SimCity Buildit – A Great City Builder in a Small Package

simcity

Fans of the original Simcity (as well as those who simply enjoy a great RTS) can squeak, hop and giggle at the release of EA’s second mobile offering in the series, SimCity Buildit. Once again, role players will return to a city where they become the mayor. The superior horsepower of mobile devices today renders the world around our city with a wonderfully detailed anime quality, and the gameplay, sound effects and music are on par with what one would expect from an RTS of this kind.
SimCity Buildit hack bears striking resemblances to several well-known RTS, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. The animation style is, of course, pure Japanese anime, and the gameplay has both City XXl & Civilization feel to it. The character “parties” move around the screen “choo-choo” style, with each character mimicking the movements of the leader. Experienced gamers will find more than a few references to other games in Evolution 2’s characters, items and music.

The game has a nearly flawless control system, and the camera angles are controllable on the fly — the left and right triggers will pan the camera to the left or right respectively. If a player doesn’t like the overhead perspective, it can be changed to an Ocarina of Time perspective with one button push. As to the rest of the controls, we’re talking familiar territory — old school RTS. This is a turn-based, chalk-up-the-hit-points type game. Those who plan to buy it should know this ahead of time.

Players can sharpen their skills in the “Tower of Despair,” which is basically a training ground for would-be adventurers. It’s a good idea to sharpen up combat skills in this arena, as the stakes are much lower, and there’s a lot to gain by learning how to defeat certain enemies. It really pays off in the end.

Once players accept a mission of becoming a mayor, it is now his goal to to become the best that he can bring city as much as possible. The game’s action takes place, are where the game’s few flaws come out. There are two types of city in the game, predefined and random. The predefined ones never change, but the random ones are different every time they are entered. As a result, some of the city can be overly confusing in terms of where to go next, and the repetitive encounters with the same types of creature could drive a player up the wall if they are not big RTS fans.

The sound effects work well for the title, as do the cinemas that further the story. These cinemas appear appropriately throughout, especially when the characters return to the hotel after a long mission. They never feel out of place or put there just for eye candy. The story will compel those who give it a chance. SimCity Buildit is a fast, funny, cute and thrilling RTS that combines elements gamers already love. First timers might find it a bit frustrating, but RTS fans will find it’s more of the same delightful stuff.

Old School Racing Game – Want to Try?

Formula One racing hasn’t been quite as much fun since the sport was overhauled in the early ’80s. Before it was regulated, the car specifications were all over the place. Weird cars won almost every event with totally insane six-wheeled, supercharged turbofan wearing-monstrosities. Seriously. And it was that kind of outrageous reliance on weirdo technology that caused the homologation (we can use that word with impunity now, thanks to Sega GT) of the F1 circuit. Now, as in NASCAR, the F1 autos have to follow set requirements. They still vary massively, and more importantly, so do the tracks.

If you’ve never raced a Formula One game, then the closest thing in terms of strategy would be NASCAR — you have to tweak your car and pit stop, conserve fuel, all that sort of thing. The difference is that the cars are incredibly taut, precise beasts, and rely as much on braking and turning prowess as they do on top speed. A driver who knows how to brake can be more successful than one who knows how to shift and jam on the gas.

Formula One tracks, and this game features all of the famous world circuits, are difficult to navigate. Long straights are the exception rather than the rule, and you’ll spend more time braking to cut into tight chicanes than you will racing along at 200 mph plus. The cars respond well to the nightmare treatment you dish out– most of them will stop and turn on a dime. But that kind of play gives Formula One a weird, staccato rhythm that might take some getting used to. The two player split-screen mode provides ample diversion, and the in-depth car management screens are almost a game in themselves.

Graphically, it’s fine — this is very much a first-generation Dreamcast title, developed over a year ago by Japanese company Video System — but those guys know their F1, and most of the tracks are pretty faithful recreations of the real thing. Only Monaco is disappointing, looking a wee bit drab and lifeless. Some of the “curves” use questionably few polygons too. As is the fashion these days, the replays are even more impressive than the gameplay. All in all, a delicious graphical feast — and even with its faults — the best-looking F1 game yet.

In terms of realism, it’s almost peerless. If the weather shifts during a game, you have to adjust not only your driving strategy, but also your car setup — straight into the pits for a tire change. That level of simulation can be avoided simply by choosing the quick-and-dirty race mode, just get in and drive, but it’s as a simulation that this game has most of its appeal. There are 16 tracks to race, naturally including all of the current F1 circuits; with six different types of weather and a wealth of management options, this adds up to a tremendously involving race sim.

