The Sims: Pet Stories, a DVD-ROM in English by EA, distributed with a 34-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP or above and a 1.8 ghz PC or better, for ages 12 through adult, NIS 219. Rating: ** 1/2 Most people are satisfied to live one life - at least the routine and tedious parts of it such as brushing your teeth, dragging out the garbage, taking a shower, cleaning the house, cooking dinner and walking the dog. Yet some masochists seem never to get enough of chores. It is for them that The Sims series in general and this stand-alone game in particular was made. For non-masochist humans who have better things to do, it is a pain in the neck! Unlike the numerous expansion disks that have been released since The Sims life simulation game was originally unveiled in 2000, this game works independently and without having to install Sims 2 to get it to work. EA (formerly Electronic Arts) has apparently targeted the masochists who are bored while waiting to see their dentist, lawyer, doctor, bank clerk or stockbroker and carry their laptop computers with them everywhere. The game thus has relatively low system requirements, plus a special meter that tells you on the screen that your laptop's power supply is getting low. EA also apparently wants to encourage more computer-novice women to play The Sims, which is already the most-purchased game series in the world. The next big The Sims release will be Castaway Stories, set on a desert island, for which enthusiasts will have to wait more than a year, and Sims 3 will follow. This very portable pet simulation game - lightweight in more than one way - is divided into two stories. You choose to be Alice, who enters her recalcitrant Dalmatian Sam into a local dog show in hopes of netting the cash prize so she can pay her rent and not lose her home. She needs to get her hands on more than 120,000 simoleans (The Sims' currency), and in a fit of pure logic decides the best way to accomplish that particular task would be to enroll her unruly dog in a talent show. Or you can pick Stephen, an ordinary man whose life is complicated by his cousin's nasty cat Diva. Each story is divided into 12 chapters that give you chores related to home and pet. Although there is an open-ended "sandbox" mode that lets you play and fiddle around with things without missions, most of the game is linear and focused, with specific things to accomplish. There are 30 breeds of cats and 70 of dogs (you see a guinea pig in the introductory clip, but non-felines and Fidos get short shrift; I really must protest to the president of EA about his discrimination against rabbits, which are my favorites). Each of the animals is given a first name along with the family name of the owner. The game doesn't break new ground, as not long ago the company unveiled an expansion set called The Sims: Pets. However. this stand-alone game offers the means to teach your dog or cat tricks using ramps, seesaws, tires, hurdles and other items, in addition to a leash and a feeding bowl. You click on a character - human or pet - and have various actions to choose from - scold the pet, love it, yell at it, feed it, stroke it or teach it to sit up or roll over. You can also decide what the pet will do, from barking or whining to obeying or scratching the furniture. I wish there were a few other options, such as knocking the creature off or getting the pet to gobble up its owner... When you carry out the missions in the chapter mode, players get rewards for their work. You can make the pets look like their owners, or the owners look like their pets. Even when you are not training and caring for the dogs and cats, you have plenty of ordinary chores to do at home, such as going to the toilet, taking a shower and tidying up, but sometimes there are surprises: When I was maneuvering a single man named Clayton while he was cooking in his home, his stove top caught fire, causing the a firefighter to suddenly appear in the kitchen, extinguish the blaze and then advise him: "Be more careful next time!" The slow download times between scenes are very annoying, as is the "Simlish" nonsense language that is spoken by everybody except the pets. Why couldn't they have used English - which most gamers understand - instead? So if it's so maddening, what can one do while sitting in a dentist's waiting room? Whistle, recite psalms, or download The Jerusalem Post's On-line Edition.