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There are not many people left in the known universe who have not already played a version of Sims on one platform or other. This juggernaut of all simulation games has left its mark on both the games industry and the people who have played it. Those wonderfully babble mouth human creations with whom we build such affection and frustration have at one time or another demand the majority of our leisure time; just so we could try and pull them up the food chain by their proverbial boot straps.
This time around the game has a new twist in the form of pets. Tapping into the Nintendog craze generated by the DS, EA are hoping to tap back into that market themselves and expand their already impressive market share of the life simulator market. The game has obviously been around for quite some time on other platforms, although this is the first time it has hit the Wii. With EA also having their Wii-centric My Sims already in the pipe, it is interesting to see their approach to this game and whether they are trying out some of the new features that may be seen in the proper Wii Sims game later this year.
Those wonderfully babble mouth human creations with whom we build such affection and frustration.
The main difference of this game to other Sims titles, apart from being on the Wii, is that it includes a variety of pets for your Sims, and by proxy you, to own. You can choose from fish, cats and dogs. Each of the different types of pets can be created in an animal version of the human Sim creation tool we have all become so familiar with. Although the fish creation is understandably limited, you really can go wild with the sheer volume of choices available when creating your feline or canine friends. Ears, mouth, body, weight and height are just some of the aspects that are fully configurable.
Furthermore, once you have created your ideal pet you can accessories them with a variety of doggie or catty nick knacks. This is ideal for pairing your animal with their human friend, so they can really look like their own little family when they head out of the door. Although this is obviously not the main aspect of the game, many of the title's younger audience will find hours of fun in just this section. It maybe they spend more time here then in the game proper.
For those of us who are a little older, the game really gets going once we have created out pets and introduced them into the home environments. Here the real Sims action kicks in as we discover that looking after pets in the Sims world is much like looking after their human counter parts. They can obtain new skills and need to be fed and watered and house trained if we hope to stop them ruining the feng shui stylings of our apartments. There is even a new special down town area in which the Pets can be taken to earn rewards and obtain new social interactions and purchase new accessories.
Control wise the Wii again shows that its controls are not to be taken lightly, as without the necessary care things can really degenerate. Sims 2 Pets makes great use of the Wii-mote's pointing abilities when on the character and pet creation sections. However when you hit the Sim world proper you discover that to provide all the options required they have resorted to using complex combinations of button presses. This makes the controls hard to remember and leaves you with the feeling that this is once again a Gamecube game with new controls reversed into it. This is a shame as the rest of the game is pretty well executed.
Graphically, things are pretty much like the Gamecube. Whether this is because there has been little effort to improve things, or because of a lack of horsepower in the Wii, only time will tell. That said, the Sims is not about amazing visuals, and the Gamecube game itself looked pretty good; so you have a nice looking game here regardless of how it compares to other next generation consoles.
I hadn't realised how fully fledged the pets would be.
The sound is, as you would expect, pretty good. Although it doesn't play a huge part in proceedings, where sounds is used the samples are of a high quality. The mumbled voice work of the Sims themselves is as ingenious as ever, giving the little guys and gals personality without tying them down to one particular voice actor.
The most interesting part of the game is obviously the inclusion of pets. There is something of a tension here, as unless you are a master Sims player, you will struggle to look after both humans and pets at the same time. You end up focusing on one or the other. This is not necessarily a bad point, but before playing I hadn't realised how fully fledged the pets would be. They really are like people in their own right. And to that end they pretty much need the same level of care and attention.
Overall, this is a great game to get if you are new to the series. If you have played the Sim before, the inclusion of Pets may well hook you in again, and it is great to rediscover what made you fall in love with it the first time around. Whilst not changing the game dynamic hugely, pets are an intelligent and well integrated addition. As with the other Sims titles, this really is good value for money and fun for all the family.
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