Thursday, October 4, 2007

SimCity DS

Developer: EA Japan
Publisher: EA Games
Release Date: June 19, 2007
Systems: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

Today's game for Lunch comes from guest blogger Dave Thomas, who writes, "According to the display on the back of the seat in front of me, I’m cooped up in an airplane 38,100 miles above the Pacific Ocean near Alaska, jetting 512 miles per hour toward Tokyo. Soon I’ll be at the Tokyo Game Show and the Digital Games Research Association international conference. But for now, what a better time to kick back and play a little game of SimCity DS? Shall we?"

In a nutshell: SimCity, portable and flirtatious.

0:01 The game starts with the SimCity DS logo on the top screen and a cute little version of a SimCity scrolling along the bottom. It’s even playing a jazzy little soundtrack that we’ve hear in one form or another in every Sims game for the past 10 years.

A couple of taps and I, a seasoned SimCity player, am in the tutorials. And, wow... there’s a bunch of them. A stern but bobble-headed blonde with glasses stares at me as I stare back at the list of 15 individual tutorials. Looks like I’m going to spend the next hour learning to play. I choose obviously enough, tutorial 1, the basics.

0:02 Now I get I meet my on-screen temptress. The blonde is Julie McSim, and she, apparently, is going to show me around. OK, Julie, what’s next?

0:05 OK, I'm thoroughly confused. She's been showing me what must be every screen and button in the game and all I can do is nod and click forward. Come on Julie! I wanna play!

0:07 So Julie wants me to hold my questions until the end. Since I love staring into her beady little eyes, I’m going to go along. On to step 2, power plants.

0:08 Excellent, She let me build a coal power plant! I knew this relationship was going some place.

0:09 I can finally see how this is going to work. The touch screen is where you place things and make adjustments. The top screen shows the city in more classic SimCity graphic detail

0:11 Julie keeps telling me to relax. I don’t know if this is come on, or if she knows that her tutorial is a bit boring and stressful.

0:12 I’ve made it to lesson 3, zoning! This all looks familiar except when Julia starts talking about auras. Looks like they’ve simplified the SimCity model a bit. Now things have auras. Very new age, Julie, very new age.

0:15 Step 4, power lines. Did it take this long to learn the original SimCity?

0:17 I’ve finally made it to step 5 and get to build some roads. I’m tempted to bail on this tutorial, even though Julie and I have spent some quality time together. But this game seems to be filled with little quirks not quite like the old SimCity. So I think I better stick with the tutorials. For now.

0:19 I’m telling you, I don’t think it’s my imagination, but I think Julie is hitting on me. I’m trying to draw a rail line right where Julie shows, and it’s hard to get it right on the little screen. So, she giggles and tells me that my rail shouldn’t be too short or too long. Thanks a lot Julie.

0:22 Off to learn about water. At least I’m getting to build things, even if I have to put everything where Julie says. Really, this is straining our relationship.

0:24 OK, I just have to quote Julie on this one: "Like a blossoming flower, your city will need care, attention, and water!" And to think, I used to think you were smart.

0:25 See, here's why I have to play the tutorials. Now she wants to tell me about landfills. I don’t remember these as having a big impact on the original SimCity. So, let’s see what she has to say about these things.

0:27 I like the idea that you have to manage garbage initially by making a dump. That's a neat feature. I'm sure I will enjoy it if I ever get a chance to play the game. For now, it's just me, Julie and crime.

0:30 I'm half way through my hour and we turn up the heat—fire stations!

0:42 I'm a bit worn finishing up the tutorials, going over hospitals, schools, libraries, parks and rec, more on aura, quality of life, demolition control panel and the myriad of datasheets (But I did like when she asked me to use a firm touch. I swear! That’s what she said, the little vixen). But at long last I’ve completed the 15 tutorials so now I can build a city. Let’s see if my harsh task mistress will be pleased with her pupil.

0:44 I name my new town “Airtown”. Part because that is how many characters long the maximum city name can be and part because I am in an airplane and terribly clever. I select an easy level with a lot of ground and a little bit of a shoreline and get to work.

0:45 The first thing I discover is that Julie is still with me. And she’s even started my city for me. Thanks Julie. And now she’s going to tell me everything that she did. Ho hum. I guess she wasn’t done talking after all.

0:47 So, after all that training, I'm stuck. Can’t figure out what to do. All I can do is scroll around the map. I can't seem to figure out how to add stuff. Damn, I should have paid attention instead of staring into Julie's teeny blue eyes.

0:48 Not that it matters, I guess. Julie has dragged me into my office to meet Professor Simtown. He showed up to bring me a post office. Yes, you heard me right, a post office. The professor brought me a post office. Julie is very excited about this, which of course makes me happy. I guess this post office, if I put it in my city, let's me trade mail with other mayors. So, what are the odds someone else if playing SimCity DS on the plane? Hmm, guess I’ll have to check this feature out on the ground.

0:50 I don’t think of myself as a stupid person, but I can’t figure out how to get to the add a building screen. I did click on save, and that worked.

0:51 Ah, I found it. For future reference, it is this tiny thing that might be a manhole cover. Or maybe it’s a broach. Hard to tell. It’s very small.

0:55 I lay down a bunch of residential, because that seems to be what the people want. I bounced around a bunch of screens and can't seem to find anything wrong. So, I go back and ask Julie. Not only will she give you advice, you can chat with her. She tells me that she wanted to be a singer when she was younger. I imagine she has a wonderful voice.

0:56 Anyway, I ask her for advice this time and she tells me that I need to fund everything for it to work correctly. Really?

0:58 With time running out, I go on a building spree. A school! A ballpark! A zoo! Lots of new housing. Will my citizens adore me before I must leave office?

0:59 I check my budget and I'm still running a deficit. The quality of life indicator is in a slow slide. In desperation, I add a hospital and zone some beach front property. But it's no use. My time is up. My town has sprawled awkwardly to one side. The citizens are not terribly happy and Julie still doesn't seem to respect me.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No
Why? Although this is a noble effort to capture the sandbox fun of SimCity, in the end, the screens are too small to show the level of detail that makes city building fun, and manageable. I'll miss her, but I’m going to have to break this off. I’m sorry Julie. It’s not you. It’s me.

1 comment:

Jason C. said...

You... actually wasted 45 minutes on the tutorials? I can't imagine why anyone who has ever played a SimCity game before for more than 15 minutes would ever have to go through all of the tutorials, except for the one that teaches you about undoing.

The hour could've been better spent figuring out what's actually annoying about the game: constant nagging by bobbleheads. And if you want to keep up with neighbor deals, you can't just ignore the calls to the office, since they're all lumped in together.