of their on-screen persona -- in this case, a veterinarian -- using that PC Sims-like point-and-click interface to have him do his duties: walk, talk, bathe, pee, poo, and overall just maneuvering him through his shop and the park. There's even the customization option where you can deck out your pad with furniture and other items by clicking and dragging the items in the 3D environment.
But this isn't really a Sims game. It's a vet simulator of sorts where you earn money performing mini-game tasks on animals to earn money. Other non-player controlled Sim characters will wander off the street with their own cat or dog, complain that there's something wrong with it, and put you to the task of diagnosing its problem. Sometimes it's fleas, other times it's a broken leg that needs mending, or the flu, or even a swallowed item that needs extracting. There's a lot to do to these animals, but unfortunately it's all bland and boring and never reaches the potential or fun of previous Sims games. And when you add on the added maintenance of keeping your own persona happy, fed, clean, and relaxed, it just drags on and on without the proper "pet" focus it needs.
It's not entirely fair to compare The Sims 2 Pets to Nintendogs since they've been designed with different directions in mind. But it's almost hard not to since the two games are approaching the same surrounding theme. That said, it's almost as if the developers of this game didn't understand what made Nintendo's design such a success. First of all, even though the game's visuals and 3D aren't so bad, the pet models are absolutely hideous. You have some of the most mutant, low-poly dogs and cats in The Sims 2 Pets, and they can be made even more horrifying in the create-a-pet option. Not only this, even though there are both canines and felines in the game there's rarely an instance where their behaviors are any different. A cat will roll over and beg, and fetch a ball with the same animation sequences as the dogs in this game. It's hard not to think that the DS game was hastily developed after seeing these shortcuts in action.
Chances are you've already experienced the versatile design of Nintendogs where you can train a pet using your own voice to produce the proper move. Sims 2 Pets is a huge step backwards, where training the pet is an awkward option where players select the move they want to train, and then take command of a "Dance Dance Revolution" rhythm design to have the pet learn it. Simply do the appropriate pattern three times while the pet's energy is high and he'll memorize it. Wow...we'll take Nintendogs any day of the week over this one, and probably twice on Thursdays.
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