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After last years pretty straight DS conversion (of Sim City 2000 on the PC) EA return to the table with a much more bespoke offering this year.
Real time strategy games present the player with a resource rich environment and task them with developing encampments and units more effectively than their enemies. Once created, troops can usually be arranged into groups and directed in real time.
When the player directs an encounter to take , place the comparative stats of vehicles, characters and current landscape are used to calculate the winner. Forest usually makes you harder to hit, whilst tanks do more damage than infantry.
Because of these game's requirement for fast decisions from the player they were originally the preserve of the mouse and keyboard setup of the PC. More recently, intelligent control systems have brought them to home consoles and handhelds.
Where other RTS games are built from the ground up with play in mind, Sim City has always held onto its education and simulation roots. It is unique in providing a full simulated city building world in which to play, create and learn. Sim City: Creator offers the player the ability to create their own living breathing city, then watch as it develops and grows into a throbbing metropolis.
The formula is largley unchanged since the first version of Sim City was used in schools as an educational tool in the early 90's. The player picks a patch of land, puts down residential, industrial and commercial zones, connects them with roads, rail, water and electricity.
The game still tracks with the basic Sim City 2000 game features, offering train and underground systems but no buses. To this is added the ability to play through different time eras. Borrowing somewhat from Age of Empires: Age of Kings DS, you can start in the prehistoric age with tribal villages, then choose your development through a branching tree of civilisations. It's a simple addition but one that adds both interest and education value.
The DS's processing power is clearly being stretched here - with larger cities causing a clear slow down in menu response times. This shouldn't be a problem to any but the most impatient players. Graphically too, as with last year's Sim City DS, things are at full stretch. Most missed are the cars on the streets that were so well communicated the movement of your populace even in the first edition of the game.
The magic of Sim City is that something you setup can come to life so tangibly and so quickly. The moment a player first hooks up the required amenities and houses start to appear is genuinely exciting. Players continue to play Sim City because of its ability to perpetuate this connection to the goings on in the Sim world.
Probably even more true than other RTS games, Sim City can swallow hours of gameplay. The mission focused levels keep things within clear bounds - but even here it can take a good hour to reach the requirements.
The open ended nature of the game means that freeplay levels can absorb a very long time indeed. Thankfully you can save at any point - if only you can tear yourself away from your master plans.
Even on the DS Sim City is a bridge too far for very young players. The fun of the game is learning to work within the bounds of the simulation - something better suited for school age children.
Intermediate players may find the array of options and complex interface initially off putting. But given a little perseverance (and focusing on the unfolding story levels) they should soon be up to speed and obsessing over the finer details of city planning.
Expert gamers may miss both the graphical fidelity and wider options of newer Sim City titles. Here, there are much simplified (some would say rudimentary) control of income and expenditure, and a wide range of traffic management and route finding options that were not possible to include. They may be better suited by Sim City: Creator Wii or the excellent Sim City 4 PC with the Transportation expansion pack.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
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