Based approximately on SimCity 3000, SimCity DS seemed about as complicated as the most recent versions of the title. While the graphics represent a throwback to earlier SimCity games, the core gameplay is current. The title looks like it'll be a great match for portable simulation fans because of the touchscreen interface.
I asked about recreating SimCity 3000 for the two screens of the DS, and one of the game designers explained the transition. With the 3D view of SimCity 3000, players can lose track of the 2D roads and other objects they're trying to place. While slightly redundant, one DS screen shows the 3D perspective of the city, while the other shows a flat map. I drew roads on the flat area, easily placing them into the corresponding city. The 2D map can also show color-coded points of interest for easy identification and maintenance of a city.
While SimCity DS should have the depth of a modern SimCity title, the complexities in running a city are divided by mini-games. About every ten minutes, an event will occur unlike previous versions of the game. One example was a Santa Claus character that quickly flew across the screen several times; the more gamers tap the screen, the more presents he drops. The presents then become new buildings or other ways to improve the city.
One of my favorite parts of SimCity has always been the ways to destroy towns, and those seem to be intact in this version. Monster attacks and other unnatural -- and natural -- disasters return, only in this case, gamers can interact with the touch screen to try to directly impact the problem, blowing out fires for example.
SimCity's main game lets players build up a metropolis, raising money with taxes, like previous versions of the game. (EA said there won't be a sandbox mode with unlimited money.) Eight other objective-based challenges charge gamers with rebuilding a city after a disaster or outline specific goals to grow in certain ways. After completing challenges, players are rewarded with more landmark types -- 56 real-world buildings -- to add to cities.
EA seems to be using the DS beyond just the touch-screen in this SimCity adaptation. For example, players can even trade landmarks while the DS is sleeping, similar to the Nintendogs Bark Mode. (Unfortunately, internet connectivity isn't supported). Because the core of SimCity is retained while these additions give gamers something new, simulation fans should prepare for the the U.S. release.