Pirates! review

Ahoy there mateys! Welcome back to Retro Freak Reviews. And before ye all send me down to Davy Jones’ locker for not posting a review during the entire summer, let me redeem my sinner soul by offering ye this fine review in this finest of International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I’m talking about Pirates! (the game, not in general…)

Pirates! (aka Sid Meier’s Pirates!) is an action-strategy game made by Microprose and originally released in 1987 for the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Commodore 64 and the PC Booter. It was re-released the following year for the Apple IIgs and the Macintosh. In 1989, it was again re-released for the Atari ST, PC-89 and the PC-98. In 1990, it was ported for the Amiga, in 1991, it was ported to the NES and in 1994, the PC Booter version was officially ported to DOS (earlier DOS versions were actually the PC Booter version modified and/or hacked to play on DOS).

Pirates! came to be when famous game designer Sid Meier along with fellow designer Arnold Hendrick wanted to make a roleplaying adventure game but Bill Stealey, Microprose’s co-founder, was skeptical because Microprose was only known back then by their vehicle simulations. Still, Meier and Hendrick were able to convince Stealey to take a chance at different genres and inspired by pirate novels, they created Pirates!

But as always, let’s first look at the covers:

19179-sid-meier-s-pirates-atari-st-front-coverFirst we have this cover which depicts a naval battle between a pirate ship and some other ship (probably some poor merchant’s). The artwork is good and action-packed but I’m not a big fan of the purple border, although I do like the title art.

531893-sid-meier-s-pirates-apple-ii-front-coverThen we have this cover which is one of my favourites, as it depicts a more swashbuckling action scene, reminiscent of an old Errol Flynn movie. It could perfectly be a pirate novel cover. It’s also the first game cover to include Sid Meier’s name, as Microprose thought his name would help increase sales.

309341-sid-meier-s-pirates-commodore-64-front-coverNow this cover isn’t that half-bad although it’s not as action-packed as the former covers  are but the background could be more colourful.

25319-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-front-coverNow I don’t oppose to the usage of photos (or realistic art) over traditional artwork, but I do wish this cover was, again, a bit more action-packed or the background more busy. Still it could be worse, I suppose.

33525-sid-meier-s-pirates-nes-front-coverThis is the NES cover and it’s another of my favourites as it showcases a lot of the stuff this game features. And it even has a pirate skull, years before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

But it’s time to boot this booty:

Later versions of the game feature a nice CGA title screen (although you can play the game with EGA graphics) and then after the settings menu, you go to another menu where it asks if you want to start a new game, load a previous game or command a famous historical expedition (later on this).

As you start a new game, you have the option to choose your nationality (between English, Spanish, Dutch and French, the nationalities that were more active in the Spanish Main between 1560-1700), the time period (if you don’t choose a specific time period, then the game takes you to the easiest one, The Buccaneer Heroes in 1660) and finally your last name (I suggest something from your chosen nationality or a famous pirate name). Then you choose the difficulty setting between 4 and a special ability between 5. This special ability will define your playthrough and can make it easier or harder depending in how you use it, so choose wisely.

10065-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-small-antilles

Exploring an island.

The game then gives you a backstory about how you traveled to the Spanish Main in the Caribbean in search of fortune but ended up as a slave working at a plantation, where you meet some sailors. The sailors ask you about either the Silver Train or the Treasure Fleet (which is the game’s copy protection). If you get it right, the sailors turn out to be pirates and then encourage you to challenge their captain in a sword duel for leadership.

This is your tutorial of sorts into sword duels, where you need to use either the keyboard or the joystick to control your character in attacking and parrying your opponent. If you answered wrongly the copy protection question, this duel will be very hard to win and if you lose, you’ll get a smaller crew and a pinnacle as a starting ship. But if you answered correctly, then the duel should be much easier and a victory will give you a bigger crew and a sloop as a starting ship. I like the fact that failing the copy protection question doesn’t automatically boot you out of the game but instead gives you a harder challenge.

169848-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-ship-ahoy

Ship ahoy!

Then you and your crew find yourselves in a random colony belonging to your chosen nationality, where you can visit the governor, who informs you who his country is at war or at peace with, can offer you a letter of marque (making you a corsair for that specific nationality), can also offer missions that can give you the opportunity to raise your rank and can present to you his daughter which opens up more options.

