Sims 2: Pets (Game Boy Advance) - Review by andyr

7.2

Introduction

There is something strangely appealing about having Sims on a portable device. The wants, demands and needs of your little human doppelgangers can be kept in check a lot easier when you can play on the bus, in front of Oprah or even on the loo. This time around we see Sims 2 Pets coming to the everlasting handheld console we lovingly call the GBA. The choice is yours whether to play on the old dim wide Gameboy Advance, the backlit Gameboy Advance SP, the Gameboy Micro or even the DS.

The action all takes place down on the terra firma of Barkersville. This little town turns out to be the perfect place to raise both humans and animals, providing the bare necessities of life: social interaction, somewhere to call home and plenty of trinkets to buy. It is worth noting from the off that this is not the pet version of Sims; rather it is the full Sims GBA game with pets added into the mix. They are obviously looking to haul back into their brand the success of other animal based titles such as Nintendogs.

Gameplay

The gameplay focuses around your attempts to progress both human and pet Sims towards a well balanced and fulfilling life. To this end, there are a huge number of different activities that can be undertaken in a particular day. Each different task results in developing a particular aspect of their persona. For example, heading down to the gym and working out will increase fitness, whilst fixing some garage sale purchases will increase dexterity. The number of activities are complemented by the number of artefacts that popular the environment. Pretty much all of these can by used, eaten, played or just thrown in some way or other.

Maybe it is a testament to the size of the world, or maybe just the fact of the GBA's limited power, but in spite of the variety we described above, the environments do feel a little sparse at times. The Sims on other platforms revelled in filling every corner to the brim with objects, people, furniture and plants. That said, there is certainly enough to do here to keep you occupied for many hours.

New to this version, as the name suggests, are of course the pets. They can be moved into your house or houses just as their human counter-parts. They too can be developed on a number of different levels, and learn a variety of skills. But here the similarity ends. Maybe it is due to their tiny rendering on the GBA, but there is just a lot less connection or interest to these animals, compared to their human owners. They feel more like an afterthought than an integrated game mechanic. This is likely to be due to the fact that they are in fact, an after thought bolted onto an existing game mechanic (rocket science, this reviewing lark, don't you think?).

Controls

Whilst the game doesn't sport anything like the innovative control scheme as the other Ninetndo versions, the GBA Sims 2 Pets has obviously had plenty of development time spent on its control dynamic. The menus are clear and easily accessible via the D-Pad and buttons. The only draw back is that with less buttons to play with you have more presses to achieve a particular action. This is compensated by the positive feel that results from the GBA's high build quality. Even though it did slow the play down at times, we enjoyed the overall quality of the controls.

Graphics

Somehow EA have managed to squeeze out another few ounces of performance from the GBA and put it to work in the graphical department. The worlds and environments look remarkably similar to their console counter-parts, sharing the same level of vibrant colours and detail. The human Sims also look the part. You can really start to build a connection to the little guys and gals as they reward your care and attention with new skills, abilities and of course accessories.

The pets don't fare quite so well, maybe due to their diminutive size; there are only so many ways to render a block of pixels. Because of this it is sometimes hard to make out what they are doing, or in fact which direction they are facing. You really do need to use some imagination to get any emotional connection here.

Sound

Again EA seems to have done a great job. The music is better than you would expect for a title on this platform. It pulls of the clever trick of adding to the on screen action whilst remaining a background feature, never over obtrusive. The sound effects are less impressive, although the Sims mixed up mumblings are of course present here, and can't fail to make you laugh.

Final comments

Sims 2 Pets on GBA is a great little game. This is mainly because you are getting another shot at the Sims. The pet's features, whilst nice to have, don't really deserve the billing they get in the title. If you can cope with the added stress of caring for animals as well as humans, and have a good imagination then this is the game for you. The younger members of our families are more likely to fit the bill than the older or more hardcore gamer, but then the Sims has always been about the mainstream gamer.

Pro: Another outing of full Sims game in handheld form.
Con: The technical limitations of the GBA mean that the environment is somewhat limited.
Final score: 7.2

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Boxart of Sims 2: Pets (Game Boy Advance)
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Genre: Simulation
Developer: A2M
Publisher: Electronic Arts