Last year, I witnessed my university tutor refer to The Sims as “a virtual dollhouse”. If I’m honest, I thought it was quite hilarious. From the tone of his voice, I concluded that this was meant as a derogatory statement towards the series, although he didn’t detail any constructive criticism. Was he suggesting that more girl gamers play Electronic Arts people management sim than guy gamers?
I know my girlfriend loves the Sims, but I eventually decided that the reason he said such nasty things was because he simply didn’t care for it too much – and after years of watching my girlfriend stressing out over a bunch of polygons with full bladders and empty stomachs, I kinda feel his pain. I guess the moral of the story is that some people like it, and some people don’t.
However, even non-fans of the series cannot deny its addictive nature. Some of you Sim psychos might even find it hard to leave your computer chair to go to work or even feed your children. Have no fear though, as EA has made its franchise adequately playable on mobile platforms. The most recent of which being The Sims 3: Pets for 3DS.
Essentially, this is just another Sims game, not altogether different from the other versions already available. You begin with creating your Sims and customising every facet of their appearance and personality, the only difference being that pets (if you should decide to include them in your household) are now available as fully functioning Sims. I personally enjoyed this part the most as it allowed me to toss a lazy, untidy couch potato in with a tidy, hygienic workaholic dressed as an army guy and a slutty goth, respectively, just to see what happened. If that wasn’t bad enough, I also included the virtual version of Duke, my hyperactive and destructive German Pointer. The Sims creation tool was so customisable and varied that I was able to create the mirror image of my own dog, complete with a short coat of hair and precise colour patterns!
As I got on with managing the lives of my abominable creations, I instantly sank into a familiar routine of feeding, bathing and peeing. I also had my dysfunctional household interact with other Sims that would occasionally knock on the door or wander around town. This allowed me to establish relationships with everyone, but these usually boiled down to Duke growling and chasing them away. Needless to say, mine eventually became the most hated Sims in the neighbourhood. Not that it bothered my virtual house too much, as I was able to keep everyone happy by granting their wishes to the best of my ability. Unless it meant making friends, because then you have to be nice…Meh! As the experience reached its peak, it was fair to say that this was a decent Sims game, but having played the series on PC, it was also instantly obvious what one of its biggest drawbacks was…
The Sims have been no stranger to portable devices over the years, so we’ve all experienced the cramped control schemes that have become a far cry from the freedom offered with a mouse and keyboard. Predictably then, the 3DS edition of the Pets expansion pack is no different. I feel as if I’m repeating what every reviewer is no doubt complaining about, but I can’t help it… I’m a whiner. The face buttons are used for zooming in and out, while the shoulder buttons rotate the camera. The circle pad is then used for moving your cursor, quite responsively, around the environment. All simple, satisfying and playable, yet I’ve always dreamt of a DS Sims game where the perspective seamlessly spans both screens. I’d best keep dreaming though, as that bottom screen is essential for accessing the various options required to keep your Sims healthy and happy. These options are displayed as green bars that gradually go down over time. Neglect your poor little Sims, and they will eventually deplete. Feed them to keep the hunger bar up, sleep to regain energy and please, please make sure they go to the toilet every so often. Just for a pee, mind you. Apparently, Sims don’t ever need a ‘number 2’.
Although it hardly comes as a shock, the 3D visuals add very little to The Sims; while the graphics themselves are fairly decent, you wouldn’t be missing much with the 3D slider down to zero. If you’re the kind of person that gets addicted to The Sims, it’s probably best to play in 2D, lest you get some sort of eye defect or something. Seriously though, I found this game much more irritating in 3D than other 3DS games. In fact, I could only tolerate it for 10 minute bursts without scratching out my freakin’ eyeballs. The audio didn’t help the situation either, as the Sims gibberish language and gibberish soundtrack just became a bit too much. I understand how this has added to the charm of the series over the years, but… I just don’t get it. Actually, I would go as far as to say that I almost hate it.
Ultimately, The Sims 3: Pets is a decent addition to the series on 3DS, even though it’s difficult to recommend if you already own the original, especially when it’s retailed at full price.
The inclusion of said “Pets” doesn’t add enough new gameplay options beyond digging up valuable items in the yard, chewing furniture and peeing on the bed. If you’re a massive Sims fanatic, I know there’s probably very little I can do to dissuade you from getting this, but I strongly suggest you stick to the PC version. Otherwise, you’ll discover that, aside from the pets, the watered down graphics and controls are the only new features offered in this handheld release.
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