SimCity redux. (computer simulation) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
When Maxis announced that it was going to release a new SimCity game, I didn't expect much. It just didn't seem as if any sequel could possibly capture the fun of the original game. None of the SimSequels so far had grabbed my attention.
Well, I have some bad news. Well, bad news if you have a job, family, or any other responsibilities: SimCity 2000 is easily as addictive as the original, if not more so. I've been playing the Macintosh version for about a week and a half now (with occasional breaks for sleeping, eating, and pretending that I'm working); the DOS version will be available by the time you read this, and a Windows version should be available this spring.
Like its predecessor, SimCity 2000 puts you in charge of designing and administering a city, trying to make the city grow while keeping the citizens relatively happy. But SimCity 2000 takes advantage of the faster, more powerful computers of 1994 and adds a new level of sophistication to the game. The basics are the same--you build industrial, residential, and commercial zones, and then provide services such as power plants, police protection, and mass transportation. But there's more lying underneath the city now--literally, since you're now concerned with sewage and plumbing!
SimCity 2000 replaces the overhead view used in its predecessor with an isometric, angled view of the city. This is just as easy to work with, as SimCity 2000 lets you view your city from any side. It makes for a much more impressive-looking town, as you can now view your skyscrapers, bridges, and other creations in all their glory.
This new version really makes the earth move, thanks to the terrain editor. You can create your town on a random landscape or go in and terraform your perfect locale by raising or razing hills, creating rivers and lakes, and planting forests.
The basic gameplay is the same as in the original SimCity, but you have many more options for most commands, and you can get much more information about what's going on in your town. No longer are all city blocks uniform squares--your industrial, commercial, and residential zones can be huge or tiny. You now have access to more information about city services; clicking on a police station, for instance, brings up a list containing the number of officers stationed there, the number of reported crimes, and the number of arrests made, in addition to the station's budget. You now have not only roads, but also highways, tunnels, on-ramps, and bus depots. In addition to standard commuter trains, you can also build a subway system. To power your megalopolis you can now choose from coal, hydroelectric, oil, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, microwave, and fusion plants; the more advanced plants don't come into play until later years.
More of the city's infrastructure is modeled in SimCity 2000. Education affects the makeup of your city as in real life, so you should sprinkle schools, colleges, libraries, and museums throughout the area. To support all of these, of course, your burg needs bucks, so you'll have to levy taxes. You can balance--or break--your budget using the new Ordinance feature, which lets you levy sales and income taxes (as well as the ever-popular parking fines), start government programs (such as homeless shelters, city beautification, and tourist advertising), and even legalize gambling.
All of these new options are controlled by a multiwindow user interface that's a breeze to use. Too many products that add features get unnecessarily complex (what percentage of your word processor's features do you really use?), but Maxis has managed to build on the foundation established by the classic SimCity without collapsing the fun factor. Bravo for what surely ranks as one of the best computer game sequels ever.