A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that players have the ability to bring down a massive series of disasters (such as tornadoes, fires, earthquakes) to reduce their cities to rubble.
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What's it about?
SIMCITY 4 carries on the tradition of the SimCity series by allowing you to be the all-powerful mayor of your own city. Start with a 100,000 simoleons (Sim-style dollars) and a city name. Zone land for people and jobs; plan roads, the water system, and the energy network; trade with nearby cities; establish schools, hospitals, and emergency services; create parks and gardens. Plant trees, create parks, and plan community gardens.
Graphs, charts, and maps aid you in your decisions, as does listening to your Sims, a major new element in the game. You can name individual Sims, decide where they will live, and then observe how your city-level decisions affect them. Place a school near your Sim and they have a better chance at getting a higher-paying job; poor health care means your Sim could get sick and even die.
Is it any good?
Who would have guessed running a city could be so challenging, yet so fun? Your city is surprisingly resilient and the game is forgiving as you learn how to make your city a better place to live. You cannot help but learn some of the mechanics of politics, economics, geography, and ecology. For example, you can see the positive impact of a well-designed mass-transit system -- how it affects congestion, pollution, and the quality of life -- but you also see its cost.
There is one violent element: disasters, which can be brought on either by random acts determined by the game or by the player. Tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and even giant robots can wreak havoc on your city. The game may not communicate the emotional impact of disasters very wel l-- something you may want to address as your children play the game.
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