There are some minor quibbles about race AI. Early races are almost too easy, and your team partner can’t be relied upon to do anything other than race his own race. And since a race can last for 72 laps, the investment in time is immense — you’ll be suffering the same tests of endurance as the real drivers (minus the four Gs on your neck muscles, of course). All in all, this is a detail-rich, graphically smart and gameplay intensive title that will thrill F1 fans and probably please generic race guys plenty.

Caesars Palace 2000 – A Game Missed

Want to experience all the fun of picking cards and pulling slot machine wheels without all the cheap food, free drinks, glamorous surroundings, beautiful women and risky excitement of Vegas? Then Caesars Palace 2000 is for you! If you’re normal, however, then you might want to steer clear of Interplay’s newest stinker.

True, we approached Caesars Palace with some skepticism. After all, how fun could gambling on a Dreamcast be? The fun of gambling is WINNING MONEY. Even losing money is fun, because the risk that’s involved gives one a rush of adrenaline. The fun isn’t in picking the cards, and it would be hard to find someone who would sit in front of a slot machine, pulling the arm all day long, if there weren’t a chance to hit it big. Someone at Interplay forgot the all-important “fun” factor and decided to just give us all the other stuff involved in Las Vegas style gambling.

Upon starting the game, players enter a somewhat drab lobby to decide in which form they wish to test their luck. The glitter of Vegas is nowhere to be found, even in virtual form. The Lobby is merely a screen consisting of six options: Card Games, Table Games, Slot Machines, Video Games, Cashier and View Statistics. Available card games are: Blackjack, Spanish 21, Mini Baccarat, Red Dog, Pai Gow Poker and Casino War. The rules of each are neatly explained in the game instructions, and a help screen is available if necessary (though it rarely answers the questions that arise). Further, a gambling coach pops up on the screen after players have made a decision in a game, to tell the player what they should have done. While initially annoying, the gambling coach is actually a pretty good feature. It definitely helped us improve our game by repeatedly pointing out the flushes and straights we missed. The above games proceed exactly how one might expect them to; it’s all very simple and drab. Even the dealer’s voice is an annoying monotone that refuses to excite.

The Table Games section only has two games, Craps and Roulette. While these are probably the most fun games in CP 2000, they certainly don’t knock one over with their excitement. Being videogame fanatics, and generally shying away from such social endeavors as card and table games, we first made our way directly to the Video Games section, expecting at least a little fun. The Video Games section includes Video Keno, Video Poker and Poker Challenge. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much to say about these games. In Video Keno, you randomly pick numbers and hope the computer does or doesn’t pick the numbers you did, depending on the game you’re playing. Other than that, the video games are rather straightforward and lacking in any real innovation or creativity. Couldn’t we at least get some showgirls beside the machines to cheer us on? Apparently not.

Starting as a novice, the game gives each player $2,000 to gamble with. At first, players may only play at the lower-limit tables of $1-$100, or on slot and video machines using 50-cent coins. As players increase their bankroll, they are also increasing their rank and will be entering into higher stakes tables. However, once they build up their rank, players will rarely be coached or helped, as it is assumed they already know their mistakes. Players progress through the ranks by playing the required minimum number of rounds and winning the specified amount of money. Once players reach the “Professional” ranking in every game, they will be invited into the Emperor’s Club. Here, they can play with table limits of $1,000-$100,000.

Players can borrow money from the cashier when their stash is low. Don’t worry, there isn’t some surly, cigar-smoking meathead behind the counter to deal with (though it probably would have been more fun if there were); instead the cashier is just a virtual ATM that will loan players money when they fall below the $200 amount. They can borrow money in chunks of $2,000 and can go all the way up to $10,000 in debt. Don’t worry, though; if you lose all of the casino’s money, you need only to start a new player and wear a fake mustache while you play.

It wouldn’t be fair not to mention the graphics of CP 2000. It is probably the best looking casino game on the market. But it’s hard to think of someone who would actually play this game for fun. Since actual gambling (which is a lot more fun) can be found in almost any populated area, someone would have to be pretty hard up for things to do to actually progress to the top of this game. However, we live in a society where sadomasochism is not only accepted, but even encouraged in some places. This game will surely find a home in the leather-smelling dungeons of several dominatrixes looking to push the pains of their clients past the mere physical realm. Others, however, need not apply.