Developer: Electronic Arts Inc.
Price: $0.99 Download on the App Store
Electronics Arts' recreation of the long-time, popular SimCity series for the iPhone is somewhat astonishing given the parameters the developers had to work with. That's not necessarily a good thing, however, as I'll explain later.
First, for game players unfamiliar with SimCity, it's a city-building simulation game first released about 20 years ago. The fact that the franchise has endured for so long says a lot about the game's concept, implementation and game play.
You start SimCity by putting people on the land, providing them with resources to build huts, procreate, make fire, sharpen sticks and then kill and eat each other. And that's just on Wall Street.
Well, actually, you build a city, providing the infrastructure--utilities, schools, mass transit, roads, public facilities--in short, everything you need in a viable and sustainable city. As in real life, everything costs money--whether it's a kids' sports program or a power station--and you need to balance what money comes in as taxes and other revenues with what goes out for the greater good.
SimCity's graphics and audio are beautifully rendered. Navigation is very good too, with layers of easy-to-read icons, so you can readily get to the things you need for city building and management with a minimum amount of button-pushing. The help screens, are, well, helpful. If you're a true SimCity fan, there's an awful lot to like here.
Now, here's the problem. I think a lot of people will find this version of SimCity overly ambitious. Despite it's clever icons that enable you to easily navigate from one task to another, you're still working within the boundaries of the screen's real estate. There's just too much going on in SimCity for a platform of this scope.
SimCity is running at the top of the iPhone's capacity and the developers have had to make understandable compromises. There's a problem with the game crashing, which EA admits to. I didn't have that problem, but then again, the city I'm working on is not well developed.
There are lots and lots of necessary icons you need to use regularly and although you have the option to move them out of sight, when you need them, they tend to clog your overall view. And while you can pinch and zoom, it's easy to lose perspective of what you're trying to do and where you are in relationship to other areas of the city. Moving from one place on the grid to another causes everything to disappear, which hinders game play.
In SimCity there's a comprehensive tutorial, three starter cities and three difficulty modes of game play to choose from when you first launch the game. However, if you decide to raze your existing city and start all over, you have to delete the game and reload it. That could be an annoyance if you're just starting your career, perhaps as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.