PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Massive coincidence alert! I've just settled down to write this review, and in the background I've got the telly on. "So what?" you may ask. "Where's the coincidence in that?" Well, the subject matter of the tv programme in question just so happens to be skyscrapers. Big deal, though, huh? Why am I mentioning any of this? Well, the reason is that there's just been a quote from one of the most annoying "talking heads" in the entire universe. I missed her name but she is obviously a rampant man-hater (dungarees, Doctor Martins, massive bi-focal spectacles, beard, American). Here's what she just said, and very smugly to boot:
"Skyscrapers disgust me. Their sole purpose is to celebrate the penis. Men are pathetic. It would have been impossible for a woman to invent a structure as ridiculous as a tower block."
Doh! So the ideal structure, to house a large number of people, given a limited floor space... is what exactly? A bungalow? Or maybe just an open-plan "garden area" with a vegan rest-room and a rebirthing chamber? Stupid cow.
Sorry to have digressed so early in the review, but people like that get so far up my nose it's unreal. I had to vent my spleen somewhere and, unfortunately, it happened here. But with that out of my system it's time to move, very definitely, onto the game under scrutiny - Sim Tower from Penis. (Duncan means Maxis. He's obviously still a bit bet up. Ed.) Sim Tower is actually extremely easy to pigeonhole and, ironically. Maxis actually created the pigeon-hole itself, about a squillion years ago. Here goes: Sim Tower is Sim City, but viewed from the side rather than from the top. In Sim City you had a finite playing area and you had to place down residential, commercial and industrial areas in such a way that they didn't all piss each other off too much. Pollution came in the form of smog, and there was the problem of transport connections (road, rail, air). In Sim Tower you have to do much the same regarding the people, shops ) and industries (offices); only this time round, pollution comes in the form of noise, and transport is, well, staircases, elevators and escalators, basically.
Pass the mogadons...
Wait! Sleeping tablets are not necessarily required! Even though Sim Tower is virtually identical to Sim City in concept, the challenges involved do tend to pull you in to a slightly more "personal" level. In Sim City you were dealing with millions of people. Sim Tower, on the other hand, deals with only thousands of people. And as a result, rather less of the gameplay involves studying maps and charts and the like: you're in the game much "closer", as it were. You can click on individual rooms, and even on people, to glean your information (even if it is generally a case of "my neighbours are too noisy").
What are the goals?
Sim Penis (Tower. Ed.). Sim Tower is called a "software toy"rather than a game per se. Just like all the other Maxis stuff. In other words, you can just sort of try things out and see how they work, and then try something different the next time round. But essentially, like Sim City, you'll still need to satisfy certain game requirements before really progressing. Your main concern, obviously, is money. And this money comes, obviously again, from the people who either buy apartments, or rent offices or shop space. It's a symbiotic thing. (Or, cue unfunny joke, a Sim Biotic thing. Ho ho not very ho.) The better you do - just like in "Sim Everything Else" - the more your inventory swells. Balance everything out correctly and you're given more balls to juggle with, but the more balls you get, the harder it becomes to keep them all in the air at the same time. You know the drill. At the end of the day you need to increase the "star rating" of your block (from one through to five) and also, as you might have guessed, its height. The ultimate aim is one hundred storeys with a cathedral on top. How wide or narrow the building starts at is down to you, incidentally, but they generally adopt a weird profile as they head for the stars and have to cope with your monumental planning blunders. That's all part of the "fun", though. Play with shapes, basically.
In Sim City a roughly equal emphasis was given over to just about everything you did - whether it was property zoning, policing, placing transport systems, or whatever. That was, and still is, part of its inherent beauty. In Sim Tower, however, the balance is a tad less honed. Everything is still intertwined, sure, but there's definitely a thick end of the infrastructure wedge, which involves the elevators (or lifts, if we're being British here). Here's the problem:
Sim Tower takes a certain element from both Railroad Tycoon and, more latterly, the brilliant Transport Tycoon. I'm talking about junctions and timetables and stuff. During the first stages of your tower you just need a couple of lifts, which go up and down to whichever floor requests them. Just plonk them in and leave them alone. As things progress, however, you begin to wish you had Carol Vorderman's phone number, because the elevator control window would not look at all out of place in a mhnsa test.
As I write this I realise that the difficulty factor involved in Sim Tower's elevator placement is a sort of double-edged sword; provoking the question of whether or not the increased difficulty adds to the addictiveness of the game as a whole. And the answer, as far as I can make out, is that it might very well do if the graphics were better - and you could actually see what was going on.
Assuming you've got the right Windows drivers (I didn't and went through several hours of bemused hell before finally giving up and using one of the office pc's), we're talking 256 colours in svga. It's all very "flat looking", though (as you can see). The various offices and lobbies and suchlike are all very "clear", sure, but sometimes "clear" isn't good enough. It's quite hard to explain exactly why this is, but just take my word for it... you simply don't get a sense of what exactly is going on in your building and everything just looks like a confusing mess. The sticklike figures zap about in accelerated time, going from one location to another, but never do you really feel as if you're in on the action in a particularly big way, either. Er, I think what I'm actually trying to say is that the graphics are pretty crap.
The point-and-click mousey routines in Sim Tower are also a bit suspect. They work and all that, don't get me wrong, but it all feels rather sloppy and jerky. In other words, it's very easy to miss your placement points, meaning that the two-bed hotel room you just plonked down is an annoying four pixels away from its intended position. This forces you into being "careful" - meaning that you can't zap about the screen at your own speed like you could in Stm City, but instead have to pussy-foot around like a tossy old git. As you can imagine, it's rather frustrating, to say the least.
So, what's the score?
A lot of reviewers are probably going to give Sim Tower a real slagging off for being the Nth in the series. Backlash city. However, I personally don't see that as being the problem. I reckon Sim Tower could have been as excellent as the original Sim City if the graphics had been bigger, and if some sort of "humour" had been added. (Basically, take the best parts of Theme Park, add them to a visually reconstructed Sim Tower, and you'd probably have a winner.)
As it stands, however, Sim Tower is just sort of "okay" in a retro sort of way, with loads of annoying bits. Just like the Post Office Tower, actually. (Eh? Ed.)