Last year Maxis introduced the first Sims game made for the Nintendo DS only (not counting the Urbz, which was pretty much the same as the GBA version). The Sims 2 for DS created a 3D world on a handheld, in which your task was to run a hotel in Strangetown. With many mini-games making use of the technology available on the platform, the game was a good one to see what the DS was all capable of. And the good news for fans of that game is that things won't be too different in that area this time.
Create the Pet
The biggest difference this year is that, instead of being a hotel manager, you're a vetenarian. Treat the town people's dogs and cats, earn money, and keep running until you earn enough money to purchase new items for your home or clinic, using as many of the 200 objects as you like. Of course you'll have your own dog or cat as well. You have to go through Create a Pet to pick one of the nine breeds of either a dog or cat. From there you can do some customising, similar to creating your own Sim: pick some colours, and even morph things like the hair, weight and clothes for your pet. This kind of customisation is a little bit in between the GBA version, which will allow you to just pick different colours on few basic body types, and the console version which allows extensive morphing of all body parts.
The morphing does work in a slightly different way than the consoles version though. Rather than having set sliders to move around, you have to pick two base breeds for each slider, the "parents". Then by moving the slider, your pet changes to a blend of the two breeds. This is for both body and fur - the head, rear and tail can be scaled using sliders without picking the parents. Dogs can also get their ears changed to your liking, with a similar slider.
And Be the Vet
As a vet you start off in Whiskerton, with just a small clinic. The people in the town will not know you very well yet, and it's up to you to improve that. Every time a customer comes in with an ill pet, you have diagnose the pet. You can figure out what's wrong by using tools like a stethoscope, which you control in a mini-game using the stylus and the touch screen. Try to keep it on the pet, and you'll be able to check if the pet is healthy enough. Similarly you can use the X-ray machine to check for broken bones, and a comb to check for flees. For diagnosis you can also use a bowl of food, so you find out how hungry the dog or cat is. Altogether there are general health, social, hunger, hygiene, bladder, energy and appearance to check for. After checking a few things, you'll be given the diagnosis, for example the flu.
After that it's time to treat the pet. First you tell the owner how much time you think you'll need: 1, 3 or 5 days. These are Simdays this time, so the real clock doesn't count anymore, like it did last year. Although to your customer it doesn't matter much how long you take to treat a pet, they'll pay anyway, it does matter to you. You might need some extra time for the more complicated diseases, but reserving too long will mean your clinic will fill up with too many animals. You can only hold three patients in your clinic at once, so it's important to make the right decision.
An example of treating a pet, is having to clean it thoroughly. This consists of several new mini-games, all of which again are controlled by the stylus. You have to soak them, apply some soap, rinse them and finally dry them again. With a bit of luck the patient will look brand new again (except that pets will not get any younger, of course).
Some pets also need to do some socialising. To do so, there's a park in the area, which you can walk to. There you'll meet more pet owners, who will ask you questions, and can also become new clients of your clinic. That means going to the park regularly is important to keep your business going. In the end it's your reputation that you have to build up. Socialise with other Sims to gain their confidence in you, using some of the interactions known from the original PC game.
As with the other versions, training pets hasn't been left out of the DS edition. In the park you can interact with pets, for example to play - or to teach them tricks. You can teach them to speak, beg, shake, stand up, play dead, backflip or dance - at least in the case of dogs - which again means using the stylus to play the mini-games.
The Mood Game
One basic thing that's been in every single Sims version are motives, or needs. Every Sim has several of them, like hunger and energy, and to keep Sims happy they'll need to stay 'green'. You may think that this is the same as every other Sims game in the Sims 2 Pets on DS, but it's not. There are, again, mini-games you'll need to play to satisfy at least some needs.
For example there's the cooking game, which requires you to use the touch screen again. Pick a recipe, throw in the necessary ingredients, and start cooking. Shake the pan so it goes over the fire to heat it up, and away from the flame to make it cool down, in such a way that you achieve the right temperature. When the food has been prepared - when it has been heated for long enough, that is - take it off the cooker and start eating.
Something most Sims fans are familiar with as well, is decorating your own home. You have 200 objects to decorate your place with, using an intuitive buy mode. Pick the furniture you like, move it to the spot where you like it, rotate it in the proper direction and just place it. It's been largely improved from last year's build/buy mode, and works a lot easier this time.
Last year the in-game clock used the system clock of the handheld, meaning that when you had to build a room, you had to wait 8 hours. Real life time. That's no longer the case, making the game a little quicker in some areas. Sim-time is back on the DS again, which also means treating a pet will not take a whole day or even several days. While a lot is focused on running your clinic, you also have to socialise and spend some time not actually treating animals, but hanging around in the park or redecorating your own living room.
Nearly every objective in the game has been turned into a mini-game, which makes it a lot like a large collection of mini-games, with the Sims build around it. All in a sensible way, though I do think it might get somewhat repetative after having prepared noodles at temperature 5 for 4 minutes, for the 27th time. There are no real mission objectives, as it's an open ended game, but there is the purpose of building up a clinic with a lot of reputation. All the mini-games that were shown made mostly use of the touch screen, which means the game leans heavily on controlling it with the stylus.
Altogether not a bad game, with completely different gameplay from all the other versions. It's pretty far away from the original PC Sims game though, and seems to be targeted at somewhat younger players. In the UK fans can already get the Sims 2 Pets since 27 October. It will be out on 2 November in the US and by 3 November everybody should be able to find the game in local game shops.
Written at 00:12 on Friday 28 July 2006 by