Last week, Electronic Arts finally released SimCity for the iPhone. Like Rolando, which came a day later, SimCity was an eagerly anticipated game with a lot of high expectations. On the surface, it looks fantastic. The graphic capabilities really shows off what the capacity of the iPhone is capable of and it's very addicting.
One reader comment stated that our initial review wasn't really a full-on review, and that it only scraped the surface. In a way, he was correct. A game like SimCity is something that you play over time on the iPhone, and you actually can dedicate a lot of effort to it. Last week's review was based on observations after only a few hours of play. SimCity is a game where certain effects on the system can't be felt until you've played it longer than a day. In this case, it's been eight days since my previous review, and a lot of the game's faults have started springing up during that time.
So, what's the game like after a week?
This problem has plagued some TUAW readers since SimCity was released. I was lucky. After restarting my iPhone, the game was stable for six days. Now, the game crashes every five minutes or so. The crashing persists after both soft and hard resets of the iPhone and probably has to do with how large the file size for my small city of Saillune has become. On their SimCity page in iTunes, EA has acknowledged that there are crash issues and that a later patch will resolve this.
Lengthy load time
The more I play the game, the longer it takes to load. In a way, it makes sense. I have two saved cities and one of my cities is growing. It takes, on average, 90 seconds to two minutes for the game to load and the music usually starts a good 30 seconds before the actual game controls appear.
While the controls felt very intuitive at first, that feeling decreases over time. What should have been simple navigation using the built-in controls becomes difficult, especially on a small scale.
Back to the map
Whenever you answer a petitioner or talk with an adviser, you're taken all the way back out to the main game instead of going back to the adviser screen. This also happens when picking a building for construction. You have to go through several sub-menus every time you make a selection and that gets tedious.
As the years in my city progressed and various features unlocked, I found myself missing some of the standard options from SimCity 3000 Unlimited and other SimCity games. There are no subways or highways, and no neighbor deals. It's very hard to build a bridge as the game rejected all but three locations where I tried to build one. The same thing happened when trying to string power lines over a body of water. You do not have the ability to raise or lower the terrain here, something that winds up hurting the game because it makes it so hard to build those bridges.
Massive battery drain
You need to have a full battery when playing this game and even then, it drains very quickly. SImCity keeps draining the battery even after connecting the iPhone to a power source, so it's better to let it rest while you charge your phone.
Yes, Virginia, there is an international version
For those of you who expressed concern about the lack of an international version of SimCity, there actually is one. It's called SimCity International in the non-U.S. iTunes stores. It may not be in every country, but it is in the U.K. store and readers have commented that they've seen mention of it in other iTunes stores as well.
Is the game still worth the US$9.99 price tag? It all depends on the mileage that you get out of it. For the features that it currently has, it's a good game until it begins crashing. The lack of stability is a disappointment, as well as some of the missing features. Hopefully, these will be addressed in a future patch. What has the experience like been for all of you after a week?