The final Sims expansion pack, Makin’ Magic, may be the last edition of the continuing adventures of my ‘Dead Popstars’ neighbourhood. My Hippy Icons family is the obvious magic litmus test.
Family member Ken Kesey had his magic bus, so now he gets a magic wand – but is he good at cooking? Cooking? Yes – finally, an expansion pack centred on the skill that you hardly ever need for career paths. Veteran players know you need at least two cooking skill points to avoid fatal accident or fire, but that’s it for cookery. Not so any more – so, sharpen those knives and start boiling the water.
Install the pack and a mystery man appears at the door. He leaves a box containing Magico’s Magic Starter Kit: a wand charger, spellbook, and basic ingredients. The spellbook holds 21 mystery spells to make in the wand charger or charm maker.
Magic Town is the new shopping/ residential area with three spooky-looking houses by the misty river. You can live there when you grow in skill. Six areas let you shop, barter for spell ingredients, eat, have magical duels, perform onstage, earn magic coins and enjoy spooky rollercoasters and haunted mini-golf. If you meet, a character in each area sends you on quests for special ingredients, rewarding you with precious ingredients for your own spells.
There are 175 new items – so when home, magic Sims churn butter and make honey for profit, or spells. You’ll grow grapes and berries as ingredients, or make wine to barter for more in Magic Land. You can practice cooking in the new baker’s oven (but be warned: do use a recipe).
When you grow magical enough, weird things are supposed to happen around the home. I played solidly for two days and didn’t get the promised magic beanstalk, toadstools or haunting, though Kesey’s dining-room table intermittently disappeared.
Unlike other packs, there’s no visible career progression here. Makin’ Magic is more a kind of semi-profitable sideline, or occult downsizing for stressed out post-materialist Sims that want to dump their day job. Visually, it’s pleasing – spells are fun and visual, and it adds a touch of Harry Potter to the game.
While it isn’t the best expansion pack (if you buy only one, get Superstar), it integrates well with the preceding expansions – a love potion, for instance, is very handy on a Hot Date. Makin’ Magic is an enchanting finale for The Sims. Watch this space, though – The Sims 2 should ship late this year. I’m excited.
Min specs: Mac OS 9.2.2 or Mac OS X 10.1; 500MHz G3; 192MB RAM; 4MB VRAM; 1.3GB additional hard-drive space; QuickTime 4.1.2.