Virtual-city planners once again get their call to duty as EA brings us their latest in city building simulation. SimCity Creator allows players to build and customize huge cityscapes and then rain down destruction upon them. With a slightly new look, new features, and an interface geared toward more casual players, does this Wii iteration hit its full potential?
Upon first booting up SimCity Creator, you’re presented with a menu of gameplay options. The game offers a Tutorials mode, a Free Play mode, Missions, an options menu, and even online gameplay via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. If you’re new to the SimCity experience, your best bet is to first tap the tutorials, for this is the only area in which SimCity Creator will hold your hand. There are 15 tutorials in total – about an hour-and-a-half’s worth of instruction – and they’ll get you up to speed on everything from the menu icons to putting out fires in your city.
Once you’ve got the basics under your construction belt, you can head off to one of three main gameplay areas: Missions, Free Play, or Contests. The missions are a collection of scenarios designed to slowly test the knowledge you’ve gained from the tutorials. That said, from the very first mission it’s easy to be overwhelmed. You’re told what your mission objectives are, but with so much to digest in the tutorials, it’s difficult to know where to begin once you’re actually doing the real thing. The game may have many Wii-centric, casual-crowd trappings, but it’s still very much constructed with SimCity veterans in mind.
Regardless of the mode you choose to play, SimCity Creator serves up mostly the same things we’ve seen before from the franchise. Build zones for the different types of city areas – residential, commercial, industrial; build roads, power lines and water pipes; manage your city’s economy and growth with the aid of advisors, etc. and so forth. New features include Hero Buildings and various aircraft you control to get a closer look at your city.
Hero Buildings are structures based on various styles of architecture, and when you place one of these buildings in your city, the surrounding buildings will begin to mimic its style. There’s no real strategic element to this feature, but it’s an enjoyable novelty to tinker with.
When you want to get a closer look at your city, you can survey your work from different types of craft, including a helicopter or plane. When controlling the helicopter, for instance, you tilt the Wii-mote to change directions or gain or lower altitude, and press up or down on the D-pad to speed up or slow down. This particular extra is very enjoyable, and control over the various craft works well.
Additionally, though already a staple of past SimCity games, disasters allow you to beat down everything you’ve created. Bored with your metropolis and feel like causing some random destruction? Call down a meteor shower or summon an earthquake. You can even cause monster eggs to rain down upon the earth, hatch, and then watch these mammoth tyrants lay waste to your citizenry. Each of the disasters is initiated (and controlled in one or two instances) using various motion gestures with the Wii-mote – some more satisfying than others.
The game also sports an updated interface, one a bit more attractive and user-friendly than past games in the series. The look and feel is borrowed directly from MySims – the game even includes many of the main characters to act as advisors for you here – but these cutesy features don’t change the fact there’s a steep learning curve for players new to the SimCity formula. If you can get over the game’s hurdles, however, there is fun to be had here.
The missions offer hours of challenging strategy gameplay, and the Free Play area is the equivalent of having a giant toy set to fool around with, minus the mess. Additionally, there’s the Contests section where players can compete in missions against other players online.
Though there are plenty of options for players to enjoy in SimCity Creator, the gameplay is not without its flaws. As mentioned, there’s a frustrating lack of relevant instruction, even with the addition of the 15 tutorials. Sometimes it’s impossible to know how to meet mission objectives, and only through trial and error will you succeed. Your advisors offer only vague tips about general aspects of managing your city, and, ultimately, you’re on your own, often with no clue as to how you should proceed. It can also be frustrating simply panning the camera around your city map. The game uses only the Wii-mote, and you’ll pan by moving the pointer to the edges of the screen. It’s a set-up meant to mimic a PC’s mouse, but it’s often jerky and unmanageable.
The presentation of SimCity Creator is modest yet attractive, and everything is neatly compartmentalized. In addition to the different gameplay areas, there are options to view snapshots taken while in-game, as well as view the myriad unlockables you acquire in the Missions mode. Menu navigation is straight forward, and the MySims theme definitely helps to lull players into what can otherwise be a fairly daunting gameplay experience.
On the graphics front, well, it’s pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from the SimCity franchise. So, it’s not the prettiest Wii game out there. Maps sport drab-green tiles, dull water areas, and crammed-city overviews. You can zoom in or out on the map, but the game never allows you to get up close and personal, which is probably for the best. The buildings look okay, but monster models and other disaster animations are right out of an N64-era game. The MySims characters are the most visually attractive element, though, they too are decidedly simple in appearance.
One of the game’s big surprises, however, is its music. SimCity Creator truly scores in the audio department. There aren’t a ton of sound effects, and the ones that are here aren’t particularly great, but the music really fits wonderfully alongside the SimCity experience. It’s also recorded in pristine fidelity, with nice stereo separation and smooth transitions between themes. There are a few hiccups here and there during gameplay loads, but for the most part, everything sounds great. There’s also a ton of musical variety, and at any time, you can go into the collectables section and sift through the many themes you’ve unlocked. It’s a small extra perhaps, but a nice touch that adds one more element of value to the overall package.
SimCity Creator isn’t an overhaul of the series. If you’ve played any SimCity game before, you’ll likely feel right at home here. It’s a touch of Déjà vu, but the new features offer some incentive for series veterans to perhaps give the game a look. Considering the updated interface, MySims characters, and the simple fact the game is on Wii, Creator seems to be aimed at a more casual audience. It’s just too bad the developers didn’t stay on track in this regard, because the learning curve is basically on par with past games in the series, and newcomers will have a frustrating road ahead when approaching this city planning venture.
That said, players who muster the moxy to press on will find a fair bit of enjoyment, as well as some truly challenging strategy gameplay. It’s a hefty-sized package with plenty to do and see. If you’re up for the sort of dry pleasure city building offers, SimCity Creator might be something worth checking out. There are some issues with the controls, much of the gesture gameplay is gratuitous, and the game offers all the perplexity of a chemistry set. But folks looking to role play as mayor might consider SimCity Creator as a rental.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
SimCity games have never been pretty, and SimCity Creator does little to break away from that tradition. However, the MySims characters are as adorable as ever, and the menus and icons are very attractive. 3.0 Control
Controlling helicopters and planes is a blast, but there’s really not enough of it. Panning the camera with the Wii-mote is jerky, and many of the gesture-based disasters are little more than boring novelties. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are sparse – there isn’t even any Simlish from your MySims advisors – but the themes are wonderfully fitting, and there’s a ton of musical variety. 3.5
There’s a lot to do here, but there are also many hurdles for new players to overcome. SimCity Creator also doesn’t break any new ground, and series veterans will be hard-pressed to justify investing in this Wii iteration.
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.