8.3

SimCity Creator review
Exactly what it should be, but with overrated features and bad humor.

Summary:

The SimCity series is what started the The Sims series, and while it isn't quite as popular nowadays as it's life-simulating sibling, it's still continuing on a slow path of its own. SimCity Creator for the Nintendo Wii is no let-down.

At first the game may seem confusing and hard to get used to, especially with some of the strange control choices. But with a little bit of patience and careful analyzation you can have every single feature from building power plants to legalizing gambling to creating curved roads (yes, you heard me right, CURVED ROADS) working in your favor to create the perfect city. But that may not be where you want to start. The game offers helpful tutorials to get you started, and a Mission Mode where you can complete various objectives from thoroughly destroying a pre-made city to starting your own from scratch and reaching a certain population within a set number of years to unlock new items and structures in Freeplay mode.

Freeplay mode is probably the main aspect of the game, where you can choose the land size, location, stats, etc of an area and then build up whatever kind of city you want in it. You can choose whether you want your city to be a bustling urban town, or a quiet rural one. But it's more difficult than it looks.

While, if you know your way around the game, which you will in no time with a little patience, completing objectives is fairly simple, Freeplay is where you'll really have to try hard to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. Firstly, you'll need to select a location and how big you want the land your city occupies to be on a large map, as well as the starting money you have (so you can choose to take it easy or challenge yourself, whatever you feel like), the name of your city, and your name, as the mayor. What I love about this is how you can have multiple cities on the map and if you create roads leading off the map you can even create garbage deals etc. with your own neighboring cities. Of course, if you don't feel like doing any work, you can always start with a model city, but you can't save a city which you did not create.

Once you have your land, it's time to start developing. Using various different tools, plant roads, streets, highways, and highway bridges for transportation and surround them with zones. Zoning has been around since the first days of the SimCity series and is one of the key factors of the system. Zones include various levels of residential, commercial, and industrial zones (which you can also change the taxes on individually) which you will want to cover most of your city with. If your city has the necessary resources/structures, residential zones will eventually fill with houses and apartments for Sims to live in, commercial zones will fill with businesses etc., and industrial zones will fill with factories etc. The higher the density level a zone is, the more Sims will be able to squeeze into it. But it's not all about houses and offices. In order for any Sim families to move in, you'll need to equip your city with some basic living necessities, such as water pipes, electricity plants, power lines, water treatment centers, water towers, landfills, etc. You'll also need to separately add in structures like schools, clinics, jails, police/fire departments, libraries, hospitals, etc. As time goes on with a growing population and happy residents, you will even unlock special structures such as the Mayor's house, the Mayor Statue, and the Hero Building to place in your city. But don't forget the view! If your city's a dump, no one's going to want to move in, now are they. Adorn your city with flora, playgrounds, parks, gardens, and keep on top of things to make sure no debris is lying around and keep your roads in good condition or else you might be hearing from some unhappy residents. Once you've developed your city enough, press the trigger until the play button is green, sit back, relax, and watch the people come running.

While the first few years of city management may be all fine and dandy, things are going to get tough, and I must say a little frustrating, and eventually you're going to be pulling your hair out. Honestly I don't know why the creators made it so difficult to stay out of debt after a while if you've kept up with all the new buildings you'll keep unlocking and have been improving your city. Trust me, there WILL come a time when either your city's doing fine but you're running out of money and are afraid of debt, or you're fine for money and your citizens won't shut up. You can't keep everybody happy, but then again the only way to stay out of debt really and keep your city's beauty is to raise the taxes and fund some organizations less. And if you do this, you'll soon find everyone's going on strike like there's no tomorrow. So far, I haven't gotten out of this awful stage and back to that honeymoon stage where everything's perfect yet, so I can only assume that once you get to this point, there's nothing really to do except go into debt. Sad.

So this brings me to the point that while it's fun building your city and watching it grow, there will usually be a point where everything starts going south and there's not much to do. Either that or there's simply too much to do and you just get overwhelmed and leave.

You may notice that I haven't so much as mentioned one of the supposedly "biggest" aspects of the game: destroying a city. While it's fun to take a model city and burn it to the ground, send rabid llamas galloping over it and throw boomerangs at the buildings once, it loses its touch after the first time considering I can't really see myself spending a whole bunch of time on building a city just to then destroy it later in about 10 seconds. It just doesn't make sense. The fact that random disasters such as tornados, earthquakes, and fires happen every now and then in your city is okay as it just adds to the realism, but really I don't ever feel a hankering to just go ahead and purposely destroy my masterpiece, nor would you after all that frustration.

The game also seems to make a big point of prompting you to hire advisors for every different category, though in my opinion it's just a waste of time and money. I mean it's not like they actually advise you about anything. Every now and then you may find something helpful, but mostly it'll just be random statements to do with their goofy personalities, which are, like many things in the game, obviously intended to be humorous, but also like many things in the game, fail miserably. It's the same with that news ticker that's supposed to be showing you important news about the happenings of your city but seems to spend most of its time informing you of useless and not even funny tidbits such as how a cat got arrested, a boy got a stomach ache, and some stuff about broccoli. Every now and then it'll invite you on a ridiculously easy plane mission, but that's about it for its helpfulness. Both of these are features that could have been very helpful and a big plus for the game but instead for some reason the creators decided to simply use them for a bad attempt at humor.

While the interface is smooth and well-organized, the controls in Creator suffer. It is all done on the Wii Remote, with some optional Nunchuk usage. But I think it probably could have benefitted from more Nunchuk use involved, such as for camera control. Instead, the camera over your city is controlled with the movement of the Wii Remote even while you drag something to build it, which can get incredibly frustrating and choppy. Sometimes the cursor also seems to completely freak out and lose you for a whole 10 seconds, before coming back at some random point on the screen and sending you flying somewhere.

I've probably made the game sound pretty bad, but it's really quite fun in the grand scheme of things. It contains everything a city simulator probably should, from intricate detail in the design and layout of your city to exactly how much of everything you want to pay, taxes, and what's legal and illegal in your city. You can also, if you want, take a freeform flight tour over your city, flying around the buildings in close-up view, and ask for suggestions and feedback from the local citizens. There's always going to be one guy who's constantly complaining that there aren't enough police stations even if you've put about 10 right next to his house, but hey, some people just can't be pleased.

I must admit, the graphics in SimCity Creator aren't anything special for the Wii, but the detail is absolutely stunning. Every window, every piece of color, every bush, every car door is visible if you zoom in close enough, and you'll never get bored of playing around with the various aesthetic themes of your city based on your Hero Building. The music is quite varied and the style also depends on the theme set by your Hero building, with average sound quality. I must say though, the loading screens are painfully long.

Overall, if you take a little while to really understand and appreciate all the game's features, while it gets frustrating at times, you should easily be able to have hours of fun tweaking your city, completing missions and yelling about how stupid your citizens are and how your advisors are lucky you're paying them at all and not kicking them to the curb because of their uselessness. There will be a point where you'll become overwhelmed and want to stop, but make the most of the good bits and you'll be fine.

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