Worst of all, EA has tried to restore life to the city through an array of ill-advised novelty game mechanics. Having an animated advisor on hand isn’t a bad idea, but her advice is frequently useless and not often pointed at the current problem you have on hand. You could probably stand her, however, were it not for the constant interruptions – and these only get more constant as the game progresses – where a citizen is waiting in your office with some request to add particular facilities or reduce taxes. These are poorly animated, tragically unfunny, and repeat on a regular basis over the course of the game. How many times did I want to see bronzed teen Candy in my office moaning on about her school run? How about never, and certainly not once every fifteen minutes until I had the money to set a rail network up.
Why too, do we have to have arcade mini-games just because it’s on the DS? I don’t know about you, but I don’t play SimCity so that I can tap Santa Claus for presents as he flies across the skyline, or so that I can tap fireworks to make them go off during a city celebration. SimCity always had a sense of humour, but it never let itself get this ridiculous.
One final complaint: it’s all very well adding a bunch of disaster scenarios on top of the normal game mode, but why prevent you from saving the game during their duration? And why hamper your efforts by preventing you from adjusting the budget at any point?
Overall, we’re left with something that has the bones of a good SimCity game, but is spoilt by the lifeless presentation of the city and by the introduction of several hideously annoying features. If you’re a serious SimCity fan of ages past, then there is a chance that you’ll be able to look past these factors and just enjoy the simple pleasures of zoning, building and watching your city grow. If, however, you’re looking for something fun to do with your DS, then there are a good two-dozen better options out there. Roll on Civilization Revolution, Diablo and StarCraft DS, but SimCity DS? For now, no thanks.
What at first seems to be a smart handheld conversion turns into a cramped and annoying attempt to DS-ify a classic. It’s still SimCity enough for the hardcore SimCity fan, but casual city builders should leave it well alone.