Still in the colonies, you can also visit taverns to chat to the owner but also to get news regarding other colonies, hire more people for your crew, buy treasure maps or get more inside knowledge of other colonies. You can also visit merchants to buy and sell stocks, food (which you’ll need to feed your crew), cannons and sell extra ships. After doing everything in a colony, it’s time to set sail and explore the Spanish Main.

After leaving a colony, you’re presented with an overhead map in which you control your ship. I suggest having your Spanish Main map at hand because Pirates! it’s a sandbox game and you have the complete freedom to go anywhere you want and do whatever you want. You can attack other boats, whether they are merchants or pirates of all nationalities, pillage or trade goods between the colonies (again, regardless of nationalities), go search for buried treasures or simply explore the Spanish Main. This makes Pirates! one of the earliest open-ended sandbox computer games.

169864-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-at-another-port

Docked at a port

It’s actually quite easy to control a ship once you get the hang of it, the secret is to use the wind in your favour (these are wind-propelled ships after all). Just look at the clouds at the overhead map and raise or lower your sails accordingly. And when you finally master the sailing, then you’re ready for some sea battles. When simply sailing near any colony, you’ll have random encounters with other ships, who can be merchants or other pirates. You have the option to attack (or they’ll attack you) or simply hail them for news.

The sea battles are also pretty simple: you basically steer your ship towards the other ship (or a fort, if attacking a colony), using the winds in your favour, all the while firing your cannons (which are situated on both sides of the ship, which will require some great steering and accuracy in order to hit the other ship). The objective is to ram the other ship, giving you and your crew the opportunity to board it. When that occurs, the enemy captain then singles you out for a sword duel.

Sword duels are how any battles are ultimately decided between the captains. But before the duel starts, you have to choose which sword to wield between a rapier (a long and weak sword), a longsword (a medium weapon) or a cutlass (a curved, short but powerful sword). Even if your crew is outnumbered by a larger enemy crew, you can still win the fight by defeating its captain (but don’t expected a single-digit crew to defeat another crew in the hundreds), regardless of your skill with a sword.

322635-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-defeated-a-ship-s

Winning a duel.

After defeating another crew, you’re able to plunder their ship for treasure and goods (and some of its crew might even want to join you) and also the choice to add the ship to your fleet or sink it. There are several types of ships you can capture and use as your own, beginning from small, faster ships like pinnacles and sloops to bigger but slower ships like galleons and frigates. I recommend getting a ship with a balance between speed and size.

You can also attack colonies either by sea (which will prompt a sea battle against forts armed with cannons) or a land battle featuring your crew against a colony’s guards. These types of battles are harder than the aforementioned sea battles but again it might end with another sword duel against the guards’ captain.

There’s also a sort of storyline where you search for your family members but it’s presented as another common side-mission. But just like all the other missions, is totally optional. However, you need to pay attention to the relations you maintain with all 4 nations, because it’s possible to become a wanted man by 1 or more nations and then they’ll send corsairs to hunt you down. Heck, even entering an enemy colony might be problematic because they can sink your ship (if said colony has forts, though). Luckily, you have the option to infiltrate colonies but if you’re spotted by a guard, you’ll have to fight him and run away.

322633-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-a-sea-battle-against

Firing your cannons.

After exploring and plundering the Spanish Main and dig up several treasures, your crew might grow restless and attempt to leave or worse, commit mutiny. In which case, I recommend sailing to a friendly colony and split up the treasure (as the captain, you’ll entitled to a bigger share). And after it, you have the option to either retire or hire a new crew. However, don’t think you can do this forever, as you age throughout the years and if you’re getting older (and less healthier), you might want to consider hanging up your booties and retire. And according to the wealth, lands and status you’ve accumulated throughout the years, you can end up your days from a common beggar all the way up as the King’s advisor.

And in case you’re looking for a bigger challenge, then I recommend selecting a harder difficulty setting, a different time period or even a historical expedition, where you take control of a famous captain of the past and have a determined objective (usually to go to a specific colony with your fleet intact) but it maintains the same open-ended sandbox style gameplay, which means you can do whatever you want.

