History: This is the year of the Maxis, with 15 titles coming out the company must be jumping. Five children’s titles are slated for "coming soon" release by Maxis: SimPark, SimTunes, Simon Challenger, SimCircus, and Marty in Where’s Morgan?. We fully expect Maxis’ development schedule to slip a little under the sheer weight of the job.
The Plot: You are a national or regional park manager with the job of designing the park and managing the flora and fauna of the park. There are many different park environments from the city to the wilderness. Management requires exploration and understanding of the balance between wildlife, plants, humans, and climatic conditions in a variety of locations throughout North America.
Gameplay: Build and manage a simulated park, with 132 plants and animals and 20 human elements. Where you select your park location determines weather and the selection of plants and animals you will have to manage due to their geographical range. Decisions involve the combination of animals and plants, and whether and how humans can use the park.
Problems include budgeting, garbage, fires, and maintenance. Since fire is a natural occurrence in the wilderness, there will be no disasters in SimPark, a feature which has been a staple in Maxis products since the first SimCity rolled off the line in 1989. Where to place waterways, how to balance preditors and prey, and human structures, such as hot dog stands, carousels, hiking paths, ranger stations and other structures are at your command, providing you have the money in your budget.
Tools: Tools include the "Identa-Species" reference tool that will help children identify species, "Electronic Field Guide" which provides information on plant and animal species, and the "Population Graphing Tool" which will help manage and balance plant and animal populations.
Help: A frog mentor named Rizzo, who does not look or talk like a rat, helps you interact with species and do your job as a park ranger.
Interface: Attractive overhead isometric view shows flowers, trees, bushes, mammals, birds, and reptiles in their natural habitat, surrounded by trees, water, and brush. Large clearly illustrated button controls are placed attractively and unobtrusively along the bottom and sides of the screen. A movement rosette at the top left scrolls the map in eight compass directions.
There are buttons for each group of flora and fauna on the left of the screen. On the right of the screen are a net to catch animals and a microphone to listen to sounds. Along the bottom edge are displayed the types of each major group of flora and fauna in the park. For example, if you select birds, the heads of ten bird types appear at the bottom of the screen.
Graphics: Simple but highly detailed two dimensional animated fauna cavort over a similarly illustrated background. The art resembles naturalist like book illustrations, with deep earth tones and shading. No shadows or light sourcing technology are used, while the images may be texture mapped and shaded. Resolution and frames and renderings for animation are as yet unknown by us.
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 54.