We recently had the opportunity to take a look at the seventh and final expansion pack for Maxis' extremely popular strategy game, The Sims. The Makin' Magic expansion focuses on the use of magic spells, wands, potions, and other items to create useful effects that complement the original gameplay of The Sims.
Using magic in Makin' Magic requires you to develop your cooking, logic, and mechanical skills to solve puzzles, fashion magical items, and create magic potions. You start a new game of Makin' Magic with a visit from the Mystery Man, a stranger who leaves you with a starter's magic kit, which includes such items as a modern-day electric cauldron and a handful of magic spell components. You also receive a magical tome (which has a total of five pages) that contains all your magic spells--when you unlock them--plus a "hole in the ground" item that transports sims to Magic Town, the expansion's new downtown area.
Makin' Magic has a series of all-new skill objects, as well as other objects that can be used at home to make money. In fact, if you don't care to go to work, it doesn't seem like you have to, since Makin' Magic lets you harvest honey from beehives, which can be sold at a profit or used as a magic component. You can also grow grapes and elderberries in your garden, which can also be sold or used as magic components. While Makin' Magic doesn't have a new career path, it does let you keep up with your old one by providing you with a new magic spell that lets you clone a sim for just about any purpose--including sending him or her off to work. Unfortunately, even the most successful clones expire after a certain period of time and burst into flames. In fact, most of the magic in the game actually has a detrimental "backfire" condition. The "perfect garden" spell, for instance, causes any wilted flowers or plants to perk right back up, but if the spell backfires, your lawn gnomes may instead come to life and trample your sims' gardens--and kick your sims in the shins.
Makin' Magic's new downtown area, Magic Town, lets your sims unlock higher-level magic spells and lets them find more-advanced components from the local apothecary. You can also use the nearby stages in Magic Town to put on a magic show, which is similar to putting on a show in the previous expansion pack, Superstar. As in the last expansion pack, your sim gets onstage to perform a trick, like conjuring ghosts from a coffin, but if your sim's logic skill is poor, the ghosts will end up scaring your performer while the crowd responds with unappreciative catcalls. Performing onstage earns you magic coins, which can be used to buy new items from the apothecary. Magic coins can also be used to purchase a new house lot in an all-new section of the suburbs outside of SimCity--a section that's more naturally attuned to magic. Magic Town also lets you refill your sims' needs (or "motives," as they're referred to in the game) with items like the new roller coasters, which replenish your sims' need for fun. When designing an empty lot, you can actually create your own roller coaster by laying winding track along the ground. You can even create an entire lot that consists of nothing but a huge roller coaster.
As you might expect, Makin' Magic has additional functionality that works with other expansion packs for The Sims. If you have Superstar installed, for instance, you may find a magic spell that boosts your fame rating without having to perform onstage or without having to hobnob with celebrities. If you have Unleashed installed, you may actually be able to turn your pets into humans. Even if you don't have any other expansions, Makin' Magic adds more than 175 new items, plus the oft-requested ability to magically change child sims into adults.
The Sims: Makin' Magic recently went gold. The expansion is scheduled to ship at the end of this month--just in time for Halloween.