The Sims Unleashed

This expansion kit makes the Sims universe larger and far more sophisticated than before. The big sell in Unleashed is the introduction of pets - and adopting a pet is as frustrating (and rewarding) as bringing up the real thing. On booting up Unleashed, players will see a larger Neighborhood view. The original area sits beside three equivalently-sized blocks, including new families, 12 empty houses to move new families into, a farm, a cottage and the Old Town, where there are pet shops, palmists, Internet cafes and gothic candle and mask shops. Town planning
Old Town areas include a Gothic quarter (with graveyard); McArthur Square (for a bracing pet-and-owner walk in the park) and the Lake Barrett Pool Hall - jazz, coffee and pool. Sims get to these areas simply by phoning for a free shuttle bus. Unfortunately, entire families must travel together, with no way of sending off one family member. Non-player characters include jazz saxophonist WC Friendly; a cleaner for each block (Tidy Heidi), and an Animal control operative, who rids Neighborhoods of unwanted strays. Don't let compassion get in the way: in the game's initial stages there's often a stray cat or dog to be found. Progress through the levels and you encounter a veritable horde of unwanted animals, all desperate for attention. Pet Paradise sells animals, collars and treats. Adopting birds, turtles or low-upkeep Iguanas is easy enough, but players will need to boost their Sims' social levels before they adopting a cat or dog. That's where the trouble began. Joey Ramone Sim chose Scratch the dog, who instantly appeared as a Family member, with his own needs and training requirements. Other people's pets (and strays) can also be friends of Sims or their pets. An eager little fellow, Scratch instantly began fetching the paper every morning, and was happy to play, eager to eat and desperate to leak afterwards. Training is a challenge. A Sim can't keep a job and train a pet. It's as intensive a process as bringing up a real one. Bonds must be formed. Pets need attention and housebreaking. It's so demanding, Joey Ramone lost his job. He's not got back to work yet. Scratch still isn't house-trained, and he's such a cute little fellow that Joey doesn't like to leave him alone. When owners call for their pets, their charges come a-running, obviously thrilled for the attention. Just like real life, pet owners can interact with their animals to boost their social levels. Be careful, though, untrained pets may scratch or bite. To get help go back to Pet Paradise, which offers an animal trainer. Players can ask advice in pet ownership, or retain the trainer (for a fee) to teach tricks. Housetraining is simple but demanding. Scold your pet soon after household accidents to get the message through, or praise them for going outside. Obedience training takes a while. Though a lovable scamp in his studded collar, Scratch still has occasional accidents, and is forever lapping water from the toilet cistern. You can't miss a trick. It's also important to train a pet in the Sit and Stay function. This is central to the relationship, the Animal Trainer explained. At first, pets will stay still for just a few seconds, but in the end a Sim wins enough time to cook a meal, or grab a shower. Unleashed offers a host of pet-orientated objects, including food dishes, chewy toys, beds, outdoor kennels, cat-litter boxes - even a display cabinet for pet awards. Pets really appreciate presents, and Scratch began sleeping with his chew toy. Eventually, Scratch will be entered into a Pet show where trained animals win prizes by showing obedience, and the ability to do tricks. Hire the animal trainer to put your pet on the fast-track for pageant success, but there really is no easy ride. Scratch still leaves Joey to pick up the ball when they're playing fetch. There's a way to go, but he's a good boy really. Moving from the big sell, Unleashed also offers a new way of navigating relationships. The Sims original release stressed character's social levels, but offered little opportunity to boost these, with a limited number of other characters with which to interact. This has been steadily improved with each expansion kit. Today's Sim has too many relationships, so the relationship menu has been changed. This now offers three buttons showing family, friends and everyone a Sim (or their pet) knows. Like Chris Tarrant, Sims can “phone a friend”, and this feature has also been transformed - the callee is selected from an OS X Finder-like interface that's far easier to navigate than before.


This expansion set massively enhances the original title, boosting it with new opportunities and features that will - like all the previous expansions - breathe new life into the game. Improved gameplay features, such as the Finder-like interface for calling friends, are also useful. At the same time, the smooth nature of gameplay on our test machine (an 800MHz G4 iMac) shows that some critical improvements have been made under the hood to improve the way the game handles memory. All in all a good waste of money.

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