Friday, 25 March 2011

The Sims 2: Pets

Prepare for a picture-heavy trip down memory lane. I was never much of a Sims player, but the standalone Pets title for the PlayStation 2 was much enjoyed. I also have a version on the DSi, but it is simply terrible and we shall not talk about it here.
My friends and I adored this game a few years ago. We got together and designed households based on ourselves and running in-jokes. First came the Something family up at Lemming Falls. This harks all the way back to GCSE Information Technology, and boring data entry examples. We had to input the names of fictional people into a database. I couldn't come up with anything exciting, and entered "Somebody Something". This was funnier than it should have been at the time, and spawned a character.
We also made houses of Resident Evil characters, ourselves and even my then-partners had one with their dogs. There were also green-skinned aliens distantly related to the Somethings with purple, green and red pets. Then, the save on my memory card corrupted. We lost everything we created. I managed to remake the Something family but didn't want to devote much of my time to it when the same thing could happen again. So, the game was shelved among my wallpaper-obscuring collection.
This week, I decided to revisit the title for review purposes.

There's a lot more to this game than meets the eye, so much so that there's a guide book for it. There are a good few differences between the PC expansion-pack and standalone console version, the latter being more limited, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthy title. For example, while you can hear wolves howl when stood outside at night, you won't actually see one or be able to take it in. Nor are there any Werewolves, or bedroom actions other than sleeping between Sims. Just terrible serenading. Pets can't get jobs in this version either, but I don't think I'm missing much. Nobody grows old or dies, which I find preferable.

My partner and I created a new household at Feline Farms to demonstrate the process to you. It's quite detailed; you control the sizing and placements of different aspects of the face, hair styling and colour, skin tone, make-up, tattoo placement, layers of clothing and shoes or lack thereof, jewellery, and personality traits.

The animal creation process is similar, with a surprisingly wide selection of breeds and coat markings to choose from. Beware that making your pets friendly means they feel starved of social interaction if you do something else for thirty seconds.

Once you've completed your family and you're on the lot, you have a shockingly-expansive range of wall textures and papers to choose from. You'll want simply everything in the product catalogue. Some of the item descriptions are side-splitting. Look carefully for a numbered indication of which needs a given item fulfils, and select the best one that you can realistically afford with your §imoleons. Basics needed are: a toilet, sink, bath/ shower, bed, fridge and somewhere to sit.
Pets will need beds as soon as possible, as having to sleep on the floor will reduce their happiness, and they might just steal yours, forcing you to take periodic power naps on the sofa. When a newspaper is delivered, your Sims will need to pick it up and look for a job. Different categories are available on different days. Don't forget to check the mailbox for bills.

Here we have Ozzy, loveable doofus belonging to my partner's mum:

Mopsy, as above:

And Anubis, a fantasy dog:

You pretty much just manage life. You pay for food from the fridge with the money you have left after sorting out your home, and wait to start work. Over time, you'll be promoted and earn a better wage, allowing you to buy more things for the household. Being promoted relies not only on your Sim being in a good mood when they leave, but also having gained skills through the use of certain items at home. Which in some cases requires more money-spending.
You can purchase an alarm clock, but that doesn't guarantee that your character will go outside to the carpool. If left to their own devices, they will simply go to the fridge and make meals until they get fired. When you get the warning that a character will be picked up in an hour, assume manual control of them and make sure they're ready.

Sims placed together in a house are not automatically in a relationship and animals are not immediately friendly. Each relationship requires work, such as chatting and telling jokes, until the points scored with that person are at least above 50. If you don't talk to someone or interact with a pet for a while, the friendship ends.

Everybody has requirements and you need to balance them. Play games with animals regularly to stop them becoming depressed and uncooperative. Leave a plumbob and post around to satisfy chew and scratch needs respectively. The cleanliness of a room or the garden has a big effect on a Sim's mood. But, if they're in a bad mood, they'll refuse to clean, so you become trapped in a filthy, uncooperative cycle. If things get too much to handle you can buy a wall phone and use it to hire a maid.
All the Sims I've ever made seem to have a compulsive need to go to the fridge, even when they are not hungry. They make meal after meal and put them down on the floor, making a mess. The old Sim of my friend Trine would take food out of the microwave and put it straight in the bin, which then caught fire, and the brigade would tell us off.

There are multiple cats on my top. I couldn't be stereotyping myself any more.

You can't tell the difference

Damn straight!

As is true to life, you belong to the cats


Unnecessary censorship

In terms of graphics, they're not cutting edge but are good (the photographs are not an accurate reflection). The sound can have some delay issues, and can often activate when not prompted, for example, when my Sim spent a day being followed around by the noise of the zappy videogame they can play while sat on the sofa, despite the fact they'd never done so. It's not too difficult to glitch the game; a character held a newspaper above their head when in the rain, and kept it there indoors and during all other activities until we went to the Town Square. There are various hilarities, such as neighbourhood Sims seeming to wander onto my property and leap into my bed with an exclamation of "DOO-BE-DOO!"

You visit the Town Square by standing on either green arrow at the boundaries of the property. A different currency - Pet Points - is used there, where you can purchase a much wider range of toys and functional pet supplies. You can pay to have animals washed if they are difficult at home, and procure nice ice cream, smoothies and coffee, for Sims and pets alike. The Square has several stages of upgrading when you spend a certain number of points.

Let's take a trip to see the family I made years ago:

Ridiculous awesome house

Somebody Something himself

His wife Ayame Something, possessing my favourite girls' name

Gobbolino of the Hat family, named so because I have a funny hat by Gobbolino

Cerberus of the Biohazard family, complete with Joseph Frost's bandana and Albert Wesker's constantly-worn sunglasses

Laverne Something, named after the Scrubs character

Ossian, puppy of the former

As you can see by now, The Sims is an immensely personal game. Hardly anything is pre-existing, you create and customise to your heart's content. This means that every person's Sims experience will be different. Mine has always been very good, with occasional frustrations overcome by the superseding hilarity.

Strange gaming pose

Fancy work clothes

The most sense-making meal ever

In terms of music, there are some delightful interlude tunes. When you buy a stereo, you can hear a variety of songs in the Simlish language. There isn't much available for metal fans though.

I think The Sims 2: Pets is a game you'd like to have. Hours of your time can easily fly by without you noticing, there's always something to aim for, and when you reach the eventuality of having achieved absolutely everything, there is the sense of satisfaction and enjoyment of running the household. The game is half a decade old now but it still feels current. You are limited to having dogs, cats, a fish in a bowl and a guinea pig-hamster combination as pets, I do think there could have been a wider or possibly hilarious choice of animals, such as horses.

1 comment:

  1. I have played every game in The Sims series and for some reason the first game was the only one to hold my attention for more than one month. Something about the new ones was just too much--the simplicity was gone. It became TOO much like real life. That kind of self-reflexivity was too much for me.

    That said, the second and third are miles away from the first in terms of graphics, gameplay and customizability.


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