I guess this covers almost all the main mechanics. There are more options and features in the game available, but I’ll let you find the rest. Now for the technical aspects: the sound and music are almost non-existent (except for the Tandy version). The little music themes aren’t bad but the wind noises in the overhead map can get a bit annoying. The graphics are colourful and well detailed (despite some small sprites) with some decent animation here and there. The controls are also good, although I recommend a joystick or a gamepad over the keyboard.

169863-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-a-tough-looking-bunch

Recruiting more pirates.

As other versions go, the Macintosh version might have more detailed graphics (despite being in black and white with an ugly overhead map) but it has perhaps the best control scheme with a mouse. The NES version is also pretty good but with smaller sprites and perhaps with the best animation, but personally the best version out there might just be the Amiga version with beautiful graphics, sound and music, apart from great controls also.

Pirates! had such a great success among players and critics alike (especially due to its historical and geographical accuracy) that Microprose decided to do remake it years later as Pirates! Gold.

Pirates! Gold is an action/strategy game developed by MPS Labs and published by Microprose. It was originally released in 1993 for DOS and the Sega Megadrive/Genesis. It was re-released the following year for the Amiga CD32, Macintosh and Windows.

And of course, it came with its own covers:

123798-pirates-gold-dos-front-cover

In the vein of the original cover, this depicts another sea battle. But this time, without any ugly borders and with a cool title logo.

74731-pirates-gold-amiga-cd32-front-cover

This is the Amiga CD32 cover and as you can see, it’s a bit more action-packed than the previous cover. I simply wish it also was a bit more colourful. At least, it’s a lot better then the inside cover:

219027-pirates-gold-amiga-cd32-inside-cover

Yeah, I’m not a fan of this cover. And if you’re wondering if that’s a screenshot from the game, I think it was supposed to be part of the intro as it’s very reminiscent of, but I never saw it while playing.

116598-pirates-gold-genesis-front-cover

This is the Megadrive/Genesis cover and I also like it, especially the fact that the guy in the centre always reminds me of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

But enough covers and let’s boot this new booty:

As you can see, this remake has vastly improved graphics, resolution, music and sound. It’s basically the same game play-wise but with some new features, like new missions from the governors, new characters to interact with and new options to explore.

I particularly like all the visual aids this remake provides, like an in-game map (with all the colonies displayed) and the ships and captains’ status during seas battles and sword duels. Not to mention a turbo mode that can be used in the overhead map, making the sailing on open sea a lot faster (and less boring). And also due to these new features, the gameplay feels a lot easier in comparison with the original’s difficulty.

Pirates! Gold also has a particular art style that reminds me of Baroque paintings that complements the game perfectly, graphic-wise. And the music is also top-notch, although  a few of the sound effects here and there seem a bit out of place (like when getting hit during a sword duel).

573-pirates-gold-dos-screenshot-sailing

Sailing away.

But Pirates! Gold is far from a perfect remake.  The game’s controls use a mix of mouse and keyboard (even the manual recommends using the keyboard over the mouse in some sections). And although the mouse is perfect to navigate the menus, it’s not so easy to use it on the rest of the game. In fact, I recommend the keyboard for the sword duels because using the mouse feels clumsy and counter-intuitive (although in some instances it’s a bit better than the keyboard, like when sailing)

And also, you can only save the game when in a colony, in contrast with the original, where you could save anywhere. I personally don’t like this new direction. And when Pirates! Gold was originally released, it came with some game-breaking bugs that caused some crashes and although the game is currently patched, it still occasionally crashes here and there.

As far as other versions go, the Macintosh version is very similar to the PC version except for being even more buggy if that’s possible. The Genesis/Megadrive version however, has a cartoony artstyle depicting bigger sprites and a presentation closer to the original, as is the Amiga CD32 version, although the latter has CD quality music and digitised sound effects. In fact both these versions look more like remasters than proper remakes but they also have much better controls than the PC version.

169871-pirates-gold-dos-screenshot-uh-oh-this-guy-looks-real-mad

Challenged to a duel.

