Unlike SimEarth, SimTower, or SimCity, SimIsle -- subtitled "Missions in the Rainforest" -- allows you to take over the development of any number of islands in a long chain. Many of them have missions. Five small islands comprise a tutorial that teaches the things you need to know to play the game.
There is also one island, with a giant ghostly "X" on it, which you can shape and mold any way you wish. There is no specific scenario associated with this island.
This game introduces agents, who you send about the island in order to carry out your directives. If your agent does not have the right skills to do the job, nothing will happen.
Like all Maxis sims, a wide variety of graphs, charts, and maps allow you to plot your progress toward the goal of the scenario. Will you turn your island into a tourist trap, suck all the resources out of it, or leave it an unspoiled and pristine haven? It's all up to you.
Since the first Sim City, I have always enjoyed Maxis games for their ability to develop highly addictive games. "Sleepless nights in Sim City" could be the book's title where I would describe the countless hours I spent on this game and especially on its sequel, Sim City 2000. Therefore, you will easily understand that I was very happy when the final version of Sim Isle arrived on my desk.
The very first thing you will recognize is the 3D isometric view like in Sim City 2000, but if you compare the two of them longer, you will notice many differences. There are no icons representing the various types of buildings and other facilities, but instead you will find photos of the agents that you can select for different tasks. The view can be changed in many ways. There are three levels of zoom from a general panorama of the island to a more appropriate "working" map to closely watch what is going on. You can also rotate the map 90ø degrees to the left or to the right depending on which arrow you selected, and also lower or raise your point of view. This way, you will gradually pass from a flat perspective with a vertical view to a ground-level viewpoint with the kind of perspective that we, humans, are used to when we look around us. However, the default view is the same as in Sim City 2000 which is far the best, and I strongly recommend everyone to keep it like this. If you are curious to see what the island orientation arrows do to your view, check it out, but you will quickly realize that it is not very useful.
The satellite view offers a two-dimensional map of the terrain that allows you to visualize many things such as iron and coal deposits, polluted zones, routes, industrial areas, logging spaces, etc... The colored legend indicates the zones on the map with the brightest colors for rich deposits or important amounts of pollution or traffic for example, and the contrary for poor deposits. The other arrows on the interface map are used to pan the view in the direction you want to move, but you can also use the mouse directly on the view by clicking on the right button to advance where you want to go.
Well, enough talk about the view and its interface, and let's take a look at the agents. Each agent has one, two or even three special skills such as negotiation, employment, industrial, local ecology, exploration, etc... There are 24 agents to choose from and their choice must be based on your needs as it will cost you money to hire them. Each time you play a game, a group of agents will already be at your disposal, but if you prefer new agents, you can fire those you don't like and replace them. Whenever you want to use an agent, simply click on the photo to have a copy of his record, or to send him to a place where his skills are needed. For example, if you want to build a new structure, you will need an agent with construction skills at the construction site. Another example is with the industries where you need to hire extra workers to increase the production, and therefore you will have to send an agent with employment skills to the plant.
There are two different ways to play with Sim Isle. The first one is to complete a series of scenarios (25 to be exact), each with different goals and increasing in difficulty and the second is called "freeplay" mode where you manage the island and its resources without any other goals than making the island rich and prosperous.
Sim Isle is, however, not a rehash of Sim City 2000. In Sim City, you had to start and develop the town which means you had to deal with problems such as transportation, pollution, crime, power generation, housing, business, fire protection, etc... In Sim Isle, you must not take care of roads for example as they are automatically built when you install new sites. In fact, you can no longer manage the town as it was possible with Sim City 2000. The only things you can do with towns in Sim Isle is to build hospitals, educational and recreational structures and spiritual centers. You must check that the city is supplied with power and that is about all on towns. The environment is the most important thing in Sim Isle. You must extract raw materials from mines or the forest, supply heavy industries and other factories to produce manufactured goods. These products will increase the comfort of the inhabitants and will provide the necessary financial resources to continue your expansion. However, you must take care of the environment by checking that pollution is not threatening life, that the rainforest is not being depleted, that wild life is not heading for extinction, etc...
The SVGA graphics allow many details on the map such as trucks moving on the roads, small airplanes and even boats. Other details include the vegetation which features various colors that change because of the sun's movement across the horizon, the very realistic relief on the island, etc...
I forgot to mention the notebook, an online manual with information regarding the agents, ecology, population, industries and enterprise zones. It is a nice feature that quickly gives you all you need to know about a specific subject. The graph option will display charts with a wide range of statistics about your production and the resources.
If Sim City 2000 was your kind of game, Sim Isle cannot do anything else than subjugate you. The game is sterling with nice graphics and an entertaining soundtrack.
People who downloaded SimIsle: Missions in the Rainforest have also downloaded:
SimTower, SimCity 2000: CD Collection, Sim Farm, Sid Meier's Pirates!, SimIsle for Windows 95, SimCity Enhanced CD-ROM, SimSafari, Sid Meier's Railroads!
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