The original Sims was one of the best selling games ever and after the release of a staggering amount of expansion packs, Maxis followed the game up with a true sequel, The Sims 2 a few years ago. Every six months or so an expansion pack is released, with the last expansion being, Open for Business which was quite substantial. Now, just before Christmas, Maxis have released another expansion, The Sims 2: Pets. Originally the expansion pack feels a bit like the Unleashed expansion that was released for the first Sims, but there are a few differences. So is The Sims 2: Pets an overhaul or just a minor addition?
The first thing you'll notice with thie game is that you're given a greater level of customisation over your pets. From the very beginning, you're able to create dogs and cats, there are a large number of breeds to select from and plenty of customisation options which range from cosmetic (size) to abstract (personality). Before I had even jumped into the game I had spent about twenty minutes playing around with the customisation options, the customisation is surprisingly deep.
Dogs and cats aren't the only animals that feature in the game, the game also featured birds and hamsters. Whilst it may seem like the pets are just their as an addition, they actually do make a difference to the gameplay. If you train your pets then they're able to go get jobs, which means you can actually make money off your pets. If you're one of the people whom the "A dog is for life, not just for christmas" advertisements appeal too then you'll also be pleased to know you can actually train your pets and then sell them off to another Sim. This is a decent way of making money, although the novelty wears off rather quickly and you'll probably find much more efficient ways to make cash.
As always, if you own the previous expansions then you're likely to get the best value out of The Sims 2: Pets. If you own Open for Business then you can open a pet-shop stall; you're also able to take advantage of the business side of things a little more. Just like how your Sims can interact with each other, so can your pets. Your cat may fight with the neighbour's dog or your two cats may fall in love and mate which will result in little kittens. Each pet has its own unique individal personality, which means you're not always sure what will happen when the pets encounter each other.
Outside of the pet enhancements very few things have been added to the game. A werewolf is now in the game and he can make your Sims suffer from lycanthropy. The game also includes a diagonal roof tool, which does make it a little easier to build your dream house. If you add a photo to your Sims folder then you can have your Sim paint the photo to hang, which is a great addition. It's only a minor addition but it's still a cool enhancement that can add a bit of personality to your room. Unfortunately though, the enhancements really stop with the new diagonal tool, a werewolf and the ability to insert a photo on your wall. Previous Sims expansions included dozens upon dozens of new clothes and objects; the only real objects that The Sims 2: Pets give you are pet objects, it would have been appreciated if there were a few more of the smaller additions. Normally we take these smaller additions for granted, but their absence is clear in The Sims 2: Pets.
Every Sims game appears to have some celebrity inclusion and The Sims 2: Pets is no different. In the PC version you can download a Hilary Duff Sim at the official Sims 2 website. Once you've downloaded Hilary she becomes a fully playable character so you can customise and control Hilary like with every other Sim, her dog Lola also makes an appearance and you can add to Hilary's pet family by adopting more animals or just dress Hilary the way you want too.
Visually the game looks identical to how it has for years now. The colours still make the world of The Sims look vibrant, but the graphics are looking a little outdated now. Some new musical tracks have been added to the game, as well as a whole swag of new pet noises. Like with every Sims game you're only going to get out of the title what you put in, but there is plenty of content in the game now. If you actually own all of the expansions then you're bound to be overwhelmed with what to do, it's just about impossible to care for your pet, open and run a successful business and maintain a happy, stable family.
The Sims 2: Pets isn't really much of an expansion pack. Aside from having animals running around your house and a few small additions, there hasn't really been that much added to the game at all. It would have been good if there were a few more human objects added to the expansion pack however, if you happen to own Open for Business or be a massive Sims fan, then The Sims 2: Pets is still worth picking up, if only because it opens up some new gameplay avenues and of course, the ability to customise Hilary Duff to your hearts content.