So in conclusion, both Pirates! and Pirates! Gold have an extremely in-depth gameplay where it offers players absolute freedom to engage in it however they want. I must confess I slightly prefer the original over the remake: in one hand, the original Pirates! has great controls and more attention to detail in the text descriptions, despite the graphics, music and sound aging a bit. In the other hand, Pirates! Gold has a beautiful graphical and aural presentation, easier gameplay but the controls are inferior and there are still some bugs here and there.

Still, I heavily recommend both versions (the remake more towards new players and the original more towards veterans). You can buy both versions bundled here at GOG.com or here at Steam.

Like I mentioned before, Pirates! had an enormous success but its remake didn’t. This was due to the fact that Pirates! Gold was heavily bugged and that most people probably thought it was a sequel with very few new features instead of a remake. Still, the original game had such an impact on the industry that a second remake called Sid Meier’s Pirates!: Live the Life was released in 2004 with 3D graphics and even more new gameplay features and options.

169873-pirates-gold-dos-screenshot-meeting-the-governor-s-young-niece

Meeting the governor’s niece.

In fact, one can say that almost, if not all pirates games that came afterwards were influenced one way or the other by Pirates! You can even find such influence in modern titles like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Sea of Thieves. And now that Microprose announced a return, I’m hoping to see a new modern remake with new features, like character creation and customisation, among others.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this BIG review (to make up for my absence) and I wish you all a happy International Talk Like a Pirate day. I’m preparing another special review for Halloween but I’m going to try to squeeze another review until then. So, shiver my timbers and keep on playing or else I’ll send ye down to Davy Jones’ locker! AAARRRRRRR!

Quarantine review

Everybody knows that one of the most influential videogames ever to be released for the PC was Doom. So much so that shortly afterwards a bunch of games with very similar gameplay and graphical engines were released, which became known as “Doom clones”. I’ve already reviewed one of these clones (and one day, I promise to review the original Doom), but today we’re going to take a look at one of the few Doom clones that dared to add something extra. I’m talking about Quarantine.

Quarantine is a FPS/driving simulation game developed by Imagexcel and published by Gametek. It was originally released in 1994 for DOS and the 3DO. In 1996, it was re-released only in Japan for the Playstation (as Hard Rock Cab) and the SEGA Saturn (as Death Throttle: Kakuzetsu Toshi kara no Dasshutsu).

But as always, before looking at the game, let’s look at the cover:

50658-quarantine-dos-front-coverI confess I’m not a big fan of simplistic covers because usually they don’t convey much. But this one I must confess I like. A lot. It’s just a windshield wiper cleaning what appears to be blood (the single drop in the upper part suggest as such). It simply conveys vehicles and violence in a way that intrigues everyone. It’s graphic but not explicitly so. Some versions add the tagline “driving a cab in this town… is murder” which makes said violence slightly more explicit.

But it’s time to boot this sucker:

First, I must confess that I love this intro. It’s so insane and at the same time, it pumps you up for the game. It looks like a sort of dystopian and violent future but you only see the cab, its driver and the passengers (and tons of guns). Then we have a proper exposition that’s further expanded in the manual: you play as Drake Edgewater, a hover cab driver in the dystopian city of Detroi…uhh, KEMO City in the year 2047. Around ten years prior, the city was exposed to a virus that turned its inhabitants into psychotic killers by a company called Omnicorp (whose logo looks suspiciously like the OCP logo from Robocop). Edgewater, who’s immune to the virus, must carry out his job while finding a way to escape the city.

Fortunately, your cab is equipped with a machine gun mounted upfront in the hood and your initial objective is to drive around the city dodging and shooting at other cars, armed pedestrians and mines while picking up passengers and dropping them at specific points of the city within a limited time. But every now and then, you’ll get an assignment to drop a package within the aforementioned time limit and if you succeed, then some mysterious bloke will be impressed by your driving and armed combat skills and promises more undercover missions. Do enough of these missions and you’ll get a code to move to another (and harder) section of the city, where more missions and richer passengers await you.

249-quarantine-dos-screenshot-two-cars-reduced-to-flaming-wreckage

Extreme road rage!

