Monday, October 4, 2010

Sim Tower

Oh, I remember this game's origins in my life like it was yesterday. I was with my dad at an Office Depot. I was about 8 or 9 and had never played a "big boy" PC game. All I knew was Math Blaster and Solitaire. Then, I saw it. The game that would herald in a new day in my gaming life. I would finally be kicking it grown-up style on my dad's state-of-the-art Gateway 2000 (with 1 GB of disk space!). The soon-to-be crown jewel of my young gaming collection: SimTower.

...alright, maybe it wasn't quite that epic.

But all things aside, SimTower was a pretty fun game that I only got to play occasonally. I had seen my older brother's friends play SimCity and tell me that it was "too complex" for me. Well, they hadn't played the new hotness in the Sim world of gaming. The concept for the game was to build an "veritcal empire" of offices, hotel rooms, public entertainment facilities, and ultimately, a 100th floor Chapel for weddings as a crowning achievement. Needless to say, I decided at that time so long ago that I was going to play that game until I was sitting on the top floor, watching Brad and Janet having a shotgun wedding after meeting earlier in the 75th floor movie theatre, spending a few hours in Brad's Hotel Suite on Floor 47, and crazily purchasing a condo on the 4th floor. This would be the building equivalent of the Galactic Empire, with my iron left fist controlling the every movement of my tenants while I counted money with the other hand!

"Once I build the P.F. Chang's on the B3 floor, the circle will be complete!"

Obviously, since this game is being blogged about on the Backlog, I met with unfortunate failure in accomplishing this. I have come back to this game from time to time, but it has always returned to the back of the gaming queue without being fully conquested.

The question I ask is why. That's what I'm finding out in this revisit.

At the start up of the game, you have what you have in all Sim games: a blank slate. This time, rather than an overhead view of your canvas, you are give a 2D sideview. As well, you only have certain build options at the beginning, such as offices, lobbies, fast food restaurants, and condos. As your tower grows, you make more money through rent (or sales in the case of condos), your population grows, and you rinse and repeat. As your population increases, your tower's Star Rating (essentially the same concept as the different city categories in Sim City) improves, which results in the ability to build more lucrative and impressive structures, such as a Metro Station or Movie Theatre. Simple enough premise: make money, build more, people move in. Rinse and repeat.

"Look honey! The blue skies. Crisp air. Time to build a polluting monstrosity to block those sightlines!"Font size

However, before you can get to the nitty-gritty construction of your edition of the Sears Tower, you have to build a foundation: your lobby. Essentially, this is where your Sims enter the building to pick up some mode of transportation (elevators, stairs, escalators). I would say there is nothing fancy to this, but that would be to overlook one of the cool easter eggs in the game. If you hold down the CTRL button and build your lobby, you end up with a two-story lobby. If you are really looking for the fancy-schmancy, you can hold CTRL and SHIFT and build the lobby, which will produce a state-of-the-art, Waldorf Astoria-quality, three-story lobby!

It doesn't do jack crap, but it looks kinda cool in a 2D, 1990's sort of way.

Alright, foundation laid. Now the fun begins with building your offices, hotels, Starbucks, brothels, and whatever else you decide to throw in there. Well, not entirely true. While you cannot build actual brothels, you can rename businesses and people however you like. You can in fact track the people you name with the "Find" dropdown menu option. This makes for a chuckle every now and then when you see your blue sim name Engelbert Humperdink walking around.

Of course, to be able to name businesses, you need people. To get people, you have to have transit through your building. Which brings us to what is the biggest challenge (and pain in the ass) in the entire game:


Now, you are probably asking yourself, "Aren't elevators supposed to make things easier?" To this, my friends, Sim Tower answers with a resounding "No, bitch!" followed by a firm slap to the face.

Prime example of elevators making things worse.

This is do largely to the game mechanics by which Sims move through your tower. Creator Yoot Saito, perhaps attempting to simulate people's want for simplicity in travel, established that Sims moving in the tower can only use 2 different transportation units to get where they are going. That means they can only use 2 flights of stairs OR a flight of stairs and an elevator OR 2 elevators and so on and so forth. This wouldn't be a big deal if it wasn't for the limitations for building elevators and stairs. That's right. You can only build a set number of each in your building. This means that double coverage is possible for only so much of your tower, then you up a creek without a paddle. Also, these shaft can only go up 30 floors (and are effective for only 15). Add to this the fact that you can only have 8 cars to an elevator shaft, and you have an epic, organizational mess to untangle.

Furthermore, due to these limitations, you become more and more reliant on the Express Elevator shafts that you have to build as your tower grows (an option that becomes available with a 3 star rating). These solve the issues of getting people to the highest floors without straining your 15 floor elevators. However, you get to a point where the Express shaft is strained, which in turn ruins the rest of your elevator system. Overall, elevators in this game instill the same kind of frustration in you that a Rubik's cube does for those of us who still don't get the trick.

F*$% this thing.

I could continue on, describing each and every little facet on irritation that attempts to derail you from ultimate success in the game, but I can explain why this game constantly returns to the Backlog: it gets repetative. For as much fun as it is starting out in this game, you reach a point where you are installing your 34th elevator, adjusting all the options for said shaft just to make it work, and thinking about building your next 50 office suites, at which you ask yourself "What's the point?" Whereas in Sim City or other Sim titles, you can find a rebuttle to this question, Sim Tower doesn't offer enough satisfaction in complete victory to outweight the annoyance you must endure to achieve it. At the end of the day, Sim Tower is worthy of a good college try now and again for the fun you can have with it. God knows I keep coming back to it and enjoy it each time. Just don't go in expecting Risk-like World Domination as you try to take it off your Backlog. You might end up with one of those neverending games where all the players start muttering "Make it stop."

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