City-building games typically have a fair number of menus, and you usually need a large amount of screen real estate to manage all of the land, properties, and resources at your disposal. On a personal computer, this isn't a problem. Today's large displays--800x600 pixels or higher--provide ample room for overseeing your progress, and between the mouse and keyboard, all of the data you need is just one or two clicks away. The Game Boy Advance doesn't have a large screen, however, and its input options are limited to just six buttons. For any game that's specifically designed for the GBA, these shortcomings don't pose much of a setback, but for SimCity 2000, which was originally developed with the PC in mind, these limitations hamstring the game so much that it's impossible to enjoy it.
Natural disasters, like an alien invasion, really shake things up.
Full Fat, the game's developer, does deserve credit for keeping the GBA version faithful to its PC counterpart. You start out with some land and $10,000, which you need to use to buy a power plant, lay down roads, put up power lines, and designate portions of the land into residential, industrial, or commercial zones. Once the infrastructure is in place, people gradually begin to settle in your city and populate it with their homes and businesses.
Your goal is to keep the city growing and the population happy. That means responding to people's demands by building schools, police stations, fire stations, museums, parks, and any of a dozen other structures as the need arises, and expanding the city when it fills its current bounds. The key to SimCity is recognizing and handling problems quickly. If a portion of the city runs low on power, you need to build an additional power plant. If an earthquake occurs or aliens invade--just two of the many disasters that can happen--you need to send out firefighters and bulldozers to contain and clean up the problem. As time goes by, you'll gain access to new technologies, such as trains, buses, airports, and fusion power plants.
All in all, it's pretty easy to dive right in and get a city going. You can play year by year in the main mode or try the scenario mode, which challenges you to survive a natural disaster and recover a certain amount of the population within a limited number of years. One of the nicest aspects of SimCity 2000 is that the city comes alive as you play. Houses become high-rise apartment buildings, small shops transform into skyscrapers, warehouses turn into factories, and new construction sites pop up every time you zone a new portion of land. It's details like these that make you feel as though you're in charge of a vibrant, growing metropolis.