SimCity DS First Look

EA affords us a brief glimpse into the life of a pocket-sized city mayor.

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Earlier today, at its Summer Preview event in San Francisco, Electronic Arts showed a playable version of SimCity DS for the first time. We didn't have an opportunity to get our hands on the game on this occasion, but we saw more than enough of it to convince us that styluses and touch screens could well be the urban planner tools of the future.

The two main gameplay options in SimCity DS will be "build a city," which challenges you to create and maintain a city from scratch, and "save the city," in which you'll be tasked with rescuing one of several cities from around the world from such disasters as UFO invasions and attacks from giant monsters. Before attempting either of those, you'll also have the option to play through any of 15 tutorials dealing with such mayoral concerns as transportation, waste disposal, crime prevention, and demolition. We saw a couple of the aforementioned tutorials being played through, and we're pleased to report that both the construction of roads and railways and the designation of zones as residential, industrial, or commercial appear to be no more complicated than using the stylus to draw lines and drag boxes on a grid respectively.

Later in the presentation we were treated to a look at a relatively well-established city, and we noticed that you'll be able to scroll around the upper screen's isometric view of it simply by dragging the stylus across the touch screen. Although the upper screen is the one most commonly used to display your city (along with a news ticker detailing current events), the touch screen is where most of the gameplay will be happening since it's used to show other "layers" of your city, such as transport routes and power grids. The touch screen is also where you'll be able to track aspects of your performance via a series of charts and diagrams and where you'll be playing most of this SimCity game's unique minigames. We're told that there will be around seven minigames in total, such as blowing into the microphone to put out fires and using the stylus to search the city for thieves. The minigame that we were shown on this occasion focused on Santa's annual visit to your city, during which you'll be required to tap his flying sleigh with the stylus to make him drop presents.

As you progress through the game you'll unlock a total of 56 international landmark buildings and around 125 standard buildings, one of which is a post office. In another new feature designed to take advantage of the Nintendo DS's unique functions, building your first post office will unlock a new option on the main menu that lets you exchange letters with other players wirelessly. We look forward to bringing you more information on SimCity DS as soon as it becomes available.

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