Of course, I had to put everything on hold and take a crack at SimCity, since the PC versions of the game had occupied so many of my youthful hours. Plus, I was pleased with Spore Origins, so EA had already begun to earn my trust on the iPhone platform. I really hoped they wouldn’t throw that relationship out the door with as precious a title as SimCity.
I couldn’t way to play, so I booted it up and waited. And waited. Wow, load times! A true desktop experience on your iPhone. It may have just been an initial load times thing, because it seemed to clear itself up after the initial boot, to some degree. It wasn’t too long before I was playing a city of my own, fair Darrelton. Setup was easy, and most of the customization options from the PC games were there, including initial budget, starting year, city size, and map layout. I opted for a small city to start, since I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d be able to get back in the swing of things.
It did take me a while to get my bearings. I couldn’t figure out why my city wouldn’t grow until I realized that the game speed was still on pause. This wasn’t due to the game, but my own ignorance. Once I figured out how to adjust speed, which is easy, I was off and running.
My biggest fear was regarding controls, since I couldn’t imagine how you would be able to zone, place buildings, roads, etc. with any kind of accuracy using a touch interface. The fear proved somewhat true, since I couldn’t place things accurately at first crack, but the game anticipates this, and lets you resize and reposition before eventually confirming your purchase and/or construction.
Another control problem that isn’t resolved, and that does occasionally prove aggravating, is the inability to rotate the view. Zooming using the pinch gesture works fine, but is a little awkward and frustrating at times. You can also double-tap to select between a number of preset zoom levels, which means cycling through, but I still ended up using this method the most.
I wasn’t all that put off by the minor control complaints, since I played the game non-stop for around three hours, which is unheard of in terms of my iPhone gaming experience. So, good thing, right? It was, until I absentmindedly pressed the home button to check an email I’d just received, assuming that SimCity would auto-save my progress, as any iPhone game should. Unfortunately, when I returned to the game, Darrelton was no more. The continue button, and the load button were both grayed out. I’d later find out that there is a manual save button in the settings screen, but it should’ve auto-saved anyway.
Still, after nursing my hurt feelings, I build Darrelton again, from the ground up, and this time when I accidentally pressed the home button, restarting the game did recover my city exactly as I’d left it. I recommend manually saving, just in case.
All in all, a pleasurable iPhone gaming experience, with a few hiccups to work out. Might want to wait for version 1.1 before you make the purchase. I highly recommend doing so nonetheless, especially if you’re a fan of the original series, or want to introduce it to a new generation of gamers, since it’s sure to keep them occupied during that long car ride to visit family this holiday.