PS3 Review: The Sims 3: Pets



The console version of The Sims 3: Pets is kind of a weird creature. It’s not a solo expansion pack and not quite a carbon copy of The Sims 3 with new features. Instead The Sims 3: Pets is a standalone title which takes all the content, careers and wishes of last year’s game and sets it all in the brand new town of Appaloosa Plains with new neighbours, new stores, new story challenges, new karma powers, new skills, a whole new set of trophies and, of course, the addition of pets for your household.

I’ll get the bad news out of the way up front. The major downside is that if you already own and have sunk hours into the lives, loves and careers of your fictional family in The Sims 3, you’ll have to start from scratch here. You can use pre-made families that EA have put together or create your own, but the console version of The Sims 3: Pets won’t let you import your old Sims 3 saved family into Appaloosa Plains. It’s a weird choice, and one likely to stick in the craw of those who already dedicated days, weeks and months to a Sim family and hoped to expand on your beloved pixel household with the new additions that Pets has to offer.
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The console version also loses out on some of the pets that PC gamers get to play with. There are now only cats and dogs to choose from; horses are gone for PS3/360, as are smaller pets and stray animals (which you could interact with, but not control like cats, dogs and horses). Though in their absence EA does expand on the feline and canine additions in ways that the PC expansion doesn’t, along with new exclusive additions (which we’ll get to later). They’re fairly big drawbacks, but if you’re fine with starting afresh and can get past the missing content that didn’t make the switch from PC to PS3 and Xbox 360, then The Sims 3: Pets is the most feature-packed, definitive entry in the series for console gamers.

After the massively truncated port of The Sims 2 to consoles, The Sims 3 finally managed to translate the infinitely replayable, inherently addictive ‘virtual life’ sandbox fun of the series to PS3 and 360 gamers without losing much of anything along the way. With a control scheme and gameplay that moulded itself to consoles without sacrificing any of the intricacies or content of the PC original, those without access to a high-spec home computer could finally enjoy every aspect of The Sims experience without selling a kidney to afford the cost of a new quad-core Dell. Not only that, but the third entry in the insanely popular series provided the most impressive evolution of the franchise, nailing the perfect sweet spot between ‘do whatever the heck you like’ sandbox entertainment and structured, objective-based gameplay through its wish and challenge systems.
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The Sims 3: Pets only expands on the impressive evolutionary steps of the core game, and what could so easily have been a shallow add-on – the animal equivalent of buying a new set of pointless Sim lounge furniture on the EA store – thankfully adds a few extra layers of strategic depth and enjoyment to an already great game. The pet creation tool is as startlingly comprehensive as the human Sim creator toolbox was, and you can let your creativity run wild. Want a Poodle with German Shephard markings and giant, floppy rabbit ears? Have at it! You can use the layering techniques to combine fur patterns in resourceful ways and come up with all manner of weird and adorable looking critters. You can pick the age and lifespan of your pet, or make them invincible if you’d rather not suffer through any Old Yeller/Marley and Me-style dank Sim depression when they kick the bucket. Unlike the PC version, you get a more varied choice, too, with the ability to create puppies and kittens (though they can’t have wishes, skills or jobs until they become adults).

Like your regular Sims, dogs and cats have their own unique traits, skills and wishes, and you’ll need to satisfy their various needs to keep them content. Unlike regular Sims, pets are infinitely more dependant on the people around them, and will need to beg for food or be bathed if they’ve been digging up the neighbours’ yards and rolling around in crap all day. Traits are as important as ever, too. Independent animals will be most happy when they’re off exploring and won’t need as much attention, but will get skittish and upset in crowded situations, while destructive pets will wreck your furniture and pee all over the carpet faster than you can say ‘spayed and neutered’. You can house train them through the use of ‘Praise’ and ‘Scold’ actions as well. Yell at them when you catch them chewing the tables and knocking over the trashcans, or give them love for peeing outside instead of the kitchen and they’ll soon pick up new traits and stop using your home as a giant litterbox.
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Cats can learn to hunt as a skill, while dogs will learn to dig and sniff out buried loot, which can be a potential goldmine as they start digging up precious gems and metals for you to sell off or relics that you can display at home for moodlet rewards. You can teach them tricks and dogs can help get you dates or even establish friendships for you. Unlike the PC version, you can also give your animal a career and have them bring in a wage, too. Dogs can work for the hospital, moonlight as a criminal or find employment as a K9 police pooch. Likewise, feline pets can aid their criminal owners by helping to, well, cat burgle unsuspecting neighbours. Like their owners, animals have a whole bunch of unique wishes, like wanting to lie on the furniture or play fetch, along with lifetime rewards, and you can pair up pets, build friendships for them or create offspring, with a family tree and inherited traits just like human Sims. You can even use Karma Powers to turn animals into humans and vice versa.

