Look what the Simcat dragged in.
First and foremost, unlike the Sims 3 Pets for PC, the console versions are not an expansion, but a standalone title that's essentially a furry redux of the original Sims 3. (There's a Sims 3 Plus Pets for PC that includes the original game as well.) Just to cut to the chase, for those who want a quick console breakdown, the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions don't include horses and take place in Sugar Maple Coast instead of Appaloosa Plains. Of course, that first point of difference may be the dealbreaker for longtime Sims fans, but if you're a console owner who's looking for an entry point into the series, look no further than Sims 3 Pets.
As if you couldn't tell from the extremely straightforward title, Sims 3 Pets emphasizes man's furry friends and transforms them to the point of near human Simhood. Just like regular Sims, cats and dogs (Simcats and Simdogs?) have six basic needs that need to be satisfied like spinning plates, with the only exception being that a Sim's need for Hygiene has been replaced with a need for Destruction. A Sim will still have to bathe pets on occasion (they can't wash themselves), unless you want a smelly carpet on four legs. And animals get dirty quickly due to their knack for digging, hunting, furniture chewing, and projectile vomiting, which all help expel their destructive energy.
After selecting the name, breed (the Limited Edition has ten extra breeds), body shape, and personality for your pet, it will wander about your humble abode without much purpose but it should be treated like a contributing family member. There's nothing wrong with pampering Rover with a comfortable zebra-print bed and Fluffy with the fanciest litter box in all of Simdom, but they can fill important roles if you direct them well. If your Sim has been working too hard or has been cooped up at home building skills, your pet is an easy go-to source for recovering your Social need.
They also have easier wishes, which are a tad more difficult to do for Sims this time around, so that your Karma Meter can be filled quicker for Karma Powers. They also only need a patch of grass somewhere to relieve their bladder, to put it nicely. Dogs can be taught pets trick for an exhibition for tips and even earn a part-time job as an upstanding police dog, a criminal guard dog, or a petting station and all-around TV-watcher for hospital patients.
But that's just chum change compared to what pets can discover with their skills. Cats can hunt for small animals and dogs can dig up buried treasure, both of which can earn heaps of Simoleans. In fact, one lucky dig can earn 1,000 Simoleans and reaching Level 10 in their specific skill can earn 1,000 Simoleans about every 2 hour—that's about ten times as much as a Sim makes in practically every entry level job. The only reason to give your pet a job is to give them something to do after the repetitiveness that sets in after licking people into Best Friendship, sniffing and socializing with other pets, and hunting/digging for the umpteenth time.
Otherwise, nearly everything that makes Sims 3 great is back, with the exception of a couple of balancing tweaks, a tiered Karma unlock system, and the new Invention skill. Instead of having Karma powers backfire randomly like in the original Sims 3, you will only have a chance of a backlash for spending Karma points you haven't earned. But instead of having access to Karma powers from the start, you have to unlock them in tiers of four by completing Challenges. Reaching the final tier takes a lot of time, though, especially since the majority of Challenges are out of the daily grind. It's not to the point of infuriation, but the unlock system goes a little too deep and is a little too restrictive.
With a proper workstation, you can build your skill in Invention, allowing you detonate objects for scrap metal or invent a Simbot and becomes friends with it (before it destroys the Sim world in all due time). The Invention skill has also become a depository for the Body Sculptor, Moodlet Manager, and Food Replicator unlockables from Sims 3 and is now joined by the likes of the Ghost Zapper, Pet Hygienator, and Subterranean Detector. Needless to say, mad geniuses will be rewarded.
Sims 3 Pets is not a surprising dog and pony show (though as mentioned, there are no horses in the console versions), nor does it fuss around with the Sims 3 formula. It's an improvement over the original console version, but not so much that its $50 price tag will be gladly met by those who already have Sims 3 for console, in part because you can't transfer your Sims 3 data over to Sims 3 Pets. Of course, true Sims fans swear by the PC version no matter what. Still, regardless of the platform, Sims 3 Pets is a great fetch that celebrates why we love cute, little animals so much. (For the Simoleans, of course.)
Review based on Xbox 360 version. Review copy provided by publisher.