If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're already familiar with The Sims and its sequel, The Sims 2. Both games let you take control of little computer people as they lead virtual lives, meeting and greeting virtual friends, cooking and eating virtual meals, and making virtual trips to their tiny little bathrooms. The Sims 2 expanded on the original Sims game by adding plenty of new features, such as genetics, which lets you build up families of your little "sim" characters and have children who bear strong resemblances to their parents. Now, the world of The Sims 2 will be expanded just below eye level with man's best friend (dogs), as well as man's fairly good acquaintances: cats, aquarium fish, and hamsters.
As we saw, cats and dogs can be created from scratch in both the PC and console versions of The Sims 2: Pets. You'll be able to choose breeds and tweak and deform facial features, fur colors, and fur patterns; you'll even be able to layer different fur patterns onto your pets if, for whatever reason, you wanted to make a cat with purple tiger stripes layered under a neon tabby pattern. The PC version of the game will let you accessorize your pets somewhat with neck gear (such as collars and kerchiefs) and a few other accoutrements, but for those who want kitty to look extra precious, the PlayStation 2 and GameCube versions of the game will let you get your dogs and cats extra dressy with hats, body garments (such as sweaters and hoodies), and tiny shoes. Yes, tiny shoes.
Once they're created, your pets can be added to your household in the same way you add normal family members, and they can interact with family members using a variety of new social options, which include petting, scolding, and performing tricks. All characters in Sims games have a need for social interaction, including pets. However, since pets themselves can successfully keep sims company, The Sims 2: Pets will let you create the ultimate "crazy cat lady" who gets along just fine living alone with her 12 cats. However, pets will also have needs, just like sims, including hunger, bladder needs, and other, pet-specific requirements; for instance, cats will need to scratch things.
This is fine if you purchase a scratching-post item for your house, but it's not fine if Mittens decides to express his identity on your expensive armchair. If left unsupervised, cats and dogs will be able to completely destroy furniture. Fortunately, the PC version of the game will have a feedback training system that's conceptually similar to EA's previous pet-simulation games, the Black & White series. Like in those games, in Pets you'll be able to give your pets positive and negative reinforcement, so if Fido keeps knocking over the trash can, you'll be able to scold him until he stops (though if you're less concerned about hygiene, you may instead opt to praise him when he eats the garbage or licks plates clean). And yes, you'll be able to take the opposite approach and actually praise your pet for destructive, unsociable behavior. You won't be able to create an underground dog-fighting ring in The Sims 2: Pets, but you can definitely train your pets to be complete jerks that destroy your neighbors' valuable furnishings.
In addition, you'll be able to adopt new pets either by rescuing them from your local animal shelter or by receiving them from a generous neighbor, who can give you a kitten or puppy from their litter. Once your pets are fully grown, they won't just be a part of the family; they'll actually be able to bring home the bacon, too. The Sims 2: Pets will offer honest-to-goodness career paths for your cats and dogs, such as a guard-dog career or a future in showbiz. Unfortunately, hamsters and goldfish will be hampered by the proverbial glass ceiling, which, now that we think about it, is also a literal glass ceiling, since these critters will spend most of their lives in glass cages and an aquarium, respectively. Though they won't be able to join the workforce, your hamsters and fish can still provide hours of entertainment, provided you don't constantly scare the daylights out of them. (Then again, you may find the actual act of terrifying your hamsters to be entertaining in and of itself, but we're not judging anyone here.)
While the PC version of The Sims 2: Pets will have enhanced social interactions and will let you draw upon the huge body of content already available for the core game through free downloads and previous expansion packs, the console version of the game will feature special downtown lots that will let you purchase new toys and clothing for your pets, as well as meet other pets and pet owners outside the home. The console versions of Pets will also include lots more collection-based gameplay and both versions will offer plenty of new household objects to play with. Both the PC and console versions of the game are scheduled for release later this year.