The pet dynamics do have their strange quirks. Animals weirdly take cabs everywhere. If a Sim scolds a pet while you’re not controlling them, the reason for their reprimanding doesn’t show up in the action list, so it’s hard to figure out what they’ve done wrong in your absence, and it seems to happen unprovoked at times, damaging Sim-pet relationships you’ve struggled to maintain when you turn your back. My Sim pooch sniffed a neighbour with a sinister Fu Manchu moustache, which they took as an open invitation to come into the house, start raiding my fridge, using my bathtub and sleeping in my bed, but since the puppy gave the invite, my homeowner Sim couldn’t kick the mooching asshat out (Cut to me building an inescapable sealed room around the house invading sponge). Even so, those kind of occurrences usually only add to the ‘Guess what my Sim did now!’ anecdotal fun that makes for much of the enjoyment of The Sims, and the addition of pets to the mix provides a great deal more entertainment, variety and strategy to the sandbox.
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The Sims 3: Pets doesn’t just expand on the freeform household simulation portion of the game, but builds further upon the more structured elements, too. There’s even more challenges to achieve now to keep you busy if you prefer a little objective-based gameplay to compliment the sandbox stuff. The major addition – and one exclusive to the console versions – is the Mystery Journal. Providing you with five new multi-part, story-driven quests, these mysteries have you team up with your pet to use your sleuthing skills around town, digging up clues and cracking the case for rewards of unique decorations, outfits, lifetime rewards and karma. One stage of the mystery might have you using your dog sniff out a scent and dig up the park looking for a treasure map, the next might have your Sim scouring the library and reading an old book for clues, or getting to know someone in town to ask them about an old pirate legend. They’re considerable lengthy and add even more challenge, variety and structure to the Sim experience.

The Sims 3: Pets also introduces added skills for humans that weren’t included last time, like the Inventing skill, which later opens up the ghost hunting activity where your Sim can explore haunted houses at night with the aid of the ghost zapper you’ve built. The Sims 3: Pets adds a surprising amount of extra content, layering on a whole lot more choice and diversity to your Sim sandbox and giving you plenty more tasks to fulfil and rewards to achieve while retaining everything that made The Sims 3 such an hilarious, entertaining and fiendishly addictive strategy game. Though it loses some content in the jump from home computers, it gains even more in exchange, and in many respects The Sims: Pets provides an even richer and more content-packed experience on consoles than it does on PC.
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The deciding factor ultimately comes down to whether you already own The Sims 3 on consoles. If so, then despite the incredibly fun new additions, Pets is a bit of a tough sell, coming at full retail prices and without the ability to import your time-invested saved games over. If you’ve held off on buying a Sims game this generation, though, The Sims 3: Pets is the definitive console version, packing everything the core game offered and layering on a tonne of new and engaging stuff. Just remember that you’re not just dropping down your hard-earned cash, you’re signing away weeks of your life; The Sims 3: Pets is just as instantly and devilishly addictive as the series has ever been, and with a bunch more tools for you to use and the addition of pets to create and play with, you’ll be gleefully sinking days on end into your virtual household yet again.

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The Sims 3: Pets is available to buy on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac and 3DS now.
Click here to buy it from Amazon.co.uk.

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  • Animal Lover

    Are there animals like: lizards, mice, deer, etc.
    I have only seen catipillars at the dog park. Sharks at the beach and some type of beetle. And seagulls. This is one of my main questions. Please answer back, I love this game although I was slightly disappointed when I figured out there were no horses. Please answer back.

  • Animal Lover

    I own the ps3 version
    FYI

  • jess

    is there horses in it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/felix.alley.amelle Alley HanSolo Colberg

    My game specifically mentions the horses on the box. Havent seen it yet but who knows.