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Q4 2002



- Sim pets are finally here! Although you would think that Maxis would have thought to include pets in the Sims world before now

- Pet interaction in the Sim environment is done amazingly well

- Cleaning up Sim pet “messes” is much easier than in real life



- Animations can still get jerky on lower-end systems

- Sim pets require so much attention, you’ll start to ignore the other aspects of Sim living



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The Sims Unleashed

Score: 8.8 / 10


Break out the dog biscuits and catnip! Run out and pick up some flea collars! With The Sims Unleashed, the world of the Sims finally provides pets for you to bring into their virtual lives with the newest expansion to the biggest selling PC software title of all time. Although most people will be bringing dogs and cats into their Sims household, there are also birds, turtles, fish and even iguanas for your Sims to adopt and call their very own.


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It’s hard to imagine that a game that prides itself on simulating day-to-day life so closely didn’t include pets in any of its previous four expansion packs. But finally the animal kingdom gets represented in The Sims universe. The most amazing facet of the influx of Sim pets is how smoothly they fit and interact with the other Sims world inhabitants.


Just like the Sims who will be their owners, the pets and every aspect of their lives must be taken care of through the interaction of the Sims player. To bring a pet into your Sims home, you must travel to the pet adoption center in the center of Old Town.  Just as if you visit a real pet store, quicker than you can say “how much is that doggie in the window”, you get to choose what kind of animal you wish to adopt. I suspect that most players will at least adopt either a dog or cat first, 




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depending on their preferences and there are multiple types of each species to select from. The one element that you cannot choose yourself however, is the personality and skill traits of whatever pet you select.


The personalities and skills are rated in a surprisingly large amount of individual areas: are the pets playful or lazy; friendly or aggressive; loyal or independent; quiet or noisy; smart or slow-witted; are they easy to train in 


housebreaking (dogs) and hunting (cats); how obedient are they; and how adept at learning tricks are they. There is no way of telling these traits before an adoption, which can create some anxiety until you get them home and check them out. But with proper attention and training even a slow-witted virtual dog can be taught new virtual tricks.


Want some fun gaming possibilities with Sims pets? Dogs and cats can be trained to help with household chores.  No joke, both dogs and cats can actually water the landscaping (bet your real dog can’t do that!). Dogs can be taught to fetch the newspaper, and cats will get rid of the pesky roaches, flies, gophers, mice, and rabbits that can cause havoc in your Sim home and grounds.


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While caring for your new Sim pets, just like your human Sims, they need to be taken care of accordingly. The pet’s food, fun, social, hygiene, energy, bladder, and comfort all come into play in its well-being and happiness level. If you don’t pay attention to your pet’s needs, they could run away from home.  One sure way to make a pet happy is to play with them. They grow attached to the Sim family member that plays with them the most, which helps when it comes to obedience training.


If your Sim doesn’t interact with the pet by either playing with them or giving them pet toys to entertain them, the pets will be less inclined to follow the directions of a particular family member, and can even get ornery. Pets may actually bite disliked or distrusted Sims!


Another activity to undertake with Sim pets is to teach them tricks. Although they can only learn one trick at a time, once they learn a trick, they will be part of their knowledge base from then on out. The basics of “sit and stay” and “call over” are here, and you can also order the pet to keep quiet. One funny command that pets can follow is "attack." If there is a particular Sim that you would rather have a far distance from your presence (that annoying neighbor that’s always hitting on your Sim wife, for instance) order your dog to chase him away. You’ve never seen a Sim truly run until he’s got a German shepherd on his tail. Depending on how obedient your Sim pet is at the time, however, he may or may not be in the mood for a brisk run and chase throughout the neighborhood.


When you first get your Sims pet back home, one of the biggest challenges, as it is in real life, is to housebreak a virtual pet. Early on, they will do their “business” in the Sims house, which leaves a not-so-nice mess to be cleaned up. If they do, you can scold the pet, helping him learn that it’s wrong to “go” in the house. You can also lavish praise on the pet if they correctly “go” outside. No matter how attached you may be to a real pet residing at your home, Sims gamers, cleaning up after a virtual pet is much easier than cleaning up after the real variety.


There are a few other new additions besides pets included in Unleashed. A new phone book makes it easier to use the “call neighbor” command. Five new careers are included: a department store clerk, playground monitor, dog walker (sure to have plenty of work coming their way), a dishwasher, and a popcorn vendor.  Your Sims can also now grow their own food in a garden. You can use the food for your own Sims’ sustenance or sell it for money.


Also appearing are a new group of NPCs that populate the Sim world, including a palm reader and a maintenance crew in Old Town, and also a few that relate directly to the animal world. There are pet judges for the pet contests you can enter, a pet trainer, animal control, and a few four-legged visitors of the pest demographic including mice, raccoons, gophers, and skunks.


As is traditional by now, a slew of new objects, walls and floors come in Unleashed so you can spruce up your Sims house.  Many of the 125 new items will help your new pets feel right at home, including a doghouse, birdcage and litter box. Also made improved are the grass and water tools, which can be used to create a landscaping masterpiece right in your Sims’ backyard. If you have previous Sims expansions installed (and let’s face it, every one of you die-hard Sims fans does) you can bring pets on vacation with you. But they can’t come along for the ride if your Sims have a hot date (There’s got to be SOME limit on how involved your pet is in your Sim life).  And finally, there’s 40 more ways to interact with other Sims and 30 ways to socialize with the pets that now are part of the neighborhood.


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Unleashed doesn’t do anything to the graphical and audio elements that have always been a strong suit of The Sims and its expansions, although maybe its time for Maxis to start thinking about a graphic upgrade since the look of the Sims has stayed the same since its initial release. But even with that aside, expect the same good visuals, music and simlish language that now includes animal sounds including barking and a sounds-naughty-if-you-listen-closely parrot vocalizations.


With the sheer amount of time needed to housebreak and train each pet, those Sims players who might have gotten bored with virtual family matters will totally enjoy the infusion of gameplay that a Sim pet will bring to their Sims family. Face it, you will love Unleashed if you play The Sims. Unleashed provides a great new breath of fresh air into the game. The pets are so much fun to interact with, you may just start to ignore other areas of Sims living. Unleashed is a definite must-have for Sims owners.


- Lee Cieniawa


(November 10, 2002)


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