Each of the subsequent expansion packs for "The Sims" have managed to top each other with more and more outrageous themes and toys from the magic genie and crystal ball in "Living Large" to the home skydiving and scuba diving simulators in "Superstar." But the final add-on expansion to be released before "The Sims" becomes "The Sims 2" mixes up some magical new ideas with "The Sims: Makin' Magic."
This is the first add-on that will focus on the Sims' hobby and extracurricular activities where your Sims can learn everything from your basic magic show tricks to turning animals into temporary playmates thanks to a book of spells and your trusty magic wand. That being said there are plenty of new, fun toys to play with when your not running off to catch the carpool for work or making dinner for a house of full of kids who can't concentrate on studying. But like most of the other add-ons, developing your magical skills takes more than just picking up a wand and waving it around like your Harry Houdini on steroids.
The "Makin' Magic" pack requires your "Sims" to gain a strong handle on cooking, logic and mechanical skills unlike "Superstar," which required more braun than brains such as heavy body and charisma skills in order to achieve your Sims' dreams. It starts when a mysterious stranger drops off your school supplies including a wand, a cauldron and a handful of starter spells to begin your lessons in sorcery and wizardry. Then charge up your wand with the patented "Wand Charger" and start mixing up some magical mischief. If you have a book of spells (the original or the electronic version), you can make cooking a snap by providing sumptuous banquets or make it rain cash all with a flick of the wand. But, of course, if you don't have the skills or the luck, the spells can backfire worse than an old '74 Pinto.
And as with previous expansion packs including "Hot Date," "Vacation," "Unleashed" and "Superstar," "Makin' Magic" introduces a new town to your Sims called (anyone care to guess?) Magic Town just by picking up the phone and calling for a cab, or in this case, a magical floating balloon boat. This new town is more a training and battleground for your Sims than a general commerce area. Here you can put on your own magic shows and challenge other magic makers to duels to earn "magicoins," which can be used to buy bigger and better spells and even a bigger, magic mansion that looks like American McGee's illustrated dream journal. Plus, rebuilding Magic Town is a task in itself since it contains several theme areas for light-hearted circus magic and darker, spookier magic and a slew of haunted house objects and carnival attractions that even allows you to build your own roller coaster.
But what's most impressive is the way the game interacts not just with other Sims or it's surroundings whether your home or in Magic Town, but also the previous expansion packs. You can create love potions or spells to make the hot chick or hunk fall in love with you or even propose to you against their will. Kids can turn pets or other objects into playmates if they can't find anyone their own age to play with after school. You can even use magic to your advantage when trying to make friends when you're making a joke or just shooting the breeze, and there's even the option of turning your neighbor into a toad. But if you're using too many spells or abusing your magical abilities, the aptly named "SpellChecker" will slap a fine on your Sim's permanent record.
Sims fans will want to buy this latest expansion pack since EA Games has announced it will be the last one for the popular Sims franchise before moving into phase two in their plans for video game domination with "The Sims 2," but kids, especially younger Harry Potter fans who've appeared on TV news reports about the popular series dressed as their favorite character more than once, will get the biggest thrill out of this new bag of tricks.