Reviewed: November 8, 2011
Released: October 18, 2011
Itís been about a year since The Sims 3 debuted on the 360, so itís only natural that EA decided it was high time to put out a new Sims game for their console audienceóthis time with the promise of adorable fuzzy kittens and puppies. Unlike the PC version, The Sims 3: Pets for the 360 is a standalone game, not an expansion, so you wonít need to own the original Sims 3 to play The Sims 3: Pets.|
As expected, in most respects, The Sims 3: Pets is nearly the same game as its predecessor in gameplay as well as in presentation. The Sims 3 is known for allowing players a great deal of freedom in personalizing just about everything: the Sims themselves, their furniture, their houses, their lives, and their relationships. You can micromanage their showers and meals or simply sit back and watch as they run free. The same is true in this newest incarnation, only with the addition of fully customizable and playable four-legged friends who have their own traits, careers, life dreams, and romances.
In the 360 version, youíll be limited to creating cats, small dogs, and large dogs, but those options in of themselves involve a great deal of customization options, from fur texture, length, and pattern, to muzzle shape, eye width, and body structure. I found it equally easy to create a facsimile of a beloved family pet or a freak of nature with a pink coat. Whatever the petís appearance, The Sims 3: Pets does a great job of making it look its best. The pets themselves look surprisingly cuddly and expressive, and their fur looks impressively soft. The animations are smooth and lifelike, whether itís a cat pouncing on a lizard or a puppy bumbling toward its owner, and theyíre endearing to watch.
The most notable difference between this Sims Pets game compared to previous incarnations is that players can now take full control of the pets. While their options are still understandably more limited than those of their Sim owners, pets can be directed to socialize with other pets and Sims, travel to another lot, train their skills, or take care of various life tasks. With the right Lifetime Rewards (bought with points earned through fulfilling daily wants), a pet can even benefit its owner by boosting the Simís energy gains when sleeping on his bed or by making new friends for the family.
As with the console version of The Sims 3, The Sims 3: Pets has Karma Powers that allow the player to pull some acts of deus ex machina, such as by instantly filling everyoneís mood bars or by playing some dastardly (but fun) pranks: triggering a destructive meteor strike, releasing a plague on the town, or causing Sims in an area to randomly riot. One of the most interesting of the new Karma Powers is the ďTransmogrifyĒ event, which allows you to change the species of a Sim, cat, or dog. Sure, some of the possibilities are a bit creepy, but thatís part of the fun of The Sims.
Another of The Sims 3: Petsí strong points is the addition of Mysteries, a set of five diversely themed quest lines geared toward players who prefer a bit more direction. Of course, if you prefer the traditional freeform Sims experience, the game makes it easy to ignore this new feature; to participate, a Sim must opt in by signing up at the City Hall. Each of the five quests provides an interesting bit of story and unlocks new locations and objects.
With all that being said, The Sims 3: Pets still inherits some of the mild weaknesses of the original The Sims 3. To travel anywhere outside of your immediate neighborhood, youíll still need to hop neighborhoods on the town map and endure a loading screen. Fast-forwarding, too, could use some improvement: the animations seem to freeze and stutter more than they speed up, and even at the fastest speed, Iím not entirely sure the queued actions are really taking much less real-world time. And, while the Xbox controller seems to be adequate for interfacing with the game, the 360 version still feels much clumsier than its PC counterpart.
Retailing for $49.95, The Sims 3 Pets is a solid game that provides hours of creative and exploratory sandbox gameplay. If you already own the original The Sims 3, because the two are so similar, you may not find it worthwhile to pick this one up as well. If, however, you havenít tried the console version of The Sims yet and generally enjoy the series, The Sims 3: Pets is as good a starting point as any, and youíll have the benefit of a number of new features, including, for instance, the inventing skill and Simbots from the Ambitions PC expansion.
Additionally, the Limited Edition of The Sims 3: Pets for 360 comes with 10 bonus novelty pet breeds, including skunk and skeleton cats and panda and tiger dogs. In short, The Sims 3: Pets has all the charm of last yearís The Sims 3 and throws in several solid new features, including (but not limited to) the new animal companions and even limited support for the Kinect. I may always prefer The Sims on my PC, but despite the small inconveniences, this title does a reasonable job of keeping up with the series on a console platform.