The beautiful sunny coastal town of Port Abel is the setting for the latest console iteration of the immensely successful life-simulation series, The Sims. As can be expected from the title, The Sims 3: Pets once again turns to a selection of loveable canine and feline creatures to sprinkle necessary variance, yet does the Nintendo 3DS version suffer the same shortcomings endeavoured by its predecessor?
Thankfully, this isn’t the case. Electronic Arts have seemingly listened to the criticisms aired towards The Sims 3, and implemented features and functionality that makes best use of Nintendo’s hardware. You are more than likely familiar with the concept of the game, which sees you guide either an individual or group of hapless Sims through everyday life and catering for their every whim. You’ll continually strive towards reaching the top of their chosen career ladder and fulfilling their ‘Lifetime Wish’, or even the complete opposite and seek satisfaction by seeing your Sims fail.
Players are capped to the creation of only three Sims, which can be any combination of the available Sim, Dog or Cat, however you are advised against choosing an all-animal family as this will essentially eradicate any advance in regards to income that you receive. I opted for a Sim, Dog and Cat mixture to see what each would offer, although I would recommend going for two Sims and one pet to be able to progress through the game more speedily.
The introduction of pets is a perfect fit for the series, a multitude of interactions and unique abilities perhaps even providing more interest than that offered by Sims. Cats are able to groom their fur to keep their hygiene levels at a reasonable level, can hunt for prey to keep themselves fed and will even claw at Sims who they don’t have a healthy relationship with. Dogs on the other hand will spend their idle time digging holes in your garden, resulting in discovering items that may be sold for money. Some of these skills can be levelled, allowing for more valuable items to be discovered or better quality bugs for food, for example. Pets also have their own needs, with differing consequences if these are not met – dogs catching fleas if they aren’t kept clean and needing to chew on objects to maintain their teeth, and cats scratching at anything they can in an effort to keep their claws sharp.
Customisation has a noticeable depth within the Nintendo 3DS version, players able to choose from an extensive quantity of options that includes 30 canine breeds and 24 feline breeds. Choice of fur patterns, accessories (ranging from Top Hats to Saddles!) and, of course, personalities that allow you to gear your pets behaviour to exactly how you’d prefer. Pets are also able to choose their own Lifetime Wish, including mastering skills, going to work with Sims and aiding them in gaining promotions, or befriending a quantity of Sims.
The control set-up is well suited to the handheld, L and R being used to rotate the camera whereas X and Y zoom in and out respectively. The A button is used to select, whereas B briefly pauses the game so that you can cancel previously assigned actions. The Circle Pad allows you to move the on-screen cursor, with the D-pad allowing you to speed up/slow down time and close on-screen pop-ups. In addition, the touch screen is utilised effectively for menu navigation, allowing players to switch between tabs to keep an eye on ‘Moodlets and Needs’, ‘Traits and Skills’ and ‘Wishes’ amongst others.
The ability to use Play Coins has also been implemented, granting the option to use Karma Powers to either provide yourself with unique instances to either cheer or dampen your Sims spirits. The Nintendo 3DS’ StreetPass is also put to good use, players able to use the ‘Create a Townie’ option from the pause menu to make either a Sim or pet that will not only wander your in-game neighbourhood but also be able to be added to the Sims Exchange where they can be transmitted to other The Sims 3: Pets players that you pass.
The game isn’t without its issues though. In-game sounds are noticeably light perhaps due to space issues, the ‘Free Will’ AI in places often forgets that your Sim has a job to go to, and, unless I’m mistaken, the option to hire Maids, call for a Pizza delivery etc has been entirely removed meaning that there is far more emphasis on the player making sure everything is spick and span which can inevitably be a time consuming frustration. Areas away from your home, whilst large, are too sparsely populated even if they are a welcome change of scenery from your humble abode.
After the misdirection of lacklustre Nintendo 3DS launch offering, EA have provided a far more robust handheld experience. Full of the charm and character that has allowed the series to become such a success, The Sims 3: Pets is well worth the investment of your Simoleons.