STAFF REVIEW of The Sims 3: Pets (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

The Sims 3: Pets Box art It?s hard to believe that The Sims has been around for over a decade already. I remember trying it for the first time, wondering what to do before realizing that the game had no primary objective. Instead, you were to simulate a real life with all the mundane tasks you need to do, but virtually. I never understood why I enjoyed cooking, cleaning, eating, going to work in the game when doing it in real life is one of the least things I?d want to do. I was never that great at the game and I was the type that would delete the toilet and bed to see what happens to my Sim rather than ?properly? playing.

The Sims 3 Pets is upon us and the big addition that you have probably already guessed is the inclusion of pets. Now, pets have been in the Sims games before, but for the first time in the franchise, you can take complete control over them and are fully playable just like any human Sim. Sims 3 Pets is a completely stand-alone game and not an expansion like the PC counterpart. So even though you just bought Sims 3 for Xbox 360 last year, you?ll have to buy this one at full price as well.

At first I was skeptical at how much fun controlling a cat or dog would actually be in comparison to directing a human Sim, but alas, not having to worry about many of the mundane tasks that humans have to deal with was much more my style. That and I enjoyed peeing on the carpet to see my master get flustered. Your Sims? pet has complete controls similar to their masters and you can even get jobs and be social with other people and animals as well. With support for Kinect as well, actions are easier than they were in The Sims 3 for consoles.

Well, it?s a Sims game, so there?s no real story or campaign to really delve into, but that?s ok, that?s what makes a Sims game what it is. Instead of a clear path of progression there are objectives and ?quests? to fulfill should you desire. Just like previous games, what you do is completely up to you and you can strive to be an inventor or stay at home every day and be a socialite. In lieu of a plot line there is a new feature called Mystery Journals. These are five different situations that require some dedication and time to figure out the multiple steps, oh, and you?ll also need your furry friend to help along the way as well. Solve these mysteries for some rewards if you want a little more guidance in your playthrough or ignore them completely and play however you wish.

You?ll start Sims 3 Pets just like every other Sims game; start by creating your Sims. The creation tool for creating your Sims is very robust and it actually took the wife about an hour to get her Sim and pet exactly like herself and her old cat. Choose their appearance, clothes, voices (still Sims gibberish obviously), traits, lifetime goals, and more.

As we?ve all played a Sims game before, I?ll focus more on the pet aspect of everything as it?s really what the focal point of this game is based around. Just like your human Sims, your pets will now be on equal footing in almost every way now that they can be controlled directly. When you create your Sims family at the beginning, you need to create one human (someone needs to provide and feed them after all) and then you can create up to 4 pets for a larger family should you choose. These pets will have personalities and traits just like a normal Sim would and can be very important choices when creating your pets.

There are more than one hundred default breeds available to recreate your real cat or dog or go wild and try making something completely off the wall. Just like humans, you can choose your cat or dog to start as a kitten or puppy, young adult, or adults. The babies are obviously the cutest choice but they are unable to get jobs until they grow into a young adult. It?s hard work being that cute you know.

While there were large selections of breeds, there was one or two I was hoping for that weren?t there. Luckily the create-a-sim is very diverse and you can tweak any breed to look almost like any other kind if you have the patience. You can get creative as you want with the fur, nose, body, and ear length and even more. You?re not limited to just natural choices either, as I fully expect some people to make and share their green and orange spotted obese cats with the community. You?re able to completely customize your pets to the point of making an exact replica of your beloved companion at home. You can change fur patterns, spots, noses, and almost any other option you could think of (though tail length was only long or short). I suspect most people will recreate their childhood pets just like I did (I miss you Tigger!). Pick up the Limited Edition and you gain access to some exciting pet variants such as a Panda Dog, Skunk Cat, and even a Mabari War Hound (from Dragon Age) among a dozen others.

After your four legged friend looks exactly how you remember them you then get to assign three traits that make up their personality and mood, just like your human Sims. Are they destructive, friendly, lazy, playful, vocal or even adventurous? There?s many more that you get to mix and match to make a unique personality for your cat or dog. These traits determine if you?ll have a wonderful lap cat or a destructive dog that loves to destroy things. The hyper trait is hilarious by the way, though it?s nothing a laser pointer can?t fix.

Your companions can also have careers of their own now. Dogs can be Police dogs (obviously) and cats can be ghost hunters that collect ghosts by shooting beams out of their eyes! Either pet can also serve as therapy pets should they want something a little more relaxing. Your pets can also help your social life also. Send off your pet to fetch-a-date and you never know what type of single they?ll introduce you to.

You can play Sims 3 Pets just like any other Sims game and completely ignore your pets should you choose, or vice versa and only play as your animal and let the human do their own thing. As you?re playing your Sim, prompts will appear allowing you to choose to accept or decline desires that your specific Sim wants at that time. They might want to call someone over, play with a friend, be pet or fed, and more. Every time you complete one of these wishes, you?ll earn Karma points. Karma Powers return but have a few new tricks. In essence, Karma Powers is a powerful and quick way to instantly help or harm your Sims. Some powers will help you immensely by winning the lottery or getting a promotion at work while others will make every Sim in the area fight with each other or give bad luck in everything you do.

The exchange returns where you can swap your Sims creations and even give your pet to a friend. Screenshots can be taken at any time and shared as well and a great moment for this is taking your pet outside to play with other pets and seeing them interact and play with each other.

If you have Kinect, you now also have the option to use verbal shortcuts for many actions. Turns out the voice commands are actually faster than using the controller and is simple to setup a chain of commands for a Sim. This is great for sending a command to a Sim that you aren?t sure where they?re at. It may be a small feature but the idea behind it works well and it does its job by saving you small amounts of time. I?m actually glad they didn?t try and implement a clunky hand gesture based system and kept it simple.

I did run into a few issues while playing though. When I would fast forward time at the fastest speed, my Sims would sometimes be put into a zombie-state where they wouldn?t move or perform their told action until I changed the time back to normal speed. Once they started their animations, then it was fine, but I did waste a lot of time waiting for them to start their actions until I figured it out. The same went for the sound and music; sometimes I lost sound all together but eventually it came back. I?m assuming it?s because I had an early build to play and I doubt anything that major would be in the final version.

The other issue I had throughout was dealing with the controls. Even after a few hours of playing, I?d still be hitting the wrong buttons now and then. It took my wife even longer to do the smallest tasks because of these controls. It?s a good stepping stone for people that haven?t played the PC versions yet and it?s a decent substitute.

Playing as the pets I found was much more enjoyable as it?s not been done in a Sims game before. The pets can have a life of their own and is actually an active member of your Sims family. Being able to breed with other pets also makes for some very interesting cross breeding if you decided to make that green and orange spotted obese cat.

This game would have been more entertaining if it supported split screen as my wife wanted to play the cat as I was controlling the human. Let?s hope for next time since split screen has been done in a Sims game before.

I still don?t get how making breakfast or taking a bath can take up half the day, but the real fun in Sims 3 Pets comes from recreating all your past and current pets over the years. It?s still the same formula that?s worked all these years for the franchise, surprisingly though; I enjoyed playing as my cat much more than dealing with all the humans? daily tasks. Having to play, catch bugs, and sleep all day is tiring work!

Overall: 7.3 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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