Developer: Electronic Arts
Price: $7.99
Version Reviewed: 1.3.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★★
User Interface Rating: ★★★★★
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

The SimCity franchise began in 1989 and quickly became an addictive pastime for many. It allowed anyone with the patience and interest to lay down residential, commercial, and industrial zones and watch people fill them with houses, businesses, and factories. Connecting it all together with roads and power, one could then unleash disasters on the unsuspecting citizens and watch as little simulated rescue workers sorted it all out.

That original game play, which first premiered on Commodore and Atari computers, is now available on the iPhone. This version is in fact more akin to SimCity 3000, which appeared about ten years later on PCs (for Windows). Electronic Arts has masterfully ported the full SimCity experience to the iPhone. It has delivered a compelling game that captures the charming game play of the original.

The series has always strove to accurately simulate city planning. Maxis, the original developer, prided itself on their ability to simulate such things as city growth and congestion. While the iPhone version definitely continues to accurately simulate such things, it doesn’t have the advantage of its PC cousins. The device’s small screen and lack of tactile controls puts it as a definite disadvantage with even the oldest versions, which benefited not only from computer displays but also from the mouse.

But EA wasn’t content to just port SimCity to the iPhone. Although the visuals will never match those found on the PC, the interface itself is very clean and understandable. The game includes tutorials to walk you through the beginning stages of your first city, a full in-game help system that offers a ton of content, plus the usual gaggle of advisers and reports so you always know how your city is doing.

Building cities is done from a menu bar on the left side of the screen. It takes only a tap or two to get to most items, and the actual layout is performed by tapping or swiping the fingers across the screen. Once an item has been initially laid down, on-screen controls indicate how you can easily resize, move, or rotate them. Once in place a simple confirmation makes the addition permanent.

Zooming your view in or out can be performed by either double-tapping the screen or using the standard multi-touch features common to the iPhone. Filters allow you to easily view certain activities, such as all of the zones with sufficient power or water, or pollution levels. Scrolling text at the bottom of the screen displays silly local happenings as well as important issues that must be addressed.

As mentioned previously, a full set of reports allow you to drill down into the finances of your city, and from there you can set tax levels, establish ordinances, and conduct other funding activities. Advisers can give you important information on how well your city is doing, why people are discontent, or how to best spend your money. The game play is amazingly deep and it’s quite easy to spend hours tweaking and watching your city.

The only real complaints are minor. When you zoom in close, for example, the cities look pretty good, but they just aren’t that detailed. I would have liked for the city visuals to at least match those seen on PCs ten years ago, but I don’t think they’re even that good. The graphics engine is a bit sluggish, too, so scrolling, for example, doesn’t respond to your finger movements as well as you would like.

If you are a big SimCity fan or you just have a lot of interest in the dynamics of city growth, you’ll find a lot to like in SimCity. The game has clearly been ported with a lot of care, and the attention to detail is quite impressive. Although the cities could be more detailed and it all could run a bit more smoothly, this game is still worth a purchase simply because the game play is so good. It’s definitely one of those games you could easily spend hundreds of hours playing over the course of the next several years.

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