PlayStation 2, GameCube,
The Sims 2 Pets on Consoles is, as the title suggests, the successor of last year's title, The Sims 2. However, the platforms it's coming out on are a little different. PlayStation 2 and GameCube are still the same, but EA has decided not to release an Xbox version this year. The reason, as given in an GameSpot interview with Rod Humble, is that the main focus for Microsoft is on the Xbox 360 during the 2006 holiday season. With the current generation focus of this title, an Xbox edition does not make much sense. Also different is that this year the PSP edition will be similar to that of the other consoles this year. We have to trust Maxis on this for now, as the PSP edition was not yet ready to be shown, and not too many screenshots of that handheld are available at the time of writing. The fans in Redwood City were shown the Playstation 2 version instead - no cubes either - which is the platform where it once all started for consoles.
So, what is it like?
No More Story
All previous console games had a story mode. "Get A Life," "Bustin' Out," and "The Urbz" all had an actual list of goals to go through. Last year's "The Sims 2" was slightly different, in that golden and platinum wants replaced these goals, and you could complete only one at a time - or sometimes a few if several sims had golden wants. This year however, there is no more story at all. Nothing to unlock either. Well, not much anyway, but more about that later. There is just a freeplay mode, similar to what's known from the famous PC edition. There are still wants and fears, but none of those will help you progress through the story.
When starting the game, you're shown the neighbourhood. This consists of 10 houses and 1 community lot. You can pick either one of the empty lots to start with, one of the pre-made families, or evict an existing family and create your own one for a lot. You got it right - so far it's pretty much the same as the PC version.
Create a Family
In the Create a Family department, things haven't changed too much altogether, except that of course you also get to create pets. This is in many ways similar to creating a Sim, but also like the PC version. Although it was only shown briefly, we did get a glimpse of what's possible. You can create dogs and cats, naturally, and like on the PC you can add layers of fur and patterns to create your own unique breed.
Since the Urbz you've also been able to use sliders to morph your Sims' bodies and heads to make them as small, big or fat as you want. This same technique is now available for pets as well, so you can make a cat with a huge head and tiny body, if you want. Besides all that, Sim Pets can be dressed up... Sweaters, hats, scarfs, collars, they're all there for your pets to wear.
As for children, one of the big (or actually little) missing things in the Sims 2 last year: I haven't seen those, but I'm not entirely sure if they're left out again. However, my guess is that they will be left out this year too, and that pets are the only little creatures you'll need to take care of.
Living a Family
Once you loaded up a family, it's time to play with it. The lack of the story mode as it was in previous games means you'll have to make up your own stories and plots. Unfortunately, this most likely doesn't work as well as on the PC, since sharing the stories isn't as easy. As far as I know - and I could be wrong here, but don't expect the following - it's not possible to plug in a USB pen drive in your PS2, and make screenshots to save to it, after which you can edit, sort and prepare them on your PC to make a nice story out of it. The same could work with saving the screenshots to the memory stick on the PSP, so you can take a look back at what your families were like back in the old days.
With a title like the Sims 2 Pets, it's not hard to guess that pets play a large role in the game. There are many similarities to the PC expansion pack, but also quite some differences. The basics are the same: you have to train your pets, play with the dogs and cats, and of course you can't directly control them. There are a couple of differences, for example that dogs can relieve themselves against a tree, and Sims or cats can climb into them. A cat can even climb to the top and get stuck in there, just as if it were real life...
One other thing Maxis has taken from the PC version to the consoles, is the meaning of time. Days of the week are now also on the consoles, so rather than living from day to day your Sims will live week by week. No multiple generations, birthdays, etc., though - at least not as far as I've seen the game.
The major difference with the PC edition is the Town Centre, or Pet Plaza as it's called. There's one of these in the game, which you can visit simply by walking off the lot. The taxi no longer exists in the new console games, you just walk to the end of the sidewalk, click, and choose to visit the town centre. Pick the Sims, dogs and cats to go with you, and you're off.
When you arrive, you'll see an area with neighbours and their pets. There will be more as you play the game more and more, as long as you keep completing wants. What you'll also need at the Pet Plaza are pet points. You can earn these by completing your pets' wants, which appear at the top of the screen every so often. But if you're too lazy to do that, simply make sure you have some real simoleons and exchange them for pet points at the local ATM.
Pet points are necessary to purchase objects and toys for your Sims. There's a toy store, a bakery, and more. This is the only place where you can actually unlock items. The more you spend at a shop, the more success it'll have. And with more success - or income - comes more money for them to spend. The result: a bigger shop, with a bigger catalogue, and thus more stuff for you to buy. Just so it can grow again. And again.
Written at 00:12 on Friday 28 July 2006 by