SimCity Creator Hands-On

Finally, a game that lets you create cities entirely out of cake.

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You've heard of deserted islands, but what about dessert islands? Yes, a gingerbread city hall and ice-cream-sundae sports stadium are all options in the upcoming SimCity Creator on the Wii. At EA's annual studio showcase in Redwood Shores this week, we played both the Wii and DS versions, both taking SimCity in slightly different directions, and both designed for a younger, more casual audience.

First, the Wii. Using the wonders of the Wii Remote, you now have the ability to design curvy roads. You read that right--curvy roads. Because zoning between curvy roads is difficult enough, there is also a zoning tool that will automatically carve out a grid to be flush with the curving avenues and boulevards. But much of the same depth and analysis that made SimCity a strategy hit remains intact, and balancing out residential, industrial, and commercial zones and keeping the populace happy remains the name of the game.

A mission mode provides a number of increasingly difficult scenarios to master, each with an individual reward. We watched a simple mission where you simply have to destroy the entire city with a giant wrecking ball, using the Wii Remote to guide it over explosive power plants and factories. Other missions require decidedly more strategy. The Power of Science mission tasks you with building a functional spaceport, which requires a low crime rate and a ton of educational resources like universities. One mission forces you to maintain a functioning city where gambling is legal but there is no residential income tax. And of course, the Sweet City mission has you build a city entirely of cakes, pies, and other tasty treats.

Some of the rewards include 32 hero buildings, a combination of over-the-top structures like the Watermill of Fruit or a giant crystal palace. All surrounding buildings in the neighborhood will be constructed in the same theme, so you can build a futuristic crystal city using alien technology (a reward for a mission in which you save your city from alien invasion). To get a better view of your city, you can manually control fighter jets and helicopters for simple flyovers, also handy in the search-and-rescue minigames.

Because the game is meant for younger players, a cadre of advisors from My Sims are there to offer advice on the power grid and the economy and whatever other aspect of city building you may be struggling with. There's also a cheat mode that gives you almost unlimited money, so you can create whatever kind of city you like without worrying about pesky mission constraints and Sims happiness.

You can also engage in online contests, participating in a number of challenges for which you will earn a score and move up the leaderboard. One contest called Life Expectancy has you try to keep your Sims alive as long as possible using a combination of low crime rate and excellent health care.

The DS version features the same core gameplay but instead focuses on different ages throughout history, starting with the Stone Age. Instead of running an expansive power grid from a nuclear power plant, you have to build a successful village for hunting and gathering, cutting down trees as resources and following animal paths for better hunting. Later you move on to more advanced ages such as the European Renaissance, Industrialization, Global Warming, and a future age. You can also share pictures and city information with friends via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

Despite a new focus on reaching out to younger players, SimCity Creator looks to be a worthy edition to the SimCity franchise, a game in which you can have your cake and eat it too. Mmm, cake.

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