Brighter lights, bigger city

 

Sim City 3000, PC CDRom, £34.99The original Sim City game released in 1989 is the grandfather of all simulation games. That version can now be played online at www.simcity.com, and since its heyday there has been a plethora of games with the same structure, such as Sim Ant, Sim Tower and Sim Life.

The Sim City series has been by far the most popular in the genre, and Sim City 2000, which sold over five million copies, was simply brilliant. Now, five years on, comes one of the most eagerly awaited games sequels ever -Sim City 3000.

For the uninitiated, Sim City is a type of game where a player controls a city's development. Power, pollution, water, taxes, traffic, entertainment, roads, crime, healthcare, and educational policy have to be managed. Keeping the budget balanced and the citizens happy means that a great city can be built up and admired. That's it. It's not a matter of "winning" as there is no enemy and no ending. The game just goes on and on, although there is always the risk of a natural disaster which can undo years of good work. There had been suggestions Sim City 3000 would be three-dimensional, but that did not happen. In fact, relatively little has changed from Sim City 2000, despite the five-year gap.

Everything looks much better, of course, and there are plenty of other nips and tucks. For instance, the player can do deals, good or bad, with neighbouring cities instead of just linking to them by road. There are about 250 building models to choose from, including landmarks such as Big Ben and the arc de triomphe. The interface is more intuitive and areas can now be zoned for medium intensity instead of just high and low. The playing area is larger, equivalent to 100 square miles, or four times more than the one in Sim City 2000. Sim City 3000 is a little disappointing in that most of the improvements are superficial. Nevertheless, it is addictive and better than its predecessor by a length or two - no mean feat.

Sony has finally completed a massive research and development project to design a successor to its best-selling PlayStation.

The PlayStation 2 will be driven by a new processor chip developed in conjunction with Toshiba and will use DVD (digital versatile disk) for a tenfold storage increase over CD-Rom. Japan's Nihon Keizai newspaper recently reported that Sony had spent the equivalent of £60 million developing the 128-bit"Emotion Engine" CPU, alone.

Sony says that CPU outperforms current high-end PCs, but it is also backward-compatible with current PklayStation titles.

All of this cou7ld be bad news for Sega's new DreamCast console, set to release here before Christmas. However, it could also affect the sales of Sony's current PlayStation if potential buyers decide to wait for its successor. Wait they will, though, with likely release dates of March 2000 for Japan ands Christmas 2000 for Europe.

Zelda on the Nintendo 64 is generating some interest in that charming wind instrument, the Ocarina. Successfully playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time requires playing certain tunes on-screen. The game contains melodies such as Epona's Song and the Sun Song which must be "played" to get help in fighting the evil forces. Epona's Song summons the horse Epona, and playing the Sun Song changes the time of day.

Quick to see the opportunity, a website is selling an ocarina similar to the one featured in the Zelda game for US$32 plus shipping (www.songbirdocarina.com).

games@irish-times.ie