Maxis' world-renowned PC strategy game The Sims, which lets you create and control the lives of a virtual family of little computer people called "sims," has been extremely popular since its release in 2000. The game has also given rise to a total of seven expansion packs, and the latest and final of these is The Sims: Makin' Magic, which lets your family of sims learn how to use magic wands, potions, and spells to turn their unwanted neighbors into frogs, to shower themselves with riches, and to create other wondrous effects. While some of Makin' Magic's more-colorful additions seem a bit out of place, this final expansion pack adds plenty of new things for you and your sims to do.
Like the last few expansion packs for The Sims, Makin' Magic adds a great many new household objects with which your sims can fill their houses. It also adds a new outdoor "lot" area, named Magic Town, which you can visit at any time. Here you can also completely scrap and redesign yourself. Like other expansion packs for The Sims, Makin' Magic also includes a few additional options that work with previous expansions. For instance, if you have The Sims: Unleashed, you can temporarily change one of your pets into a person. However, Makin' Magic also lets your sims use magic spells (which emphasize the logic, cooking, and mechanical skills) to circumvent mundane problems, like refilling personal needs (also known as "motives") such as hunger, fatigue, and social interfaction. Additionally, your sims can actually perform magic shows, similarly to how they could put on various types of shows in the previous expansion, Superstar. Many of these additions completely eliminate the need for common chores, like continually chatting up other sims to keep your social needs satisfied. For instance, in Makin' Magic, a child sim can magically create an imaginary best friend instead of having to hunt down other sims for conversation. However, the expansion's décor is much more colorful than that of the previous expansions. Specifically, the expansion's sparkly magic spells and brightly colored amusement parks seem like they might be more appealing to smaller children than to the more-mature fans of the series who enjoy The Sims for its tongue-in-cheek social commentary and risqué sexual innuendo.
Regardless, Makin' Magic gives you many new interesting things to do that will likely draw your attention away from constant bathroom breaks and naps. You begin a new game of Makin' Magic at home when a mystery man appears at your door to drop off new magical equipment, including a cauldron to formulate new spells, a new magic wand, and a handful of spell components. From there you can build a comfortable home business harvesting beeswax and elderberries. If you'd prefer, however, you can use these components as spell ingredients, or you can use them to barter for other spell components or magic items from various vendors in Magic Town.
Makin' Magic's new out-of-house lot area, Magic Town, gives you many more options than the lot areas from the previous expansions. For instance, you can visit Magic Town to put on public magic shows or to stage wizardly duels in a process that's reminiscent of the performances in The Sims: Superstar, though these performances don't require as much guesswork. (In the previous expansion, you had to choose a "correct" sequence for your performance or you'd fail.) These shows help you earn "magicoins," a new currency that lets you buy pricier spell components and even lets you buy your way into a new Magic Town house adorned with beanstalks and crystal gardens. Redecorating a lot in Magic Town can actually be more than just an exercise in interior decorating. The expansion's new theme objects, which include haunted house objects and carnival objects, let you build your very own midway, complete with carnival games and roller coasters, which you can create by laying out pieces of track. You can even fill out an entire lot with nothing but one big roller coaster, if you care to.
If you've been following The Sims and its many expansion packs, you should have already guessed that Makin' Magic makes no real technical improvements to The Sims. While the expansion adds a huge number of colorful new objects to interact with, they're all the same sort of 2D-rendered scenery you've seen in the expansion packs, and the sims themselves are still the same blocky-looking 3D characters. Makin' Magic also sounds quite good. It adds appropriate new music and some new sound samples to its gibberish "simlish" language, and these all fit well, though whether you find them to be as clever and funny as the simlish in the original game will depend on how much you've already played The Sims and its expansions since 2000. Just like every other expansion pack, Makin' Magic doesn't bother to fix the sluggish camera or the occasionally deficient artificial intelligence used for sims, which sometimes causes them to "forget" whatever instructions you had queued up for them.
Maxis has announced that Makin' Magic will be the very last expansion pack for The Sims (the studio will henceforth focus on development of the upcoming sequel, The Sims 2). Like other expansion packs that preceded it, Makin' Magic presents plenty of interesting additions to the original game, but it also adds a whole lot more of them. If you're a fan of The Sims, you've probably already ordered this expansion pack--especially since it's the last one. If you're on the fence about it, and you're not especially put off by the incongruous setting, Makin' Magic offers plenty of interesting things to occupy you and your little computer people before The Sims 2 comes out.