The Sims: Makin' Magic

Review

posted 11/30/2003 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
Platforms: PC
What more can be said about The Sims’ unstoppable empire? Livin’ Large put our little avatars into extreme situations. House Party left Kid n’ Play (the extinct rapper/actors) beaten at their own game. We filmed private episodes of Elimidate while playing matchmaker in Hot Date. Family holidays and romantic getaways were the premise behind Vacation. Pet lovers rejoiced with the release of Unleashed. Then our fetish for Hollywood voyeurism was satisfied with Superstar. Now, on their seventh and final expansion pack, EA lets us meddle with arcane arts in Makin’ Magic. Ah, you can hear the Christian fundamentalists composing their hate mail already.

Install Makin’ Magic and you’ll soon be visited by a Mystery Man, dressed to the nines in a fuchsia suit jacket and purple slacks. He wordlessly drops off a bunch of goodies that will get you started on your magic makin’ ways. He sets up a ‘Hole in the Ground’ to transport you to Magic Town--the hot spot for magicians, gypsies, and carnival lovers to visit. He also hooks you up with a Spellbound Wand Charger and The 'Start Here' Spell Book. The Mystery Man leaves an additional package of magical necessities: some MagiCoins (the new currency used to buy magical ingredients in Magic Town), a magic wand, some butter, toadstools, and toad sweat. According to your spell book, those last three ingredients blend together to create your first spell: “toadification.” That package-deal intro into Makin’ Magic may seem contrived, but it still ends up being a pretty fun hook into the expansion.

You’ll need to reference your spell book frequently when assembling spells. Either that or you’ll find yourself actually jotting down lists of ingredients you need to acquire. You can shop for them in Magic Town, obtain them through mini-quests given to you by other characters (a fun addition to gameplay), or you can prepare some at home with several new devices.

With the proper ingredients, there’s an EverAfter Crafter that concocts charms; maid duties are assumed by the ‘Bag-O-Bones’ Skeleton Closet (where you don’t clean the skeletons out of your closet--the skeleton cleans up the house); and also the Alacazam Stand trick table for the at-home party magician.

You’ll also find new skill-building objects available. The Prick-Me-Not spinning wheel builds up mechanical skills to rival Rumpelstiltzkin (while producing golden thread, of course). The old-fashioned butter churn and a wax n’ honey maker will boost your Betty Crocker ratings (adding butter, beeswax, and honey to your inventory, respectively.)

You get to Magic Town individually by the Hole in the Ground, or you can take the whole family there by balloon ride. Visit Vernon’s Vault to perform some big-time stage acts like the Magic Storm, the Mummy’s Tomb, or call forth the Spectral Spouses. Be sure you’ve worked up your Logic score or the unforgiving crowd will boo you off stage. Also visit places like Coldwind Meadow for some carnival action, or hop into Serra Glen for all your magical shopping needs. With enough MagiCoins under your belt, you can even buy a home in Magic Town--you’ll never have to leave again!

Some new bugs crept into this package. Like when I cast “toadification” on my wife--and she disappeared, instead of turning into a frog (if you hadn’t guessed by the title.) Or when I’d sent the wife to grab the ‘magic wand’ out of the Mystery Man’s ‘package’ (mind out of the gutter, kids) and it simply wouldn’t let her. But these weren’t permanent glitches, as such, since none of my other families suffered from duplicate issues. Other than that, if you can still stomach the path-finding and queuing problems that are standard to The Sims world, then there is very little to complain about from this well-polished product.

With over 175 new items added to the game this is the largest expansion pack created for The Sims universe. Even from my skeptical eye Makin’ Magic is, hands-down, the best Sims expansion pack to date. No, the new wallpapers and tiles aren’t going to get your house on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens. But EA has succeeded--once again--at pumping life into their most beloved series.
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