The main screen is quite detailed with all the information you need in the upper and lower part of the screen with the main view on the center. I have to say that I’m impressed in how the developers were able to cram every information monitor and counter (like weapons, radar, compass, etc) without sacrificing none of the main view. And you also have two side views (where you can shoot at enemies on your left or right).

With enough money gained from your fares, you can also repair and upgrade your cab with more weapons, shields and other gadgets to make the gameplay easier. And believe me, you’re going to need it because apart from the passengers, everything is gunning for you: crazy, armed people in the middle of the road (which is always a joy to run over), other vehicles, tanks, mines, etc. But the biggest difficulties I’ve encountered while playing were the time limits and the navigation.

250-quarantine-dos-screenshot-deadbeat-fare

Picking up a passenger.

The passengers you pick up are seemingly random (apart from the undercover missions) and entertaining in their own right, but some of them want to be dropped off on some distant spot on the map within a small time limit. And if you drop him/her past the time limit, then the fare they pay is pitiful, especially if you received a lot of damage and said fare isn’t enough to cover the repair. Luckily, you can refuse passengers and/or eject them from your cab if you believe the fare isn’t worth it (the eject option even becomes essential during a story mission). Even with the help of your map (which is probably your best tool), navigating through the city isn’t easy because sometimes you might encounter a narrow passage that you believe it’s possible to go through (and the map confirms as such) but ultimately it isn’t possible.

Controlling the cab can be quite a chore (and the time limits don’t help) and it’s mostly due to the engine used. Imagexcel developed a game engine more towards FPS action than driving simulation (which is why there weren’t many hybrids of the two genres back then) and it shows while playing it. It’s easy to forget you’re controlling a vehicle, until you try to go through a narrow passage that a person on foot could easily go through and other driving related actions. But with time and patience, it’s possible to master the driving controls enough to start enjoying the game.

377453-quarantine-dos-screenshot-service-shop-interface

Repairing your cab.

The graphics and animations are quite good, especially the design of the city with a dark and industrial colour palette that fits the game’s dystopian aesthetic perfectly. The sound effects are equally good with several digital samples that enhance the action. And I recommend the CD-ROM version just for the cutscenes and the fantastic Alternative Rock themes that, in their majority, fit the dystopian setting and the action quite well. Although the cab can be hard to control, it’s not due to the keyboard controls, that are actually quite responsive.

In conclusion, Quarantine could have been a fantastic game if it wasn’t for its steep learning curve in mastering the driving controls and the repetitive nature of the game. Because everything else in it it’s great. If you have the time and patience to master the game, then I recommend it. But if you’re looking for a simple driving/action game, easy to get into, then I can’t really recommend it. And if you want to try it in your own browser, then go here.

377458-quarantine-dos-screenshot-your-trusty-uzi-for-strafing-psycho

“Die scum!”

Quarantine had some critical acclaim but it was so well received by the public that it became a cult classic, despite its flaws. And although it wasn’t the first of its genre, it was one of the first games that mixed driving simulation and FPS action and therefore, inspired subsequent hybrid games that would surpassed it, like its own sequel, Road Warrior Quarantine II, and the Carmageddon and Twisted Metal series.

So, do you like these types of games? Which is your favorite? Tell me in the comments below or on our social media. Next time, we’re going the final frontier again. Until then, keep on driving and shooting. See ya!

SimCity review

And again we’re going to take a look at not just a true classic game, but also a highly influential title that helped define an entire genre, spawned several clones and influenced several other titles. I’m talking about the one and only SimCity.

SimCity is a simulation/managerial game developed by Maxis and published by Infogrames. It was originally released in 1989 for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, DOS and Macintosh. It was re-released the following year for the BBC Micro, Atari ST, Electron, FM Towns, PC-98, Sharp X68000 and the ZX Spectrum. In 1991, it was ported for the SNES and the CDTV. In 1992, it was again re-released for Windows 3.X and in 1993, for DOS as an Enhanced CD-ROM version and for the Acorn 32-bit. In 1994, it was ported for OS/2 and in 1995, it was again ported for Macintosh (Enhanced CD-ROM) and Windows 95 (version 2.0). In 1999, it was ported to Symbian and Palm OS. In 2006, the SNES version was re-released in the Wii Virtual Console and in 2007, the original version was re-released for modern Windows as SimCity Classic.

