Taking care of pets isn't exactly a walk in the park, but a sim's life won't be complete without one.
As you enter the Create-A-Sim screen, you will notice two additional options for the newest members of the family: create a dog and create a cat. Some of the dog breeds you will find include Collie, Boxer, Beagle, Dalmatian, German Shepherd, Chow Chow and many more small and large breeds. Persian, British Shorthair, Norwegian Forest and Siamese are some of the cats you can pick from.
After you have selected your breed, you can customize your pet's appearance. Fur can be long and wavy, curly or short and you can combine several different layers of different colors for any part of the body. You can end up with some really weird fur patterns if you try. Then there are body and face modifiers, and you can adjust everything from nose to ears, stomach, neck, tail and eyes (including eye colors). You can create your own unique breed by altering a pet's features, and you can cross-breed them in game as well.
You can give your pet a collar, and the last customization process takes you to the personality modifiers. Here, you can pick how your pet will behave. Is it a genius or a complete doofus? Friendly or aggressive? A pig or a picky eater? Lazy or hyper? There is a happy medium for each of these personality traits, and it's funny to see how pets react to things according to their personality.
The first thing I did was create virtual representations of my two cats, personality and all. They turned out exactly as the real ones, from playing with every toy available to scratching the sofas, pouncing for no apparent reason or sitting on the kitchen counter just admiring what goes on. I could spend hours just watching their behavior and how my virtual self and my virtual husband interact with them. The hugging, the petting, the finger playing, the feathers on a stick, it's something I'm very familiar with and it's just delightful to see it happening in game as it does in real life.
A family with dogs was the bane of my existence though. Every time I tried to create a dog, the game would crash during the customization process. Finally, I gave up and just randomized everything so I could play. It's funny that dogs at first didn't seem that much interesting as cats. They don't have nearly as many objects to play and interact with. Dogs have their doghouses, beds, food bowls and bones to chew on. Cats have scratching posts, litter boxes, a catnip mouse, a toy bird on a spring and a kitty condo/tree for them to climb and nap on. But after seeing animals interact with each other, neighbors coming over with their pets, and sims interacting with their own and other pets, there is a lot more to it than it initially seems.
It's in the interaction that the game really shines. Hug your pets, give them a treat, play fetch, scold them for destroying the furniture, hire a trainer or teach them tricks yourself, the animations are extremely well done and the simmish language is funnier than ever as your sims talk to the animals. They go to the point of rolling on the floor to teach their dogs or cats how to roll over, it's hilarious!
The weakest point of this expansion (no, it's not the even longer loading times) is the amount of new objects, there aren't as many as I would expect. Most of the new furniture and build items have a modern, slightly futuristic design. I particularly like the new bedroom set, rugs, flowers and paintings, not to mention the numerous walls and floors and a diagonal roof option. However, I expected landscaping items to create gorgeous backyards and exquisite parks to walk my dogs in, as well as more pet toys (balls, squeaky toys and so on).
The Sims 2 Pets is like having a little bit of Unleashed in full 3D. You can create pet stores and pet adoption centers in community lots, you can have cats and dogs but also small pets such as birds and hamsters. Although there are no pet competitions and judges to impress, now you can go as far as trying to find a job for your pet in three career paths. And to add to the aliens and vampires that make your neighborhoods so exciting, you will now have to watch out for werewolves.
Taking care of pets isn't exactly a walk in the park, but a sim's life won't be complete without one. Those unique tender moments of virtual puppy or kitty love are totally worth getting the expansion for.
Review text part of Grrlgamer.com. Full text and screenshots at http://www.grrlgamer.com/review.php?g=ts2pets