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DS  header logo

SimCity Creator

For: DS

As accessible strategic games go, it's sim-ply the best

Product: SimCity Creator | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: DS | Genre: Simulation, Strategy | Players: 1 | Networking: Bluetooth | Version: Europe
SimCity Creator DS, thumbnail 1
Just as you can hardly walk down a street in the UK without seeing a Tesco, a Wetherspoons, and a poster of the fruity one out of Hear'Say who models for M&S; Mario, Final Fantasy and SimCity have been clogging up video game stores for as long as I can remember.

With SimCity Creator, at least, familiarity hasn't bred contempt. This is not only the definitive handheld version of the much-loved and enduringly popular town-planning sim (and the papers say video games just encourage you to murder folk to death) it's possibly also the definitive version of SimCity. The problems of municipal administration have never been so much fun. There's no way to write that sentence without sounding sarcastic, you realise.

Why is SimCity Creator so brilliant? Back in the day, 'god games' like Powermonger and SimCity used to be about as user-friendly as typhoid. There were innumerable variables which, invariably, you couldn't distinguish from each other. Nothing seemed to happen for ages. There were lots and lots of spreadsheets to furrow your brow over. Nothing seemed to happen, and then, everything seemed to happen. The game would usually end with you voluntarily unleashing an earthquake/ tornado/ towering inferno on your civilisation just to put the damn thing out of its misery.

SimCity Creator, on the other hand, is as welcoming as a particularly cute rescue puppy. Key is the challenge mode. Here you're tasked with developing your civilisation - Santhony City, seing as you asked - throughout crucial periods of history. In the Neolithic age this means overseeing the transformation of hunter-gatherers to farmers. In the Renaissance, it means harnessing revolutionary ideas while banging up loads of revolutionary types. In post-war Asia it means reconstructing and modernising a society still haunted by the traumas of global conflict. It sounds high-fallutin', but it's really just SimCity meets Quantum Leap (ask your granddad). Or Bill and Ted's Awesome Reconstruction Adventure (ask your dad).

When I say particularly cute rescue puppy, I mean eyes-the-size-of-satellite-dishes cute. As you work your way through SimCity Creator you'll be approached and accosted by all manner of characters. They want you to donate to the restoration of the church. They have invented oil-burning power plants. They've just got back from holiday and saw some fountains which they thought - hint hint - made the place look lovely.

The serious point is that SimCity Creator has a well-thought out structure and the game prompts and provokes you without ever leading you by the hand. It's very easy to play but the game hasn't dumbed down. Indeed, there's also an old-fashioned Freeplay mode included in all its model train set glory. This is a nice (and very difficult) trick to pull off.

Like Sim Cities of old, the game gets better the more you play it. The introduction of rail, cars, electricity, flats and modern industry spew out pollution, rocket up congestion, and demand serious and stimulating strategic thought - what exactly should you demolish to make way for that relief road?

You'll feel guilty when you replace open fields with a tiny park. You'll sweat buckets (and your citizen's taxes) building up enough money to reclaim fertile agricultural land from the sea. You'll punch the air when your approval rating hits, er, 65 per cent.

On top of all this, there's a multiplayer Exchange Features mode (though your pals will need their own carts) and a few we-will-because-we-can bonus features. If, for example, you've ever wanted to send pictures of your imaginary cities to your friends, well, now you can. The earthquakes/ tornados/ towering infernos are also present.

As a game I can't find much fault with SimCity Creator, but some of the Americanisms grate more than Ruby Wax.

Firstly, SimCity being the brainchild of a San Francisan, this is town-planning American-style. No matter what you do, you are going to end up with a rigorously 'zoned' city. I can see pragmatic coding arguments about why this should be, but  town-planning in the UK is all about circles. We're obsessed with rings, orbital roads, green belts and satellite towns. It's a shame that these options aren't really available.

No matter what you choose, you can only really build an American-style city. Indeed, you'll realise as you enter the 'American Prosperity Age' that this is a game that veritably bleeds red, white and blue. Patriotism is fine, but elements of the game's sim-isation of history are as unsettling as the schools in the deep south that apparently advocate Creationism.

"Round my hometown," as Adele sings, "the people I've met/ Are the wonders of my world." Despite my mostly non-gaming reservations, SimCity Creator is definitely a place where gamers old and young, serious and fun, will cherish calling home.
SimCity Creator
Reviewer photo
Scott Anthony | 9 October 2008
Sim City goes all Bill and Ted's Awesome Reconstruction Adventure. Quite simply the only regional administration simulation you need to own
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