SimCity was originally conceptualised by Will Wright, who developed it as Micropolis in 1985 for the Commodore 64 and pitched it to several publishers, but it was originally rejected due to the latter’s lack of belief it would sell. So Wright founded Maxis alongside Jeff Braun in order to publish the game along with Infogrames and Brøderbund.

But enough of backstory and let’s look at the covers, shall we?

22630-simcity-commodore-64-front-coverThis is the original cover and it features an over-top photo of Sydney, Australia (you can tell by the Opera House at the bottom) with some colourful drawings of some buildings juxtaposed. It’s a very good cover and it hints at the game’s content in a funny way. Definitely my favourite cover.

216372-simcity-commodore-64-front-coverThis is probably the most famous cover. It features a sort of retro-techno machine with several of the game’s options and a picture of Godzilla. It’s quite a nice cover, but I think I prefer the original cover over this one. Toho however, didn’t like the unlicensed depiction of Godzilla and forced Maxis to change the cover:

39822-simcity-dos-front-cover

I have to confess Godzilla makes this cover look a lot cooler.

But the SNES version had his own cover:

480371-simcity-snes-front-coverWhile I do like the title design, this is a pretty unimaginative cover. Probably the worst cover of them all.

100386-simcity-windows-front-coverThis is the Windows CD-ROM cover and it’s based on the second cover, as you can see. It’s quite a good cover with some very clean lines.

But enough cover art and it’s time to boot this sucker. Well, I should say suckers, because for the purposes of this review I played three different versions of this game: the original DOS version, the Enhanced CD-ROM version and the Windows 95 version (although I didn’t played the latter a lot because it doesn’t run well on Windows 10, even patched).

Right in the title screen (which has a nice touch by using a street sign) you can choose between three options: start a new city from scratch, load a previous city or play one of several scenarios. We’ll start with the first option since it’s the game’s main mode and the most played.

When starting a new city and after choosing the difficulty level and the future city’s name, you’ll be given an empty terrain (with likely a river running across it) to start building your city (unless you have the Terrain Editor, where you can create your own terrain to play in). Immediately you’ll notice a different UI than most games at the time. There’s two windows (the main one and a terrain map), which you can edit its size like it was a Windows program. On top there’s a menu bar with four menus with several gameplay options. But we’re going to focus on the main window because it’s where the main gameplay occurs.

617850-simcity-dos-screenshot-now-village-mission-from-zero-to-city

Starting a new city.

The main window contains a screen with an overworld POV and on its left, a group of several icons, each representing what you can build (except for the bulldozer, which only serves to remove). Below it, there’s a small graph with three coloured lines. each line representing the growth of the three main zonings of your city: Residential, Commercial and Industrial.

You see, you don’t actually build your city building by building (unless they’re public buildings). You actually plan zonings on the terrain where buildings can be built on, but however as the mayor, you have to provide all the necessary services required for living in a city (namely electricity and transportation). Building roads and rail tracks is quite easy actually, but to provide electricity you need first to build a power plant (coal or nuclear) and then power lines to distribute the electricity to your city.

As your city grows, you’ll also need to build other services, like Police and Fire stations, airports and seaports. But also some entertainment for your citizens, like parks and stadiums. Of course, not only you have to build all these for your city to grow, but you also have to manage the city budget. The budget window is also another important option because it’s here where you manage the taxes you collect and then distribute that money between your Transportation, Police and Fire departments. And unless you choose the option of auto-budget, the budget window appears at the end of every year when the taxes are collected.

617852-simcity-dos-screenshot-helicopter

“The traffic today seems to be quite fluid on main avenue”

But don’t think is that easy to build and run a city, because not only you have to properly manage your funds, you also need to focus at not letting crime and pollution rise or your citizens, commerce and industry will leave to better pastures. And still, that’s not the worst that can happen. If you payed attention to the video above (or played the game), you probably have noticed a “Disasters” menu. Well, this is a list of all the disasters that can randomly strike your city when you least expect it (that is, you can prevent disasters from occurring at the expense of a tax cut or you can directly activate a disaster from the aforementioned menu).

