I've played many video games throughout my life, but I can think of only two that caused me to play until the sun rose. One was Civilization, in just about all it's incarnations. (I need to find a good Mac version I think.) The other game was SimCity. For those few people who don't know what SimCity is, it is a simple city simulator. You lay out various zones (residential, commercial, or industrial), lay down basic utilities, roads, etc, and then sit back and watch your city grow. If you place homes next to industries, your population will suffer. Take that along with a thousand other obscure rules and you have an amazingly fun, and addictive, little game.
When I heard that SimCity was moving to the DS, I was pretty impressed. SimCity was known to really tax a PC, especially in the later stages when your city had grown to a large size. I knew there would be some compromises, but I decided to give it a try.
The game is based (I believe) on the SimCity 2000 version, which was the first version after the original. It takes an isometric view of the city. This translates well to the DS. The graphics aren't great, but are passable for the DS.
While you can use the D-Pad, you will spend most of your time using the stylus. It's the first DS game I've played that made such extensive use of it, but it works well. You do have to be a bit precise. It is easy to screw up when laying down roads or other buildings. One button is dedicated to "Undo" though and you will find yourself using that quite a bit. Something else that bugs me is that you can't lay down roads over a zoned area. In the past, I remember laying out a large area and then applying a "grid" of roads. On the flip side, you can apply a zone over roads, so I'm not sure why they don't allow the reverse.
The game has a few "cutsey" elements that the original did not have. You can definitely tell this is a Nintendo game, but it wasn't enough to bug me. In fact, one element that is completely useless, is the ordinance screen. After you pass a local ordinance, you are asked to sign off on it. I don't know why, but I love signing my name (Vader, I'm a cruel, but fair Mayor) while playing. You also have minigames like blowing up fireworks and hitting Santa to drop presents down on your town.
As a "classic" player of SimCity, I'm still trying to get a hang of the mechanics of the simulation. For some reason, it seems like my city has way more residential zones than I used to play with in the past, almost 10 to 1 compared to commercial and industrial. I guess I don't mind that so much as I'm happy to learn a new method of play for this incarnation.
The one major drawback is the lack of saves. You get one save - and one save only. I really wish they would have allowed for just one more. In the old days I'd typically use one save for my Metropolis and another save for fun. (For a good time - try jacking up tax rates, cutting police/fire department money, and watch your town empty out.)
The game has a multiplayer aspect as well, where I believe you can send notes to other mayors. I haven't tried that myself.
All in all - a good game, but probably will only mainly appeal to older SimCity players.