IGN Review of The Sims 2: Pets
The latest entry in the Sims series, Sims 2 Pets, tries to shake things up by adding lovable animals into the mix. Not a surprising move, really, considering the series has always tried to emulate real life, albeit in its own funny way. Serious fans, or those just up on industry news, may know all about the PC expansion pack to the Sims 2 which added pets. It came out a while ago, but Sims 2 Pets for consoles (Cube, PS2) is a different beast altogether.
At the start of the game, for instance, you have the option to choose a pre-built home, complete with human and animal inhabitants, or move into a new lot. The first option lets you start playing immediately while the latter takes a little more time and effort. But that's what the Sims has always been about anyway, right? Without patience and perseverance, you'd get nowhere in the Sims 2 Pets, much like in previous iterations in the series. Still, the option to use an existing household, of which you can choose several types (old lady with cats, married couple with dogs, etc) is a great option to have.
As is the norm with the series, you get a slew of options when you decide to start from scratch. You can choose how many people you want in the family and decide each person's gender. From there you cycle threw an obscene amount of customization options, such as body shape, skin tone and clothing preferences. Each section has several choices, so you can make whatever kind of person you want in terms of aesthetics. Afterward, you define two unique attributes, known as Aspiration and Personality. Aspiration is your sim's primary goal in life, and you can pick from among wealth, family, creativity, knowledge and popularity. What you choose has lasting implications -- it decides what you spend your time doing throughout the game.
Then it's off to selecting pets. You add them the same way as human family, only you select a dog or cat, depending on what you want. You can also choose both - just remember every new pet you create will crave attention and gobble up your time. The first step is to select a breed or mix of breeds. Them, just like humans, you can morph a pet's body to suit your tastes. You can also define a pet's personality and sift through dozes of accessories like collars, hats and other such craziness. The process of defining your pets and Sims is one of the game's highlights. Not only is it fun, but the interface is clean and very easy to use, letting newcomers set all the different attributes with relative ease.
After the "birth" of your Sim family, or after you "move in" to an existing one, the game actually starts. And here's where things get a little complicated in terms of how to rate a game in such a long-running and beloved series. You see, Sims 2 Pets does many things well, far better than in previous Sims consoles games, in fact, but the overall experience feels dated. You still need to manage every person in your family, making sure their needs (hygiene, hunger, energy, etc) are met, and that's fine - but some gamers have done this two, three or maybe five times before in other games. The whole affair is leaner, true, it controls far better and grants improved control over the gameworld and characters living in it, but this time it just doesn't feel like that's enough.
Now, for all you new people, this will feel like a very worthwhile Sims package. Not only do you get all the features from previous Sims console games, but also score the pet's package. Speaking of, here's what you get with that: each pet acts like a Sim human, meaning they have wants and needs. You can't control them, however; all you do is influence their behavior through instruction, praise or discipline. Actually having pets in the household is fun since they come with well-animated and funny actions. They sing, play dead and look a whole lot like Scooby Doo while they're doing it. At the same time, it's just like real life - you need to spend time cleaning after them and making sure their needs are met.
This makes the game a little more difficult than before, if you decide to control every character. You do have the option to run everyone on autopilot, but what's the fun in that? Still, say you decide to let the game run all the humans - they won't pay any attention to the animals save mop up their piss. This means your pets will ultimately get depressed and sleep all day in their own messes with flies buzzing around everywhere. Moral of the story is that pets can be fun, even virtual pets, but you need to make time for them or they'll turn into furry furniture before your eyes.
One of the cooler aspects of Sims 2 Pets lets you take your furry critters into a quaint town square. Here, you can mingle with other pet owners and let your pets socialize with other animals. What's more, you can visit a number of different pet-oriented stores. There's a bakery and accessory store, for instance. But you can't spend simolians, which you earn by sending your human Sims to work in one of ten careers. Instead, you earn pet points by completing animal-centric activities back at home. However, if you don't have enough pet points and still want to buy that igloo dog house, you can head to the local ATM and convert simolians to pet cash. The more your visit a particular store, the bigger it gets, and the more stuff you can buy.
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