Reviewed: September 15, 2008
A follow-up title to the previous The Sims 2: Pets game for the DS, The Sims 2: Apartment Pets is a pet and people simulation game that follows the daily life of one Sim. Left to look after an uncle’s pet spa business and apartment—as well as the critters that get left at the apartment doorstop by various neighbors—your Sim’s mission is to build the reputation of the business while caring for his or her own needs, as well as those of the many cats and dogs that make their way to the building.
The gameplay concept itself is pretty sound: it’s a blend of pet simulation (similar to other pet simulation games on the DS, like Nintendogs and the previously reviewed Pony Friends) and people simulation (similar to other Sims titles). In other words, about half of the game involves caring for one or more pets, and the other half involves caring for your Sim, as well as upgrading and decorating the apartment and spa with new, posh furnishings. The idea sounds like it could be appealing, but in this case, the actual implementation of the concept is disappointingly shallow.
The game starts with the creation of your one Sim, which may be male or female. There isn’t much to customize, though, as you can only choose from a small handful of set appearances, clothing, hairstyles, and colors. It’s a bit unfortunate, considering that a hallmark of the Sims games is the customization of your Sims themselves. But, since this particular spin-off game doesn’t focus on the Sim, it could have probably been overlooked if the other aspects of gameplay had been more engaging. Unfortunately, I didn’t find them much better.
Pet care involves interacting with a number of dogs and cats that are randomly left at the apartment from time to time for your Sim to petsit or treat at the pet spa downstairs. The idea is to diagnose the pet for any ailments—like smelliness, dirtiness, or pest infestation—and to fix these issues, all through playing mini-games. Whether it’s spraying perfume, using a showerhead, or misting on the flea spray, however, the mini-games are all nearly identical: they require you to tap or scribble the stylus on the touch screen (and sometimes press one of the shoulder trigger buttons) in order to direct and apply the treatment on the pet. One spa treatment, thankfully, deviates from this pattern and at least involves an easy card-matching game that plays like a beginner's version of Memory.
The main problem is that these easy and similar mini-games become repetitive and boring very quickly—especially if you choose to treat the maximum of five clients a day, each of which may have up to five issues that need to be treated. The brushing game is actually even a bit annoying, since some of the stylus strokes simply would not register consistently for any of us who tried it. Luckily, however, helping out at the spa yourself is optional, even though personally treating spa pets earns far more Simoleons. Since you get some income whether or not you your Sim goes to work, you could easily skip most of the treatment mini-games.
But even overlooking the tedious mini-games, the other pet interactions, such as stroking the pet or giving it toys, are also very limited and predictable, so playing with your apartment pets isn’t very fun either. It also seems that you don’t need to feed your pets (though you can) or otherwise care for them as you would a real animal, so Apartment Pets is unlikely to be a satisfying simulation for a player looking for a realistic digital pet. The experience, though, would probably be much more entertaining for players who mostly enjoy dressing up their animals with weird accessories (like goggles and cabbie hats), since in that department, there is an absolute boatload of choices to start with and even more to unlock.
Your Sim’s uncle also has a bird, a snake, and a hamster in the apartment that you can interact with, but there’s sadly not much you can do with them besides dress them up in silly getups or play a couple mini-games: a stylus-based Dance Dance Revolution-type game, or a snake charming game requiring the player to play music by pressing buttons and blowing into the DS microphone. I regret to report that neither is particularly interesting.
Sadly, decorating the spa and apartment doesn’t get much better, either. While there’s a decent selection of buyable furniture and other objects, you can only choose the style of the furnishings, not the placement of them. Each object already has a preset location, so even though you can pick your flooring, wallpaper, and furniture style, very little actual customization is possible.
The basic Sims aspect is, like the pets aspects of the game, simply too watered down and not at all a challenge. Your Sim’s mere four needs (Hunger, Bladder, Social, and Energy) decay so slowly that simply greeting one customer, eating once, using the restroom once, and sleeping once per day keeps all meters completely full. This might appeal to a player more interested in playing with the pets than taking care of the Sim, but it would probably put a typical Sims player to sleep.
In short, Apartment Pets had a great basic concept, but it unfortunately failed to deliver much entertainment or depth in any aspect of its hybrid nature. With more mini-game variety and customization options, or at least greater attention in either the pets half or the Sims half, perhaps it could have been a more enjoyable game.
The graphics in The Sims 2: Apartment Pets are pretty comparable to that of other DS titles. Most of the game graphics are minimally rendered in 3D to accommodate the limitations of the DS, and there’s a zoom function to view the items up close if you’d like to take a better look. Interacting with pets also brings up a closer and more detailed view.
The animals are cute and fairly convincingly modeled and smoothly animated—though there appears to be only one dog and one cat type, so even with a few different colors and markings, there isn’t much variety. The appearances of the Sims leave a bit to be desired, but fortunately, since they’re not the focus of the game, it’s not too distracting.
Besides the pet graphics, one of the game’s better graphical features is probably the PDA menus, which are simply designed and laid out crisply for clear viewing on the small screens. Objects are displayed as 2D sprites in the menu screen to allow for easier identification when browsing the inventory—a good choice. The pet status window is similarly easy to read and understand.
The sounds themselves are of pretty decent quality, but as with much of the game, there isn’t much variety, and the pet and background ambient noises often sound as if they’re playing from a broken record. Otherwise, though, it’s not so bad.
This $29.99 game might appeal for a while to that subset of gamers who enjoy virtual pets as well as collection games, since there’s quite a number of objects, pet toys, pet accessories, and Sim outfits to collect over time with your earned Simoleons. Since I haven’t tried most of the other DS pet simulators out there, I don’t have a good point of comparison as far as the genre goes, but if you’re into dressing up digital pets, Apartment Pets has plenty of options for you.
A combination of pet simulation, people simulation, and home decorating, The Sims 2: Apartment Pets could have been an entertaining DS title, but it unfortunately suffers from lack of depth and variety. Gamers, especially young gamers, who like Sims, enjoy playing with digital pets, and don’t mind repetition might still enjoy this one, though.