SimCity for Windows. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
Regular COMPUTE readers almost certainly know about SimCity. Since its introduction to deservedly wild accolades in 1989, it has won nearly every award in the industry, been featured in Newsweek magazine, sold a quarter of a million copies, and won a place in the hearts of the computing public. It's a classic in the truest sense of the word.
The big news on the SimCity front this year is the new SimCity for Windows. Windows users will love having SimCity available at the click of an icon. Windows brings several new capabilities to the game, not the least of which is the ability to leave your city growing and developing in the background while you go about your other multitasked Windows business.
Just in case you're new here, though, let's go over what SimCity is all about. It won't hurt you veteran city planners to be reminded of the charms of running the mayor's office. I have to admit that until this new Windows version came in, it had been months since I visited Rich's Ridge. Now I'm hopelessly hooked again.
SimCity puts you in charge of a simulated city. Starting with an undeveloped expanse of land along a large waterway, you establish the zoning for industrial, residential, and commercial areas. You build power plants, roads, tracks for light rail, parks, police and fire stations, airports, and a stadium. Then you string the power lines to your zoned areas so construction can start.
That's all there is to it. Really. The amazingly intricate and realistic programming takes it from there. You zone a sector residential, you provide power and transportation, and the sims (simulated citizens) take over. You'll see tiny houses going up and minuscule automobiles appearing on the roads. Of course, you'll need industrial and commercial zones nearby, or no one will move in--sims need places to work and shop, you know.
You'll need to fine-tune things, which is the essence and joy of the game. If you build too much industry and rely on automobiles entirely, you'll soon learn the consequences of pollution. If you skimp on police protection, crime rates will skyrocket. These and a dozen other negative outcomes result in unhappy citizens, who move out and leave you presiding over an empty, decaying city.
As in real life, money makes all this work. The more citizens and businesses in your city, the larger the tax base. You start with seed money, but you have to earn tax revenues to build anything, maintain the infrastructure, and pay police and firefighters. As in real life, it's a delicate juggling act to keep the services going without increasing taxes beyond the citizens' willingness to pay.
There are joyous touches of delight in the game: The tiny stadium fills up periodically with pinpoint-sized sims, and Lilliputian football players move up and down the inch-long field. A traffic-reporting helicopter shares the sky with airplanes, which occasionally crash into the city. Earthquakes and a nuclear meltdown (if you've been adventurous enough to choose a nuclear power plant) may blight your city. A monstrous Godzilla creature may appear and stomp parts of your city to rubble.
The Windows version adds floating toolboxes, giving you access to more of your map windows. You can open multiple maps and information windows at once, and a ribbonlike master toolbar has been added: Access to game controls and information is much easier.
If you already have SimCity, you probably don't need to upgrade to the Windows version--that is, unless you're hooked on the game and use Windows most of the time. Then you'll love it. If you haven't joined the ranks of fledgling mayors yet, run (don't nearest software outlet and buy one of the SimCity versions. You're in for a challenging, addicting experience. Games simply don't get any better than this.
IBM PC or compatible (80286 compatible), 1MB RAM, EGA or VGA, hard disk, Windows 3.0 or higher; mouse recommended--$59.95
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