The Sims 2: Apartment Pets
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-09-19 Nintendo DS Simulation T (Teen) EA

The Sims 2 saga continues on the DS, now with Apartment Pets. The Sims 2 Apartment Pets is similar to The Sims 2 Pets, but instead of a vet office you run a pet spa, located on the ground floor of the apartment building your Sim lives in.

You begin by creating a Sim, male or female, picking from a number of faces and hair styles, and choosing some clothes and respective colors. Not many options, but compared to The Sims 2 Pets, it looks slightly improved.

After naming your Sim, you move into the apartment, which is already fully furnished and comes with a few pet friends: a snake, a gerbil, a rabbit and a guinea pig. You find out that you will be running your uncle's pet spa, so there is a bit of story progression. Neighbors will be coming by to drop off a pet for you to take care of, either a cat or a dog. You can have one of each at any given time, but never two of the same. Once you've spent a few days playing and taking care of these "key pets", the story advances and its owner will stop by to pick it up and reward you accordingly.

Your day is divided between taking care of your Sim, any pets in your care and the spa. Your Sim's motives seem to go down pretty slowly. Pets are low maintenance too, really. You don't even have to worry about the ones in the cages, since they don't even seem to require feeding. Although you can play a DDR-style rhythm game with the bird and a snake-charming game where you play a flute to your snake, by blowing on the microphone and pressing the right buttons.

The cats and dogs do require more care. When you click on one of them and choose the "Pet" option, you are taken to a Nintendogs type of menu. On the touch screen, you have your pet and actions. The options on the touch screen let you pick a toy to play with the pet, dress it up or care for it. On the top screen, a meter will show the pet's energy, how much it likes you and how happy it is.

You can also play Buried Treasure with cats and dogs. Here, you roam around the back yard by touching in the direction you want the pet to go. If it's a cat, it will go "mew" constantly, almost like a little radar, until it finds something. When it does, it will let out a big meow. Tap the cat to start digging and see what you find. The dog is more subtle, and you have to pay attention to the sniffing sounds. It will sniff around as it walks, and if it finds something buried, it will start sniffing considerably faster and just a little louder. The game ends when your pet runs out of energy, or you find all the treasure, or you find three old boots. If you want to quit, you can just click the dog house to go back to the apartment.

As for the spa, you receive a message on the top screen when a customer arrives. You will notice the daily queue as well, with a maximum of five people. If you're not at the spa to tend to the customers, the process is automatic, but you don't earn much money, so it's really best to go downstairs and do some work for yourself.

When a customer arrives, you can socialize for a bit (greet, brag, admire pet) or go straight into pet care. The diagnosis process has you doing simple touch screen actions within a time limit to find out what conditions the pet must be treated for: double tap, drag or scribble. Once you know what is affecting the pet (the icons show on the top screen), you can proceed to treatment. If the pet is dirty, you bathe it. If it's smelly, you use perfume. To get rid of fleas and other pests, you use the pest spray. All these require you to press the left trigger while moving the stylus to the indicated areas. An unkempt pet requires brushing, and this is the motion that gives me the most problems. You need to do short little strokes with the stylus in the direction the arrows are pointing, but it seems like most of the time the game doesn't register the movements. You must do all of these activities within the time limit shown on the top screen, and if the pet gets upset, it will run off and you must start again.

Sometimes owners will also want to accessorize their pets, and this is different from what you do in your apartment. Instead of picking something from your inventory, you play a memory game. You flip the cards trying to find pairs. You can't match the cat or dog cards though, and the client will only tell you what he/she wants when you flip the card with that item. Your payment depends on how well you cared for the pet.

Earning Simoleons lets you purchase a number of things. You can buy clothes for your Sim, but these are only the ones that were available in character creation. You can buy toys and clothes for your pets, little outfits, hats, glasses, collars and bows... and yes, there are some pretty silly accessories in there. There are also some items for specific pet conditions, which will have to be fed to the sick pet.

You can also purchase furniture and decorations for your spa (or upgrade it entirely by paying a hefty sum) or for your apartment, which you can redecorate once you have more furniture and wallpaper options. Improving the spa will attract more customers, but they will also become pickier and the pets will start appearing with different and more complex conditions.

Although the gameplay does become repetitive after a while, I found this a better experience than The Sims 2 Pets. The animals animate better, although they seem to move a bit slow, and the sound effects are pretty good, if you don't count the "radar cat" during Buried Treasure, which does get very annoying. The Sim creation process is more detailed and the faces look quite nice, but there's still plenty of jagged edges on the clothing articles. The camera control isn't the best, it would have been better to have the trigger buttons rotate the angle, and everytime you interact with your pets in the apartment, the camera resets to the middle of the apartment instead of centering back to your Sim.

I did crack a big smile when I turned the stereo on for the first time and discovered my favorite The Sims Superstar tune playing. Unfortunately, you can't change stations on the stereo, so if you don't like that particular song, you might as well leave it off. The loss of the stereo controls is a shame, as music is something that always helps making gameplay more enjoyable.

EA has definitely learned something from the faults in The Sims 2 Pets on DS. The overall look of the game, the cats and dogs models don't look blocky, there are more detailed and realistic pet animations, and the sound effects seem more appropriate (the shower in The Sims 2 Pets didn't sound like a shower at all). In the end, camera and stereo aside, I am pleased with the experience.

Special thanks to Audra McIver, Karen Lee and EA for providing a copy of this title.