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The Sims 3 Pets released simultaneously on Xbox 360, PS3, 3DS and PC, though each version is slightly different. The Sims 3 Pets for Xbox 360 is a standalone game, and uniquely features Kinect voice commands. It is also a surprisingly enjoyable and addictive version of the game.

If you’re used to playing The Sims on PC, you might initially struggle to get used to the console controls. Fortunately, there is a handy tutorial as well as plenty of game tips at your disposal. Everything is also clearly marked on screen, so it’s not often that you have to remember what button to press.

Once you get the hang of moving around the game and directing your Sims, you’ll find an engaging and addictive game with plenty of options to keep you busy for hours and hours… and hours. The basic premise is the same as always: you create Sims, who eat, sleep, and live happy (or not so happy, depending on your style) virtual lives. Pets are (obviously) a new addition to this game, specifically dogs and cats. The thing that’s entirely new to the Sims franchise is the ability to take direct control of these pets, and this opens up tons of new gameplay opportunities, all in beautiful high definition.

When you start a new game, you can either play a family that already exists in the town of Sugar Maple Coast, or create a new family from scratch. You can have a family with a maximum of six members, one of which must be a Sim. There are plenty of customisation options for Sims, from hairstyles to outfits, as well as new personality traits like ‘Dog Person’ and pet-related Lifetime Wishes. After a decade or so of Simming, you might have run out of name ideas, so the game provides you with an excellent ‘Random Name’ feature when creating families.

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As for pets, you can create puppies or kittens, an option unique to the console version, as well as adult or elder pets. There are dozens of real dog and cat breeds built in, and if you have your Kinect set up, you can switch between them by saying ‘Switch to German Shepard’. Don’t worry, there’s a list of voice commands if you don’t know your pet breeds that well! Beyond that, you can customise your pet to your heart’s content to recreate your real life pet, or perhaps something more outrageous, like that striped purple Chihuahua you always wanted.

Pets can also have traits, which affect their behaviour. While they can only start out with two, they can learn others during the course of their lives, depending on how they spend their time and what actions their Sim owners scold or praise. Pets can also get part-time jobs, like police dog. Puppies and kittens are cute, but they can’t do much until they’re adults. Adult dogs and cats can learn to dig and hunt respectively, collecting treasures for the household and improving skills. A cat with a high enough hunt skill can even catch ghosts! Dogs can learn tricks and perform them for Sims.

There is plenty to keep you busy in this game. There are literally hundreds of challenges to take on, including everything from cooking a certain meal perfectly to reaching the top of a certain career, and everything in between. Completing these challenges also unlocks karma powers, which can be used to help or hinder your Sims. Just beware the consequences of bad karma! The challenges and karma powers that you unlock are linked to your Xbox profile, so even if you start a new game with a new family, those powers and challenges will still be unlocked.

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The town also features a handful of mysteries, which are like a mini-quest that your Sims (or their pets) can undertake, with their own opportunities and rewards. The town itself features a wide variety of locations to visit. Another nice feature is the load screens, which are mercifully brief, but either contain helpful game hints, or information about your particular Sims. You also have the option to connect to the Sims Exchange, where you can share or download custom content for your game.

The game is not without its flaws. The control system is well done, but it’s still no match for a mouse and keyboard. Sims can get stuck in random places for no apparent reason, though this is a ‘feature’ of pretty much every Sims game ever released. Similarly, lag when scrolling across locations seems to be par for the course. The Kinect voice recognition is a nice addition, but it tends to pick up a lot of sounds from the game itself, giving your Sims random commands. This can get rather irritating, but fortunately you can switch the Kinect features off.

Scoring

Gameplay: 8.5/10

It’s The Sims, with pets. The ability to control your pets directly adds a whole new dimension to the game, and gives you something to do while your Sims are at work. Of course, you can ignore the pets entirely, and just go about your normal Simming business. The neighbour’s dog may still dig holes in your front lawn, however.

Design and Presentation: 8/10

The high definition graphics are gorgeous; everything from the top down town map to the individual Sims looks great. The sounds and music are as good as ever (you may even catch your real life pets watching the TV with interest). The interface is clear and uncluttered, so you can see at a glance what’s going on. The occasional lag does not detract from the game experience.

Value: 8/10

There’s plenty to do in this game, whether you want to chase challenges, mysteries, or even ghosts. And if you don’t have enough customisation options, there’s always the Exchange. Considering this is a standalone game, the price is comparable to buying the PC base game and the Pets expansion.

Overall: 8/10

If you’ve wanted to try the Sims on console, this may be the game for you. The depth is there, although you might miss having hundreds of options if you’re used to playing on PC with all the expansions installed. The controller is also not quite a substitute for a mouse, but the addition of challenges and mysteries gives the game that little bit of direction you may be craving.

[Reviewed on Xbox 360 with Kinect]

Last Updated: October 28, 2011

The Sims 3 Pets (360)
Summary
8

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