What do you get when you combine the puzzle-rotating fun from Tetris with the thrill of building and maintaining a bustling town a la SimCity? The answer is The Sims Carnival SnapCity, the latest in Electronic Arts’ downloadable Carnival “casual game” series, following BumperBlast. It might sound like an odd fusion of game styles – but it works, and very well at that.

You are the mayor of SimCity. To lay out your various neighborhoods, however, you need to rotate falling colored blocks onto the grid (your city) by selecting where they go. Yep, similar to Tetris, you will move your colored block with your mouse, hold down the left button to accelerate the pace of the falling piece or click the right mouse button to rotate the piece around to better fit with other pieces.

The green pieces are for your residential neighborhoods, the blue pieces are for commercial areas and yellow is for the industrial sections of your city. Therefore you’ll want to keep the yellow with the yellow, green with the green, and so on.

Just as in the original SimCity you then need to build roads between these various zones so people can get around. You do this by clicking the Road tab and holding down the left mouse before dragging it along the path you want. Before you know it little cars will start vrooming along these roads. Make a mistake or need to demolish some decrepit buildings that pop up in your neighborhoods? No problem, you can use the Bulldoze option in the same way you used the road tab, but it’ll also cost you money from your pot.

When your puzzle meter fills up you can play a little mini puzzle game where you must rotate falling pieces on a small square grid. Once you fill in all the squares you will gain access to special buildings that pop up where the grid was. Examples include public swimming pools, Japanese tea gardens, universities, museums and bog box stores – but each comes with positives (e.g. good for the economy) and negatives (e.g. causes traffic congestion near it).

SimCity fans will be pleased to know random disasters can also take place, which challenges you to fix quickly and move on with your progress. This might take form as natural disasters (such as tornadoes and earthquakes), thieves or rioters, virus epidemics and even alien UFOs who destroy some buildings in its path.

The main Story mode takes the players through 25 unique neighborhoods and many scenarios to tackle; the game also features about 200 unique buildings, many of which need to be unlocked by playing well. The secondary Creativity mode lets you build up your city from scratch, which you can then save and share with other online players if you like.

Much like The Sims, the upbeat music, colorful graphics and cute sound effects (such as a couple smooching at the drive-in movie theater) help make The Sims Carnival SnapCity an entertaining experience, but it’s the “sandbox” game-play that will keep you clicking away feverously as SimCity’s mayor, ensuring everything is moving along smoothly as you’re building your city and making money to afford the upgrades you want for your people.

Aside from a semi-steep learning curve and some minor control issues, such as having trouble paving roads where you want (because of the limiting grid as a canvas), the game proves quite gratifying – even 6 or 7 hours in when many other casual games begin to fade about that time. Let’s hope EA provides extra downloadable goodies such as new buildings or amusing city threats to keep the game fresh and fun for many months to come.