The Sims 2 Pets
| The Sims 2 Pets

Dogs. You either love 'em or hate 'em. They're little furry bundles of joy or smelly poop machines with fleas.

A lot of this probably comes down to personal conditioning: if you had a dog when you were a kid, you likely love dogs. If you didn't, or had bad experiences with the halitosis-riddled mongrel your grandmother owned, it's a fair shout you don't.

The Sims 2 Pets is a game that the anti-dog league is going to find very favourable. In short, it makes owning a dog look about as much fun as a long weekend locked up in a kennel.

It aims at emulating the pet simulators that got hair all over the sofas in Pocket Gamer Towers in 2006. You adopt a puppy, a Labrador or Chihuahua in this case, and give it a name and a happy home. It's then up to you to nurture your new housemate into a fully adjusted, productive member of society. Or something like that.

In reality, this means combining the mundane day-to-day chores of feeding, poop scooping and cleaning up with the more entertaining side of owning a dog, such as frolicking in the local park and chasing tennis balls.

In most pet sims, like our favourite My Dog, the emphasis is placed squarely on looking after your pooch, and in carrying out all these tasks you ensure your dog's happiness and health. But here, in The Sims 2 Pets, that concept is turned on its head. It turns out that, by having a happy dog, you get a (supposedly) happy owner.

It's ironic, then, that in a game that's as devoid of innovation, long-term enjoyment and allure for you, the player, that you have to look after your dog to ensure in-game personal happiness.

It works like this: you're given a set of tasks to achieve, ranging from learning tricks to buying toys, and when you complete one, your in-game self becomes happier. As your Sim dog inspires you to ever higher levels of giddiness, you work harder in your Sim job and get pay rises.

These pay rises then enable you to buy more advanced foods and accessories for your pampered pet. It's a continuous cycle; you complete a task and with the money you earn you're able to afford to complete another, giving you yet more cash.

Playing the game is therfore a strangely owner-centric experience. Although you've got the usual hunger, tiredness and emotion levels of your mutt to consider, it's all about the two-legged creature rather than the four.

It's a sensation that pervades the game, as you never really feel connected to your dog. As strange a concept as it sounds, it is possible to get attached to virtual beings in some mobile phone games, but here that's missing, which leaves The Sims 2 Pets as a hollow gaming experience that's about little more than the rote completion of chores on a list.

Petting your pup, teaching it tricks, playing games - practically all interaction with it, actually - is accomplished by pressing your handset's directional-pad in the order indicated by arrows on screen, before a time limit runs out. That's all there is to it: you don't even get that old staple of the pet simulator, the disembodied hand, to stroke it.

Detachment, both emotional and physical, is consequently a fence too tall for this hound to leap over. It's a problem that not even the polished visuals and big game name (there's really nothing Sims-like about the game, other than the name of the currency, Simoleons) can overcome.

The Sims 2 Pets is ultimately a game that tries to engender compassion with your doggy but ends up lacking anything even close to a soul.

The Sims 2 Pets

Forget the vet, the taxidermist got here first