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Sim Town is probably best described as "SimCity Junior". It's basically a simplified version of its phenomenally popular predecessor, aimed squarely at children aged eight to twelve. But whilst the strategic elements have been made far simpler, the visuals have been given a thorough going over with a bucketful of cute paint. And while I was playing it, I was cursing my luck that this sort of thing wasn't around when I was a kid.
Creating a town is fairly simple, and will be second nature to anyone who's played SimCity 2000 for more than ten minutes. You slap down some roads (or cycle paths if you're feeling particularly green), then place various types of building (residential, commercial or "fun stuff') in strategic locations. The aim is to create a kind of glistening, shimmering Utopia, balancing the economy, the ecosphere, and the overall quality of life as best you can. As an educational tool, it's kind of like taking geography, social studies, town planning and environmental studies classes all at the same time - with enough fun en route to distract attention away from the fact that basically, you're being educated at the same time.
Unlike its big brother, Sim town presents you with the opportunity to be really, really nosy. You can look inside people's houses and see what they're up to. You can find out who that bloke walking down the street is, what he does for a living, and how he's feeling today. You can even design a character all of your own and give him or her a natty house to live in and then read the entries in his/her diary as time progresses. In addition, to keep the little ones occupied, the whole town acts like a kind of organic Fisher Price Activity Centre - click on a piano in somebody's living room and it starts playing, click on the fruit and veg at the grocer's and watch them dance about on the roof... that kind of thing. In fact, it kept me going for ages. I was gurgling like an idiot and sucking my thumb by the end.
Yankee Doodle Bollocks
The graphics are brilliantly designed, managing somehow to pack masses of detail into each small element, yet leave the whole thing looking as crisp and clear as an illustration in a children's book. There's a pleasing selection of silly sound effects to accompany the action, too.
The only downside is the stomach-churning Yankness to the whole thing -it's packed full of burger joints and video arcades; all the inhabitants wear back-to-front baseball caps and ride skateboards. In fact, it's so American, you half expect your Sim Citizens to erect a statue of Abraham Lincoln before bombing the town next door.
However, there's a pretty heavy-handed message lurking away behind all of this toytown kerfuffle. The player is encouraged, nay, practically forced at gunpoint, to create an ecologically friendly town. The financial side of Sim town has been replaced by a "natural resource" credit system: every item you place on the map will cost you a number of trees, or a few gallons of water from the lake. And you'd better start recycling your rubbish, damn you, or else your pretty little dream town turns into the Armpit City of Death in a trice.
It's well-designed, easy on the eye, genuinely educational, and most important of all, really good fun. If you're a little kid, that is. If you've got any spare children lying around, buy them a copy of this and, if they don't appreciate it, then there's something wrong with them. For which, as a parent, you can only blame yourself. So there. Just don't be surprised if they start asking for trips to the local mall or a big slice of apple pie.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP