Sometimes, two unique flavors belong together, like peanut butter and bananas, or bacon and anything. Other flavors, like pickles and chocolate, are best left separated. And so we have The Sims Carnival: SnapCity, a little title that combines Tetris and SimCity into a weird casserole of boring, half-baked gameplay mechanics that will disappoint fans of either of those classics. Like a horseradish milkshake or herring cream pie, it's a curiosity you should leave others to experience.
The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
SnapCity is incredibly easy to play, but it's hard to wrap your head around, at least initially. As in Tetris, various geometric shapes fall from above, only in this case, they fall toward a three-dimensional grid rather than a simple 2D plane. The catch is that these shapes come in three different hues, which represent the standard SimCity building zones: yellow for industrial, blue for commercial, and green for residential. Your goal is to fit these pieces together into larger areas, which will cause corresponding structures to spring forth. As in any standard city builder, you then must connect your zones with roads with a few mouse clicks, and traffic will begin to flow between them.
It's a fascinating concoction indeed, though neither the block-fitting mechanic nor the city building itself offers up any degree of challenge. Thankfully, there is a little more to do. Occasionally, a disaster like a tornado or a riot will wreak havoc, and you need to click and hold the right mouse button over the event to bring it to a halt. As you play, you will fill a meter on the left side of the screen that when full will produce a "puzzle" zone; when filled with blocks of the same color, that zone will allow you to construct a special building, like a police station or a military base. These buildings offer bonuses like increased revenue or the ability to plant trees, or might help you deal more quickly with disasters. Yet don't be fooled: While they may be called puzzle zones, there's nothing remotely puzzling or otherwise tricky about "solving" them. Just drop blocks in them.
You'd think that a game based on two of the most addicting formulas ever created would be engaging, and while it can be interesting for five or 10 minutes, SnapCity is dreadfully boring. The better way to play is in creativity mode, where you can spread your city across the grid, sandbox style. The story mode gives you specific objectives, like building a police station while fighting crime, or constructing enough roads to keep your buildings from decaying. However, it's practically impossible to fail these challenges, even if you push up the difficulty slider. You can return to them to try to beat your previous time, but the whole experience is so bland it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to. The production values certainly won't keep your eyes glued to the screen. The visuals are colorful but extremely simple, there is very little variety to the buildings, and you can't even rotate the game grid. The accompanying sound effects are nondescript but appropriate, but the soundtrack is a repetitive collection of low-quality MIDI tunes that will have you looking for the mute option in the game menus.
SnapCity is a neat concept, but in practice, it's dreadfully boring. Like an anchovy enchilada, it's an interesting idea that just didn't work out.