Sims in the world of Wii
I want my software toy

Fun with flaws

Simcityc SimCity Creator has issues. Limited zooming, an overly sensitive camera that moves when you don't want it to, frequent load times between menu screens, and an incessant musical soundtrack that will quickly drive you to distraction (or to the setup screen to turn it off). Overall, it's just a bit clunky. Lots of critics are going to hate this game, and I'm betting it will take a beating on Metacritic.

But I like it anyway. The problems that plague SimCity Creator are real, and they do diminish the overall experience, but the game gets most of the important stuff right. Hudson, who developed it for EA, has largely succeeded in its primary objective: making a SimCity game that is friendly, fun, and accessible to new players, while preserving most of the depth found in previous titles.

SimCity games are PC games. With the exception of the surprisingly successful SNES version, SimCity has lived and thrived on the PC, and as the game has evolved, its reliance on a point/click/drag input system has only increased. Too often lost among the Wii's waggle and accelerometer features is its natural and intuitive use as a mouse-like input device. Yes, it's too touchy in SimCity Creator - and I wish the sensitivity could be calibrated by the player - but this game lets you draw roads, including curvy ones (a series first), zones, railroads, power lines, etc. all by hand. This feature alone makes laying out your city more intuitive than it could possibly be on any other console (with the exception of the DS, I suppose).

SimCity Creator's whimisical art style and MySims advisors may suggest a dumbed-down version of SimCity, but beneath this colorful exterior lie nearly all the management layers fans have come to expect, including control of finances, salaries, health and safety, the environment, and many other factors that will determine the success or failure of your city. Playing on easy mode (there's even a "cheat mode" which makes failure virtually impossible) will help newbies learn the system; playing on hard mode will require you to keep a close eye on your reports to maintain growth and happiness among the citizens.

My favorite new feature of SimCity Creator is the option to build a variety of distinct city styles (13 in all) including Chinese, Japanese, European, Mediterranean, Indian, Egyptian, Las Vegas, Sci-Fi, and Jungle themes. If you want your city's buildings to look like cupcakes and cookies, you can do that too. You can even mix these styles within the same city; so if you want a northside Little Italy and a southside Chinatown, the game has you covered.

Unfortunately, you must unlock these styles in Mission mode. I keep hoping designers will stop doing this to us, especially in games that are essentially glorified construction sets. I want all my tools from the beginning. Save the unlocking for linear progression games...or, better yet, get rid of it altogether. But that's just me.

It's a silly superfluous thing, but SimCity Creator also allows you to jump in your Cessna and pilot your way around your city from the air. As a different way of experiencing the city you've built, it's pretty cool. For more wacky fun, the game also gives you all sorts of ways to destroy your city (or a pre-built one) with earthquakes, tornadoes,  fires, robots, giant Katamari-like balls, and monsters that aren't called Godzilla, but look like him anyway. As yet another way of adding a lighthearted touch, it's a nice idea, and wreaking urban havoc with your Wiimote delivers more satisfaction than you might expect.

SimCity Creator is a better game than its flaws suggest. If you've never played a SimCity title and wonder how building and micromanaging a virtual city could possibly be any fun, I say give SimCity Creator a look. The old formula still holds up remarkably well. For SimCity veterans, this game won't throw a lot of new content your way, but the Wiimote and extra little features provide a welcome new spin. I expect the detractors will tell you otherwise (hope I'm wrong), but I encourage you to try it and decide for yourself. Why no 3rd-party demos are available on the Wii is a sore topic for another day.