SimCity DS DS
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
The Nintendo DS is proving itself to be the strategy gamer's handheld of choice. With Age of Empires, Anno 1701 and several others such as Advance Wars: Dual Strike being available, The Settlers arriving shortly and a Civilization game on the way next year, it's certainly a handheld that's attractive to the strategy gamer. Here we have a game for fans of the city building genre. The SimCity games have always been immensely popular and it's great to see a SimCity title arrive on the DS. In many ways it makes sense to bring the series to the DS because of the touch-screen controls that allow the developers to implement a PC-like control scheme, something that previously wasn't possible on a handheld games console.
SimCity DS will be familiar to anyone who has played any of the previous games in the long running series. The formula is the same in that you take a small town and attempt to turn it into a thriving metropolis and along the way you'll have to deal with the problems that come with having a burgeoning population with constant needs and wants as well as some over the top disasters. For those who haven't played a SimCity game before, you'll have 15 mini tutorials at your disposal that should get you up and running with the game. The first thing you'll have to do though is to answer a few questions and get paired up with an advisor who will be your guide. This advisor will let you know when things are going awry and when disasters about to happen. At times he/she can be irritating and it's a real shame you can't turn them off. The game offers a Build a City mode, a Save the City mode, the aforementioned tutorials, a Museum mode where you can view the landmark and standard buildings you've unlocked and a Post Office mode which allows you to wirelessly send mail and other items to nearby friends who also need to own a copy of the game.
In Build a City mode, which is essentially the core of the game, you'll begin by giving a name to your city. It maybe a rather small grumble but you can only use seven letters in naming your city which seems a bit of an archaic limitation to have. After you've named your city, and your mayor, you'll then pick a plot of land, from a choice of twenty, in which to build your city. Each of the available plots has its own difficulty rating and starting funds. One of the plots is labelled as a Basic plot and gives you extra cash to begin with and a few basic facilities have already been placed on the map making this plot a natural place to start for those who are new to the series and have just worked their way through the game's fifteen mini tutorials.
SimCity DS offers a serious challenge, even to fans of the series, and at times can be a little frustrating. The frustration doesn't just come from having to satisfy your citizens and having to make sure you always have enough money though. The Save the City mode offers seven disaster scenarios for you to sort out. However, you can't save when you are doing the scenarios. The game only has one save slot and this is only available in Build a City mode. You can't have more than one city on the go in the Build a City mode, due to the single save slot, which is disappointing. You'll view your city from an isometric angle, in a similar fashion to SimCity 3000 on the PC. At times when you want to place an object or zone, it's possible for the game to place the object in a tile slightly below the one you've chosen. Of course you can undo the action so this isn't much of a problem. Demolishing is another matter altogether though, as you can't undo a demolishing action and should you demolish the wrong thing then, to put it politely, you're stuffed.
As we've just mentioned, the game has a SimCity 3000 look about it which at first glance is actually quite pleasing. You have two levels of zoom allowing you to either view your city from high up in the sky or to get fairly close. Up close the game looks a little too blocky and there is a real fuzziness about the buildings. The isometric view of your city isn't ideal to be honest, you can't rotate your view as you could in SimCity 3000, and it would have been great if a top-down view, like the view you had in the original SimCity, had been included as it would have been far more useful and user-friendly. In terms of presentation the game is pretty impressive and the developers have done a great job in fitting so much detail onto the small DS screens. It's a little odd having to wait for your city to load (after all the load times on most DS games are pretty much instant) but the load times aren't that long and there aren't really any performance issues to speak of.
SimCity DS is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. The game doesn't use any speech and all the dialogue in the game is text only meaning you'll always be aware of what's going on. The game also makes extensive use of icons and other forms of visual information, none of which will cause deaf gamers any problems. All of the game's mini tutorials are text only, so you'll be able to learn the basics without any problems. The scenarios in the game all have their success and failure requirements shown in text and your advisor will give you the lowdown at the beginning of the scenario in text.
Whilst it's very pleasing to see a SimCity game appear on the DS, it has to be said that SimCity DS probably isn't as good as it could have been. The single save slot and an advisor that can't be turned off are the two biggest problems but not being able to undo what you may have accidentally demolished and the game occasionally mistaking which tile you are trying to place an item in or zone are also major annoyances. Despite the problems though the game is still fairly enjoyable and does offer a decent SimCity experience. The real problem is that many gamers simply won't have the patience to put up with the niggles long enough to enjoy the city building goodness that SimCity DS has to offer.
SimCity DS is a decent game but there are too many issues here that prevent it from being a great game which is a shame because it's clear to see that it could have easily been something very special indeed.