Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: September 22, 2008
I fondly remember when Sim City first came into the world. Better yet, I remember excitedly buying it for my Commodore 64. I've probably owned some variant of the Sim City franchise on multiple PCs, consoles, and portable game systems over the years. Sim City is a comfortable sweater that you enjoy pulling out and throwing on now and then, so you can imagine my renewed excitement that a new iteration of the classic was coming to the Wii in the form of Sim City Creator.
First, I'll tell you of my hopes and dreams for the game. I envisioned an almost candy-coated version of Sim City that used the Wiimote to gracefully navigate a city that had all the mechanics of the popular franchise, but with a family-friendly, good-natured balance of building up the old school residential, commercial, and industrial areas. It would be something that presented the robustness of building a major city, but with traditional Nintendo-esque charm.
Now, I'll tell you what the game really is. It's Sim City 2000-ish on the Wii, with MySims characters walking you through the menus. For the roughly other six billion of you who didn't play MySims, think of them as a cross between a Lego person and a Mii.
If I sound like I'm being overly harsh, I'm really not. I still love the franchise, even if Sim City Creator didn't live up to my idyllic simulation fantasy. Many parts of the game feel ported rather than original, but I suppose there are only so many things you can reinvent with the title, even with 19 years backing the intellectual property.
For those who have never played any Sim City games before (and seriously, why would you even be reading this if that were the case? Go out and buy a version! Any version! On any platform! Go, now!), the "goal" is to create your own city in a chunk of the simworld. I put goal in quotes, because as any Sim fan knows, the titles are less about hard and fast rules and objectives and more about playing, experimenting, and generally attempting to make your simulated resident people happy.
For those who have played Sim City before (that had better be all of you!), all of the same mechanics and building structures are here in Sim City Creator: commercial properties, industrial properties, residential properties, education, fire, police, power, transit and water, All of the old favorites are here, in addition to Hero buildings, which change the overall look and "theme" of your city. Again, a lot of the same is here, which makes the game feel a bit dated and look more and more like a port than an original title.
What should be one of the shining features of the game, using the Wiimote, turns out to be a very painful and fighting effort. Sim City Creator divvies up controls to use the thumb d-pad and the Wiimote pointer to control the camera, menu options, and building and road placement. Sometimes, you'll scroll outside of the area you want to control or fumble to get the right menu as you inadvertently click the wrong option. Heaven help you if you sneeze with the bulldozer tool selected, as you could wipe out half a metropolitan city.
The title is broken down into what are mainstays nowadays, including a Free mode, Mission mode, and Tutorial mode. The tutorials are nice and help you understand the basics of laying out power, roads, water, zones and all the basics that a burgeoning city needs. Be prepared to read a lot of disjointed text and sit through some boring aspects that include a little fanfare and confetti every time you complete a tutorial. Lather, rinse and repeat.
The Mission mode seems a bit out of its element on the Wii. Maybe it's just me, but I've grown accustom to having game accomplishments that either further unlock abilities in a game, improve a gamer score ranking, or otherwise have some kind of tangible benefit. In Sim City Creator, it's there, just not really there. You'll get missions — such as providing power to an entire city, demolishing an entire city, improving crime rankings or traffic jams — and while they're fun for distractions, the real meat of the game is in building (or destroying) cities.
The best part of Sim City Creator is the Free mode. Just pick your chunk of land and build what you want in the way that you want. The basic game rules are there, but you're free to build any way you want without any constraints. After forcing my way through the tutorial, the Free mode is where I spent all of my time playing. It's the second most rewarding of the bunch and is the one aspect that saves the title.
What is the absolute most rewarding part of the game, you ask? The fly-through option. You can hop into a simplane and fly through your city with the Wiimote, tilting and banking to check out a bird's eye view of your city. Sure, it has absolutely nothing to do with controlling city crime, population density, or traffic jams, but it's definitely awesome.
A few of the points in Sim City Creator that should be considered an improvement or a feature tend to come up short. The difficulty in controlling your views and menus with the Wiimote notwithstanding, the game is absolutely peppered with typos and horrible grammar. Additionally, having city advisers are almost pointless. For example, you might be looking into a financial crisis with your city having 10 bank loans out, crime running rampant, and a gigantic Godzilla (although due to international copyright laws, it isn't) tearing your streets apart, and your adviser will offer up gems like, "My favorite color is purple." Yeah, thanks for that. You're fired.
There is no doubt that Sim City Creator is still fun. You might end up spending a little more time selecting your zones due to the controls, as opposed to a simple mouse click, but it otherwise plays very similarly to past incarnations and is a great way to zone out. Unfortunately, due to the shortcomings and bad translations, it's just not as good as it could have been.
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