As a gamer who can vacillate between WoW PvP ganking and scritching a Nintendog between the ears in mere seconds, I thought that giving a “fair and balanced” review of a Sims Pets game was going to be tough. Not so much. I guess I require my pixellated pooches to actually be more than blurry pixels with mediocre control schemes.
I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the “plot”. After the ever-so-detailed character creation experience (featuring both genders and no less than five top and bottom clothing options), you are plopped down in a teeny tiny Sim apartment with an nearly invisible Sim parrot. If you can get your stylus to touch the parrot just right, it will give you a Sims-type pop up window which will allow you to play a DDR-style minigame with the bird. Not a bad minigame, moves a bit fast, but it’s a rhythm game, and who doesn’t love those?
Wander around your new space for a bit and you’ll get an e-mail on your PDA (*cough iPhone*) from your Uncle Bill, who owns the apartment and the pet spa below it. He says he’s off doing research somewhere and thanks you for looking after the place. In case you have an itch for interior design, Uncle Bill has an “arrangement” with the landlord that gives you carte blanche to paint, paper, and generally tear the place up as you see fit.
This isn’t your mother’s Sims game, though. No sooner do you begin looking at swatches then the doorbell rings, and your friendly building maintenance guy hands you a puppy. Why? Because he found it, of course. Now you have to care for it.
Unfortunately, it is the pet care phase that makes this game less a member of the Sims family and more a subpar Nintendogs clone or wannabe Imagine: Veterinarian. Pets can have a number of negative states, including such technical states as “stinky” or “dirty”. Your job is to “diagnose” and “treat” these states through washing, perfuming, etc.
The big problem here is the controls. For example. it is very difficult to “treat” Stinky when you have to both target his hotspots using the stylus and “spray” him with the same hand (using the right shoulder button). In addition, there are not one, but two timing mechanisms in play during your task: a standard clock timer and the pet’s “annoyance meter”, which will invariably cause Stinky to run away for a few seconds during the middle of any treatment. Good luck getting the percentage of treatment needed to “cure” Stinky when you can’t even make him sit still.
And that’s just the pets that are dumped on your doorstep. You also run a Pet Spa downstairs, which is how you earn money to pamper your pooches and make Uncle Bill’s pad plush. You get an e-mail when a customer arrives and, if you can force the impossible pathfinding to allow you to take the elevator down, you may even get to diagnose and treat these customers’ pets! Joy! Meanwhile, your own motive scores (fatigue, hygiene, etc.) continue to erode over time, as do the scores of each and every pet in your personal menagerie.
Finally, the game doesn’t look great, even for a DS title. Nintendogs, which was a DS Lite launch title, presents cuter pooches, and Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise shows what the littlest console can do with textures in a sim game. Next to those guys, The Sims 2: Apartment Pets looks like a GBA title at best, or at least the parts you can see – the camera only moves up, down, left and right – no swiveling whatsoever.
Looks like I’ll have to go back to having my gnome rogue farm up pets in Azeroth and Outland. I’m giving The Sims 2: Apartment Pets – 2 Weiners out of 5.