Flames are shooting out of the windows. They're almost reaching the roof where the last few inhabitants have fled to. The crying and screaming can hardly be heard through the crashing sounds of more and more of the buildings support structure being eaten away by the flames. The helicopter lowers a rope through the dense smoke and pulls them up to safety one by one.
Has it ever occured to you that none of Maxis' classic Sim games are actually simulations in the strict sense? Well, OK, of course they are, but only in the way that all computer games are simulations: they simulate something, like a city, a planet or an ecological system. I guess that makes Monkey Island a simulation, too.
It has a certain irony that the only two Sims which do fall into the vehicle simulation genre are virtually unknown these days.was the first one, arriving after the big flood of Sim Something had already begun to die down. Unlike most of the semi-successful offsprings of the original game which started the fad, it goes back to that very beginning by hooking directly into Sim City – both thematically and technically.
enables its player to fly around in the cities of Sim City – literally. In the shoes of a sort of general purpose rescue pilot, points and money are earned by fulfilling small missions. These include, apart from rescuing people, catching criminals and firefighting, but also more mundane tasks like dispersing traffic jams. For this, the helicopter is equipped with extra passenger seats, a megaphone, a search light and a water bucket. Later models, which can be bought as soon as funds allow, sport more fancy tools etc.
So, in the best tradition of the Sim line of games, this is one of the very few purely civil flight simulations (apart from the easter egg UFO which can be shot down with an easter egg helicopter). Also, like in most of the Sim games, there isn't any real goal in the strict sense.
Like in the best of the series, this does not hurtat all. First of all, this is due to a stroke of genius; one of the greatest ideas ever conceived in the history of computer games: cities from Sim City 2000 (i.e. indirectly cities from the original Sim City as well) can be imported! Meaning you can now fly through your self-built beloved cities you fostered so carefully. They come alive in true three dimensions (instead of just the pseudo three-dimensional isometric perspective), you can circle around the skyscrapers, fly under the bridges, land on top of the hospitals etc. Once this fascination has worn off, there are still the aforementioned missions keeping you occupied.
Though, admittedly, there is never just sun without any shadow. First of all, and this is a comparatively minor complaint, the import of cities does not always go quite as smoothly as expected. To be really playable in theway, typical large Sim City 2000 cities require an upgrade of additional fire stations and police stations or a very low frequency of events to be set in order for the missions to be even possible to fulfil.
In this case, the main blow is the quality of the graphics… when you first start your game and you see your guy standing in front of the parked helicopter, you will get the strong urge to quit the game again right away, and it gets worse once he starts moving! Once airborne, things become a little more serviceable, but it's still far from pleasant.
Sound is a bit of a mixed bag as well. The idea of having different radio stations available and emergency calls coming in through the radio is ingenious (even pre GTA). Though just as with the graphics, the technical quality is hardly ideal. Everything sounds as if someone intentionally overlaid it with white noise – for whatever reason.
So, well, don't expect CD quality audio or graphics appropriate for the time. For that matter, don't expect an even remotely realistic flight simulation: everything is extremely simplified so that you can jump right in. In spite of everything, I have spent a lot of time with this game. It has this inescapable sandbox charm which grace only few Sims. To discover it again after so many duds bearing the series title, and of all things in a non-worldbuilding game, was a huge surprise. Just look beyond the ugly cover!