Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I wasn’t a huge fan of The Sims 2: Pets. While it had its charms, the novelty of playing with pets soon wore off as households quickly filled up with animals, which required a lot of attention and didn’t offer much to the game other than cuteness. So, I can’t say that I went into the latest Sims 3 expansion pack feeling all that enthusiastic about what Pets would bring to the game. Perhaps my low expectations left me a lot of room to be impressed, but The Sims 3: Pets may be one of the best expansion packs available for The Sims 3.

Those of you who have been waiting to bring dogs, cats and horses into the homes and lives of your Sims will be pleased with what Pets has to offer. And those of you looking for something new and exciting to do with your Sims may also appreciate what EA is offering in this latest expansion pack.

Spoiler warning: This review contains screenshots and details from The Sims 3: Pets.

Please note: The Sims 3: Pets is an expansion pack, which means you must have the base game for The Sims 3 installed in order to play Pets. Also, this review is for the PC/Mac version of The Sims 3 Pets.

Creating a pet is as simple or as complex as creating a Sim, depending on your preference. The game offers a large variety of pre-made dogs, cats and horses, which you can customize on a basic level, or get more specific with how you want your pets to look. I especially appreciated all of the different dog breeds available, all of which can be modified to your liking. I selected the Irish Wolfhound for one of my Sims, in honor of one of my favorite pets, growing up.

I left most of the default settings alone for the dog, but got more creative when I made the cat, as you’ll see in the image below. Given the number of options for fur color, body shape, head shape and other features, I expect people will be able to create some really unusual species of dogs, cats and horses. My Sim adopted one cat that barely looked like a cat. It was more of an adorable looking furball that behaved like a cat, which I suppose could describe certain unusual breeds of cats. Here’s my blue cat.

You can also select three traits for each pet, which vary based on the type of animal. For example, a dog can be loyal, or a hunter, whereas a horse might run fast or fear jumping. They acquire other traits beyond that as their personalities and behavior begin to develop. Giving pets set personality traits is a big part of Pets’ appeals as it makes for more interesting and unique pet experiences in every Sims’ household.

In addition to giving your Sim some company and a few added responsibilities, dogs, cats and horses each come with their own advantages.

Horses can be used as a mode of transportation. Of course, they need to be saddled and mounted, so a bit of planning is required ahead of time, but if your Sim is looking to explore the town, or visit a neighbor, the horse is a fun way to go, and the walk (trot or gallop) can boost the horse’s racing skill. (Yes! Pets have skills!).

Horses can be trained to jump and race, and enter into tournaments, which we don’t get to watch. Winning competitions earns your sim cash and a trophy. Horses (as well as dogs and cats) can also earn reward points and purchase helpful tools similarly to how your Sims can. While the animals don’t have a Lifetime Wish, they do have wants, much in the same way Sims do, which makes playing pets a bit more interesting.

The dog can be trained to do tricks, which is fun, but they can also learn to hunt, which allows them to find small animals, and dig up gems, metals, rocks, and even bones, which can be constructed into sculptures, similar to how you can build a sarcophagus in World Adventures if you collect enough pieces.

Dogs with higher hunting skills can locate gems, rocks and metals from map view, which can come in handy if your Sim is looking for gems and doesn’t have enough reward points to purchase the finder tool. My Sim’s dog managed to find one of the rare pink diamonds on one of his hunts, as well as a valuable soul stone. He also came across some small animals, which I’ve found are hard to find if you don’t know where to look.

Of the three main animals, the cats seem to offer the least in the way of perks or things to do. If they can acquire any skills, I didn’t discover them. As far as I could tell, the cats do what my actual cats do; they sleep, eat, play with stuff and destroy the furniture. You can train them not to do that though. There’s the option to praise or scold certain behavior for dogs, cats and horses, which can encourage or discourage things like barking or destructive behavior. Also much like real cats, Sim cats are a lot of fun to watch.

There are a number of other pets available within the game, including snakes, chinchillas, and other small creatures that can be caught in the wild or purchased through the right tank, similar to how the fish-tank works. From what I’ve seen so far, their care and level of entertainment varies from animal to animal. One of my Sims caught a chinchilla and his options were limited to feeding it, taking it out of its tank, setting it free or watching it. Meanwhile, another Sim purchased a bird and had the option to teach it songs and carry it around. It too could be set free.

