|System: DS, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Maxis||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Age-old franchises, no matter how successful, can sometimes benefit from substantial changes. However, making too many of the wrong changes can cause fans to revolt. With a series like SimCity, players have come to expect a certain kind of city simulation experience.
They anticipate numerous improvements, while taking for granted any new entry bearing the SimCity name is going to play very closely to past iterations. Last years mildly disappointing SimCity DS recreated the series isometric gameplay quite faithfully on the handheld, but it had its fair share of issues. For better or worse, SimCity Creator builds on the same foundation.
This time around, Maxis makes some substantive changes to the classic formula, while leaving the more problematic aspects leftover from SimCity DS intact. The basic act of building and maintaining a large city teeming with signs of virtual life remains as engaging as ever. Its hard to stave off a growing sense of pride, when your sprawling metropolis begins to thrive on the countless design and operational decisions youve made at every step of the way. Unfortunately, with the new gameplay elements introduced here, several missteps early on can have a negative impact on your citys progress down the road. Making matters worse, the game throw additional concepts on the pile and boldly assumes youre already familiar with the main strategies of SimCity gameplay. Veterans shouldnt have a very difficult time keeping up, but they may find the new flavors of city building found in SimCity Creator foul up their delicate palate.
Its important to note the DS game is a far cry from the Wii title of the same name. The handheld version features only two ways to play. Challenge Mode is where players will be forced to spend most of their time, particularly if theyre itching to have the full freedom to play around with all the building features later on. In an unexpected departure from past SimCity titles, the main game revolves around building a single persistent city and helping it slowly transform as you progress from the primordial dark ages of civilization to the blossoming technological prowess of the future.
Each step in the evolutionary cycle has its own challenge to accomplish and obstacles to overcome. For instance, the initial Dawn of Civilization phase primarily revolves around gathering wood from the nearby forest, constructing paths, and building primitive housing in close proximity to food sources; things like budgets, transportation, electricity, and commerce are of no concern. On the other end of the spectrum, the Global Warming Age features many of the amenities of modern society, but the focus is on quashing pollution to make your city more green-friendly. After completing each age, youre given the opportunity to pick from several unrevealed branching time periods, which incorporates an interesting level of surprise and variety into progression. Rather than starting your city over at the beginning of each age, all your buildings will simply carry over and visually shift to match the technology and construction of the time. This is a cool realistic concept, but it may not sit as well with some players, since each new age brings with it a desire to start over with a fresh design. Instead, youre forced to incorporate new technologies and elements into a city thats designed for the needs of past ages. This results in a lot of razing and unnecessary rebuilding.
Free Play mode offers a more traditional way to play the game, by letting you select a single time period and building your city from scratch. You can only pick from ages youve unlocked in main game making thorough exploration of the numerous time periods unavoidable. In Free Play, all the various structures and building elements are unlocked. This lets you focus more on designing the city you want rather than settling for the piecemeal approach required in the challenges.