The Sims is a franchise renowned for its cross-gender popularity and appeal to a large portion of gamers- many care for their Sims more than themselves! When it comes to console versions, the series have always struggled to entertain the masses to the extent that the PC titles have. The past two GameCube installments were merely a shadow of their PC counterparts. So the question needs to be asked, has The Sims 2: Pets managed to emulate the success of PC version, or did it simply fall short?
Initial disappointment put aside, for now, there are a few features in this latest Sims outing which stand out- especially the controls. Players are able to directly control their Sims, just like in any other third person game. Days of observation are no longer, now is the time to get stuck into the action, and with it bring some welcome variety. This new control method allows one to get fully absorbed in the game, you actually become the Sim!
Those who preferred the original style of control have no need to fear as this has not been removed. You can still issue orders from above and then merely watch as the Sims execute each task set to them. For best results I found that instead of just sticking to just one of these modes, its a combination of both tends to work most effectively. With both of these control methods was the underlying issue of fairly clunky and somewhat slow actions- nothing close to mouse fluidity here. The camera is decent enough though, and is easily used through movements of the C-stick.
People are also created through a similar process, although there seems to be less depth to their appearance but more focus on personality. With the animals there was no limitations to how strong weighted their personality attributes are, but Sim's can only be award a set amount of personality points, making a perfect person impossible to generate.
Just like in all the other games, your Sim's have to get about doing their daily routines, whatever you choose them to be. Regulating these routines is a set of individual needs which range from socializing to sleep. Just living the life of one Sim whilst keeping track of all these needs is a hard enough task, a full family with pets is far more complex... especially as the animals love to dig holes and knock things over! Frequent visits from neighbor will also make sure that you never have a quiet moment, unless of course you decide to pause time, which you can do. There is also the option to fast-forward in times such as when your Sims are asleep, but even at night there is always something going on.
Now the Sims are not the only ones to have have prosperous social life's, their pets also have the opportunity to fraternize with others. Whenever you feel like taking your pet out, a walk to the town square is always the best, albeit only, option there is. Here you will always find several other animals with their owners with who your Sim and their pets may interact. When you come to the town square there are a few stores to visit, each selling various treats for your pet or even some that let you sell your beloved animal. Currency here is based on your pet points rather than actual money your Sim possesses, this pet money is gained in the game through interaction with your animals.
At home your pets will play with each other, eat a lot and, in general, create a big mess... just like the real thing. For those dedicated to their animals, various tricks will start to become available, which gives purpose to playing with the pets. The more you explore the game and the more things you try, the quicker it becomes to unlock all of these numerous extras.
Difficulty is a hard thing to measure with this game as you really do have the option of making your life easy or complex as you wish, not to mention that there isn't really an end objective. Players can choose whether or not they just want one lonely Sim in a small house, or a mansion packed with family and pets. You can even create several houses to alternate between as and when you feel like a different challenge. This way there is little chance of becoming bored, there is just so much to do.
At the end of the day, those who loved the other console versions of the Sims will be right at home here, with what is certainly the best out of all three titles. The inclusion of pets has definitely added depth, without spoiling the foundations the franchise is based on, a good accomplishment. It's a real shame though, that sloppy presentation, loading times and clunky controls stopped this game from reaching the benchmark set by its PC cousin. I look at this title and feel that a whole lot more could have been done- its far from being bad, but by no means is it great.