For those looking for minimal commitment, go with the ant farm. Watching the ants at work is the only option. No feeding required! I also spotted some wild animals that don’t appear to be adoptable, including a raccoon and what might have been some kind of hawk. If there’s a way to get these animals into your home and domesticate them, I didn’t figure it out.

Appaloosa Plains is a beautiful town and set up perfectly for Pets, as there are plenty of accessible grazing fields and water troughs for horses. The cemetery is especially pretty, and even has a separate section for deceased pets. There’s also a dog park, a cat park, and a place for horses to run and practice jumping, which is especially useful for Sims who don’t have a lot of yard space. The public lots are also great places for pets to socialize with other animals.

The Dinersaur?

Glitches were minimal on this one! Once in a while pets seem to collide with each other (as shown in the image above) but that’s a minor issue that doesn’t present any actual game problems. They move apart as quickly as they merge together and play resumes. This may have already been corrected in the recent update for the game.

I have been having trouble with the graphics and with taking screenshots since upgrading to a Macbook Pro with OS Lion, and have yet to resolve this issue. I played on my old Macbook (with Snow Leopard) in order to do this review. I’m not sure if the graphics issue is something other Lion users are experiencing, but I hope to find a solution to it soon!

A minor game complaint is that, while you can adopt a horse, cat or dog, I wasn’t able to find a way to create a pet from scratch in-game. As far as I can tell, the only way to use the full assortment of options is through create-a-pet. Once you’re in the game, you can adopt a pet into a household by using the phone, however your choices are limited to the dogs, cats and horses that happen to be available at that time. On the bright side, you can create a pet in Create-A-Sim and then merge it with your Sim’s household, so those of you looking to bring a specific type of dog, cat or horse into your Sim’s house do have the option to do it once the family’s created.

The Sims 3: Pets is well thought out, well executed and a whole lot of fun. It’s evident that the people at EA responsible for putting this pack together put a lot of thought into the animals featured, giving dogs, cats and horses their own purposes within the game and including traits and behaviors that are amusingly similar to those of real animals.

Animal lovers and those of you who are looking to give your Sims more to do and/or less complicated relationships will appreciate what this expansion pack has to offer. Pets adds a new layer of fun to the game. I didn’t go into this one hoping for much, but once again, that nagging urge to play The Sims 3 for hours on end has been revived.

There’s apparently a unicorn that can be found and adopted, though my Sims have yet to come across one. This is one of the added Lifetime Wishes (to adopt a unicorn).

Added traits include Dog Person, Cat Person, Equestrian and Animal Lover.

A number of new Lifetime Wishes have been added, including Canine Companion (befriend 15 dogs), The Jockey (Reach level 10 Riding Skill and Win/Earn 40k simoleons using your horses), and The Ark Builder (Have 2 cats, dogs, horses, birds, lizards, turtles, rodents, snakes, butterflies, and beetles), among others.

There’s a herd of wild horses wandering around Appaloosa Plains. Your Sim can befriend them and if their riding skill is high enough, they can even adopt them.

Stray cats and dogs can also be found around the neighborhood, and they may even wander onto your property.

There’s an ice cream truck (similar to the food truck in Late Night) and it’s find-able from map view!

Animals can drink from ponds, and dogs can swim in fountains!

Your Sim’s cat might play in the toilet.

Sims looking for a roll in the hay have a new place to woo-hoo!

Sleeping pets dream just as Sims do.

Cats and dogs need to scratch and destroy things just as they need to eat, sleep and socialize.

Animals can be put up for adoption at any time. Just make a call and a social worker will come to take the pet away! The best thing about this, is that there’s no guilt involved. The social worker assures you that a good home will be found for your pet. So if Mittens has a litter of kitties, don’t feel like you need to keep them all!

You can adopt a pet using the phone, visit the Equestrian lot to purchase a horse, adopt from the wild, and sometimes there are Sim neighbors with pets available to adopt.

I spotted Big Foot! He’s actually just a cut-out lurking in the woods somewhere but it was still funny to find him:

There are some new outfits and hairstyles available. You’ll see some samples of those among the screenshots in the gallery below.
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