It's hard to believe that creator Will Wright had trouble selling his original SimCity concept to publishers. That first game went on to fame, notoriety, and great praise--from critics, gamers, and even educators--and spawned countless imitators, not the least of which include Wright's own smaller-scale The Sims, which went on to become a phenomenon in its own right. Now on its fourth edition, SimCity returns to our hard drives, and would-be city planners everywhere will be busy for a long, long time.
SimCity 4 functions much like its predecessors. You've got the power to zone land as residential (green), commercial (blue), and industrial (yellow). You control the budget. You decide where to place crucial services like police, fire, medical, and even utilities like power and water. You place schools, parks, roads, water towers, and scenery as you accede to the many demands of your Sim citizens. Do a good job and your city will grow and the money will flow into your coffers. Do a bad job and the people will pack up and move away, leaving your city treasury in horrific debt and landing you what the game cheekily considers to be a far easier job: senator. The game requires a balancing act that takes both planning and a persnickety nature. There are charts to read, reports to watch, and, above all, needs to juggle. It's rewarding when it all comes together, and frustrating when you fail, once again, to build anything worthwhile.