And for my last trick…
Although the much-awaited Sims 2 lurks upon the horizon like a big, much-awaited lurking thing, Maxis and EA have set out to prove that there is still life left in the original by releasing Sims: Makin' Magic. This seventh and final expansion proves their point admirably. Indeed, there is life in this old game…it may need a Rascal to get around these days, but, by Crikey, it still has a bit of spark left in it.
There's a good deal more to Makin' Magic than you might expect. In addition to a herd of new furnishings and building materials, this expansion brings new depth to your Sims' homes and lives. Sims can now truly say goodbye to city life and make a fresh start with butter churning and nectar brewing. And they can also compliment those homemade preserves they've been making with fresh bread they've baked from scratch in their new baker's oven. Or try their luck at bee-keeping and attempt to eke out a living with beeswax and honey.
In fact, there is a far greater variety of stay-at-home money-making ventures here than in any previous version. Although perhaps not as prestigious or lucrative as, say, a career in Government, these other activities are at least hands-on and Sims are not obligated to engage in a ton of chin-flapping and ego-stroking with their neighbors to make their way in the world.
Of course, that's just an added enhancement; the real draw of Makin' Magic is undeniably…makin' magic. And like every endeavor in The Sims, it is a balancing act between indulging your Sim's personal ambitions and the more prosaic obligations of their bladders.
The best way to begin your magical career is by employing the aid of a couple of flunkies - throwaway Sims who will spend all of their time churning butter and farming a garden to further the wizardly aspirations of a magic-using dilettante. The creators of this expansion apparently recognized the limitations of their Sims and have thrown in a cloning spell to ease the financial tensions on the homestead. Magic-using Sims can also create minions to help around the house.
Of course, the more Sims there are in a household, the more meters there are to manage and you'll need to find creative ways around this angle, such as communing with pets to pump up a deflated social meter or concocting plenty of blue replenishing potions. Yet these perks exist only for those of us who got suckered into buying the previous expansions. Other players will remain slaves to their Sim's meters, which can drastically slow down any forward momentum in the magical arts.
In fact, the demands of your Sim's bodily functions are so, well, demanding that it's almost impossible to maintain a career while delving into spellcasting. As well, the creation and collection of ingredients for spells and charms is like a full time job, minus the pay. Some ingredients can be grown, some can be made, some can be harvested, some are available for purchase with Simoleons, and some, like Pegasus Feathers, can be won in magic competitions. These ingredients, like everything in The Sims, must be earned or at least sought out. Don't expect your Sims to mutter a few words and have the powers of the gods sparkling at their fingertips.
To obtain quite a few of the ingredients for spells as well as baking supplies, a trip to the new Magic Town is required. This is yet another area outside the immediate neighborhood in which Sims can amuse themselves. In addition to embarking on some rather dull "quests" for goodies (i.e., touching toadstool races, dispersing waist level clouds, and cheering up other Sims), Sims can purchase obscure ingredients with coins gained through magical duels and performances, or even save their coins up to buy a magical mansion they can call home. Magic Town, like all areas in The Sims, consists of a variety of lots that can be bulldozed and rebuilt to the player's specifications.
While it is pretty cool to have so many different areas in which to build, it is not very cool to have limits on which items can be used in certain areas. Also, it would have been very, very cool to finally have a hub where Sims from different neighborhoods could meet; after all this is the final go-round of The Sims. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. The different neighborhoods in The Sims are distinct and separate versions of the same space/time reality…or something like that.
To facilitate a career in magic, Sims are given a magic starter kit which includes, among other things, a spell book. The book contains a list of ingredients in various combinations which, when tossed into the Wand Charger or the Charm Maker, produce various results. It is up to the wizard in the crowd to divine the consequences of any given combination. It might be something their little hearts have always desired, but then again, maybe not – every spell cast is capable of backfiring. Aside from unlocking the answers to the spell formulas, there isn't much of a goal to Makin' Magic.
Note that I've been using the term "magical career" loosely. There is no advancement scheme for dabbling with magic. Unfortunately, a given Sim with a yen for thaumaturgy will not progress from Prestidigitator to Illusionist to Alchemist to Elementalist to Necromancer. The game would have been quite a bit cooler if this were the case. No, your Sim will just know the results of mixing certain combinations in their spell book. Ho-hum. Still, it is fun to watch your Sims create spells and charms and witness the results of their interference with the laws of nature.
I suppose it is fitting, or at least ironic, that a game which began as a send up of reality would end as a send up of "surreality," where characters can now pitch themselves into rabbit holes to gain access to Magic Town and while away their time engaging in magical duels or purchasing some obscure ingredient to help turn their pet cat into a Sim they can cuddle with while watching TV. While certainly not the most inspired of concepts, it's still quite fun to explore, experiment and integrate the game's additions into your Sims' world even after the novelty of its spells wears off.