Disasters range from simple fires or floods to more destructive types, like tornados, earthquakes or even a kaiju-style monster rampaging through your city, provoking all types of explosions. And if any of these disasters strike down, having fire stations helps (a lot) because they’re the ones who put out the fires caused by any disaster (don’t know if they help with the floods too, though). And, if for some reason you’re bored while playing, you can always activate a disaster to shake things up. However, a disaster might destroy a part of your city and if you’re low on funds to rebuild it, then it’s better to reload a previous save (although the game doesn’t have a game over screen, an empty city with no funds is as close to it as you can get).

screenshot-4

Fires strike

But if you can overcome all of this and build an actual metropolis, you’ll realise there’s no actual ending to the game. You can play until your heart’s content and even fill the entire terrain with buildings. However, if you’re looking for more challenges, you can also play one of eight scenarios that come with the game. In each scenario, you become mayor of a famous city (San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, etc.) in a specific time period and have to accomplish certain goals (fight crime or save the city from a disaster) during a time limit. You have the same options as in main mode but the city is already built (you can however expand the city and/or improve it).

Now we’re going to focus on the technical aspects of the original DOS version. Although the DOS version has both 16 colours EGA and  256 colours VGA/MCGA graphics, the former has a better resolution and therefore it’s the one I recommend. The graphics in either graphic mode are quite good, with very detailed sprites of the larger buildings. The animation is a bit limited though but for a game of this type, it’s more than enough. The sound effects are very limited and there’s practically no music whatsoever. I recommend using a mouse because this type of UI was specifically made for mouses.

Also Maxis released some add ons that change the buildings graphics to resemble ancient or futuristic cities. It’s a small but cool extra in case you ever get tired of looking at the same sprites. Every posterior version was then released with these add ons already included.

Now we’re going to take a look at the Enhanced CD-ROM version:

This version of SimCity published by Interplay adds a lot of stuff while maintaining the same gameplay, so we’re just going to focus on these extra elements. The first thing you might notice is the new animated intro along with better graphics and resolution. There’s also improved and digitised sound effects along with digitised speech throughout the game. Honestly, there’s a speech clip for every option and icon you click and even the little messages that appear just above the main window are all in speech, which gets annoying after a few hours of gameplay because it’s common to get the same message over and over again.

But that’s not all. Apparently Maxis decided to fill the CD to the brim with not just speech clips, but also with video clips. Ranging from small and random “peek” clips, which are totally random and sometimes even bizarre and serve no purpose to the gameplay whatsoever to other longer video clips from your counselors either asking for more funding or for specific services to be provided. But again, these get tiring after awhile because of its repetition. Luckily you can turn off all of these options and I recommend so because they don’t contribute to the gameplay in my opinion and are extremely annoying.

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One of the many clips that plagues this version.

I also played the Windows 95 version (AKA version 2.0) for this review, but because it had issues with Windows 10, I could only played it for a hour or so. This version UI is perfect to play on Windows because you can increase the windows sizes to your computer’s native resolution and also provide ambient music throughout the gameplay. There are even updated sprites that look better with the updated resolution (although you can always revert back to the original graphics or one of the extra graphic add ons). But the best part is that there isn’t any more annoying sound and video clips.

In conclusion, SimCity might have not aged well gameplay-wise mostly due to how the genre has evolved throughout the years and how the sequels and clones have improved over the original, adding new options and stuff. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre, then you might want to give it a shot just to see how the managerial/city building genre started. If you’re interested in playing the original DOS version in your own browser, then go here.

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The Windows 3.X version

I never played any of the other ports, so I can’t make any comparisons. But I do know that the SNES version had some extra stuff, like Bowser as the monster. SimCity was an instant success among players and critics alike and won several awards. It did not just started the great Sim series, but also spawned several clones and inspired several other games and genres, like the Cities series and even the 4X genre.

In 2008, SimCity‘s source code was released for free under its original name, Micropolis, by Don Hopkins (you can download it here). But if you want to play it in your own browser, then I recommend going here or here.

Well, I hope you you’ve enjoyed the review. Next time, we’re taking a look at a game that I’ve been postponing for some time now. Until then, keep on building and playing.