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Age range:Althoughdesigned for children 7 years old and older, it might be a tough sell for the youngest of that age group. The lack of action and incredible amount of waiting for a city to grow is akin to watching paint drying. I would recommend it for tweens already familiar with the SimCity franchise.

Final advice:SimCity Creator works as a travel companion for an extended car ride. However, it has neither the charm nor strategic elements of Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution, a much better empire-building DS title.

Game Bytes

• Wario Land: Shake It (for Wii, Nintendo, $49.99)- Mario’s evil doppelganger teaches youngsters the fine art of the “shake down” in this homage to a classic, side-scrolling franchise. A gantlet of obstacle courses and blobby minions challenge a single player as he controls the greedy Wario on a mission to beat the Shake King, rescue Queen Merelda and, most importantly, find the legendary Bottomless Coin Sack.

The fun factor is high thanks to trying to complete roughly 25 levels spread over five continents. Every time Wario completes a level and rescues a citizen of the Yuretopia, he must rush back to its beginning in a timed challenge.

The Wiimote is held sideways like a standard controller for normal Wario movement, including jumping, squeezing down pipes and unleashing a devastating butt stomp to break floors and daze opponents.

The Wiimote can be shaken to have Wario punch the ground (very Hulk-like), stunning enemies and quaking the environment. Most important, he can grab sacks to shake and collect coins (spent at Captain Syrup’s pirate shop) or shake foes to knock health-restoring garlic out of them.

As an update to the 2-D genre of retro gaming, it excels with animated scenes, colorful graphics and a Disney-esque style of hand-drawn scenery.

Action even includes using vehicles such as a submarine (a homage to the early shooter genres) and a Unibucket (basically a unicycle), or gadgets such as the Max Fastosity Dasherator.

Wario’s latest offers a bit of interactive fun for everyone and is an instant kids’ classic combining the best of traditional and Wii-fueled video gaming.

• NHL 09 (Electronic Arts, for Xbox 360, $59.99) - Another year, another upgrade to the premier, award-winning virtual hockey franchise will leave hard-core and casual sports gamers exhausted by its depth, ferocity and realism. It will take approximately 30 seconds of hands-on action before knowing this game is something special.

The ubiquitous Be A Pro area, new to this title, but a standard in most other sports simulations, is the first place a player stops. It personalizes his experience as he quickly walks through a battery of features to create his own rookie and try to work his way from the AHL to NHL.

The total offensive and defensive control of a player is spectacular this year, down to puck pushes, flip dumps (clear the puck down the ice) and big-time animated checking, with enough control of the stick that it feels like a martial arts weapon.

Now, add a broadcast-quality presentation, an immersive Dynasty and 16-team World Tournament mode, a fine selection of online multiplayer options, a great alternative-rock soundtrack and even a way to customize trading cards by capturing the best moments of the your superstar.

I’ll admit that some of the controls are daunting, but the results are worth the learning curve, especially in the two-to-four-player cooperative action.

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