The year is 1989. Dinosaurs roam the Earth, the US Constitution is signed, and Allied Forces invade Canada. On top of all this, Will Wright's innovative city-building game, SimCity, is released onto the US market, causing a huge vortex that sucks anyone who has ever played solitaire on their PC into another dimension. Fast forward to 1993: everything that happened in 1989, other than the release of SimCity, was deemed to have happened some indeterminate amount of time before 1989. SimCity 2000 is released unto the world.
SimCity 2000 is essentially what it's granddaddy was: a deep city-planning simulator. A lot of new bells and whistles have been added, obviously, and the game is now played out in an isometric perspective. Your city can thrive or fail miserably depending on how well you manage resources. At times it seems somewhat random, as if the city is jerking you around. At other times a cause-effect relationship is readily visible. Unfortunately, it often takes many attempts to successfully discern this cause-effect relationship before your city has burnt to the ground, metaphorically and literally.
The game is played through a point-click interface with a series of windows, not dissimilar to many production utilities today such as Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, and many others. You have one main "anchor window" inside which you may open several other windows, such as the main city-view, your tool set, the city budget, ordinances, and many others. Some of these can be moved and resized, while others remain at a fixed scale in the center of the screen. This is not exceptionally bad, however, just slightly annoying.
You build your city by placing city-buildings, such as power plants, and adding zoning areas. You can place dense, medium, or light residential, industrial, or commercial zoning areas. Industrial is factories, commercial is shops, and residential is homes, of course. Just as in a real-world city, individuals must begin building in your city independently of you; all you can do to put down houses is facilitate the process and connect city services (such as water with pipes, electricity with power lines) to the buildings that pop up.
One of my favorite parts of the game are the news stories that are generated in the newspaper that appears at the end of every year. Stories such as "Slippery Heart Disease" could make anyone laugh. My main issue with the game, however, is also this newspaper. At default it is set to appear at the end of every year, which comes very quickly at the highest game-speed. Many players will set the game to the highest speed and go do something else when they've created a small city that can sustain itself with a profit so that they may expand it when they have enough cash, and this newspaper makes it impossible because the game pauses when it appears. To close the newspaper, you must manually click the close button on its top-left corner. The budget window also appears, which is equally a nuisance. Luckily, they can both be turned off, but it is a chore to have to remember to do this every single time.
Another thing to note is that at some point your city is going to burn to the ground, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and when it does happen you aren't going to be able to do a dang thing about it. You can turn off disasters, of course, but burning to the ground also includes situations such as a water shortage, failing power plant, and poverty. Your city is going to fail. Live with it.
While SimCity isn't the most modern of the SimCity games, it was great for its time and is still a great way to waste a few hours in a relatively productive way. It may not have aged particularly well, but it is still more fun than hitting a bag of potatoes with a stick.
NOTE: SimCity 2000 is packaged with DosBox which is distributed under the GNU General Public License version 2. The GNU GPL can be viewed at the following URL: http://www.opensource.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.php