Megalomaniacs rejoice! At long last, SimCity for mobile has arrived, in the shape of the pristine, pocket-sized, town-building game, SimCity BuildIt.
The game has been 'soft launched' on the New Zealand and Canadian app stores, meaning that you'll only be able to play it if you have an iTunes account in either of these countries. If you haven't, don't despair because SimCity BuildIt will be released worldwide very soon.
Hot in the city
Fans of the original game series won't be disappointed with SimCity BuildIt. The gameplay concepts you know and love have all been replicated here, and they've been wrapped up in glorious 3D.
The idea of SimCity BuildIt is that you build the perfect city, furnishing it with residential areas, commerce, factories, entertainment facilities, and the like. You'll need a proper infrastructure which means building roads and equipping the town with essential services such as power, water, and emergency services.
Constructing stuff in SimCity BuildIt works a little differently to the original game, where you just need cash to start knocking up buildings. In this game things are a little more complicated (largely because it's trying to get you to spend real money!)
To build and upgrade properties and buildings you need certain materials (metal, wood, nails, etc.), which are forged in factories and housed in storage facilities. Forging the materials takes time (from a few seconds to several minutes), though you can get them made instantly by using your precious SimCash. You have a limited supply of this when you start the game, but you can buy more with your own money.
For everything you do to expand your settlement in SimCity you earn XP points. You'll need these to level up in order to unlock new types of buildings. Everything you build costs game coins, which you can get by collecting rent from your citizens, exchanging goods with other towns - or buying them with your own, real-world money.
Inner city life
The mayor of any city needs to pay careful attention to what its citizens are saying, and things are no different in SimCity BuildIt. Your town is populated by characters like the ones in The Sims, and they will make themselves heard when things are going well or not so well.
Sims make their hopes and fears known by little thought bubbles that appear above their house saying that they hate living next to a factory, they enjoy swimming in the park's fountain, etc. It's up to you to interpret these messages and react. Listening to your Sims is important because, if they are fed up, the overall happiness level will drop, and if it reaches critical levels they might start walking out, meaning less taxes for you.
You'll also have to cope with natural disasters in SimCity BuildIt, so make sure you're prepared for everything to go horribly wrong at some point.
It's nice that characters appear on screen occasionally and the inane gobbledygook chatter of The Sims is strangely comforting. However, I wish there was more interaction with the characters, such as making them perform tasks, speak to each other, work on projects together, etc. After all, many of the other city building games out there, like the ones I mentioned above, do have strong character-based combat/challenge elements to them.
SimCity BuildIt is perhaps the most attractive city building game for mobile. Its beautiful 3D landscapes and realistic buildings have been inspired by the latest next gen SimCity. It features full 360-degree rotation, allowing you to pan around the cityscape effortlessly. You can zoom in and out with a pinch, although you can't get close enough for my liking.
The music in SimCity BuildIt is typically tranquil and melodic, and it serves to absorb you into the game even more.
SimCity BuildIt presents a frustrating and cumbersome version of the classic SimCity gameplay, and personally I would prefer to pay a few bucks for the game to have the original's 'unrestricted' access to building, rather than the pay-or-wait mechanism.
But it is what it is, and as these freemium simulations go, it's got a lot going for it. It looks great and is certainly one of the most true-to-life town building experiences you'll get on a mobile.