SimCity Deluxe HD: Big Screen for the Big City

SimCity has been on iOS since 2008 but earlier this year in July, developer EA Mobile released a new Deluxe version for iPhone. Just recently did they release an iPad version to make use of the large screen and graphical capabilities of Apple’s latest addition to the iOS lineup.

SimCity for iOS is pretty much a copy of SimCity 3000 with a new touchscreen user interface. All the graphics of the former PC game are still there but the gameplay has been very slightly altered and updated for a modern game.

“We built this city”

The game’s overall gameplay is very similar to that of its PC counterpart and to all SimCity games, on iOS or elsewhere. In order to design a functional and, more importantly profitable, city, you must design an area with zones (residential, commercial and industrial) with transportation, utilities and civic & recreational structures.

The game does not omit many features from it’s mouse-and-keyboard brother, but allows room for enjoyable gameplay anyway. Being a good city mayor has the same requirements and needs, with not only budget constraints but advisors begging for budget and petitioners trying to squeeze money in the form of ordinances.

advisor

Get advise from the advisors tab

The UI supports the whole touchscreen interface and is redesigned for the larger screen real estate that the iPad offers. Things like budget, graphs and ordinances have been moved to easy-to-access tabs at the bottom, an improvement even over the original SC3K game.

An interesting feature I discovered after drafting this review was the ability to undock some of the lower tabs to create overlays. For example, you can undock the budget tab to create a little box showing income and expenditure without opening the whole budget tab. Or the disasters pop-out menu allows faster response in emergencies. I personally love this feature, which is possible thanks to the big display.

A major disappointment in the game is the overall lack of precision, especially when starting out. It’s very easy to accidentally construct something, and if you choose to demolish it, expect a bill for the work. This certainly isn’t cost-effective for new cities.

SimCity Deluxe UI

The UI is great but the distinctive lack of precision may cost your city

The graphics of SimCity Deluxe are still pretty impressive for the mobile game platform. They aren’t exactly at the same level as Infinity Blade but certainly a more realistic step up from the likes of We City. The deluxe game seems to have more buildings (as in those that are built autonomously in the zones) as well which is definitely a positive.

Oh and don’t worry, all the alien invasions and earthquakes you could want are still there too!

Charm of an ever-growing franchise

The charm and familiarity of the SimCity franchise remains an underlying factor in the success of this game. The feeling of playing god and creating something from nothing establishes a feeling of success even though there is no end to the gameplay.

If you’ve played SimCity at any point in your life, this app will make you feel right at home. If you’ve played it on your iPhone, it’ll still be a step up with better touch controls thanks to the larger display. The distinctive lack of precision is a sure negative, but it’s a lot more fun having a hands-on approach in building your city (literally!).

Seasons and Scenarios

SCDHD as we can now refer to it (“SimCity Deluxe HD”) introduces a new seasons feature, which unfortunately seems a little half-hearted in this version. There is a cheesy overlay added to the game to indicate the seasonal change and then something as small as a terrain color change for the majority of the time.

It’s certainly not the best use of the iPad’s graphical power so don’t expect nicely animated rain or snow, but rather the odd lens glare from a distant sun. I’d personally prefer a lack of seasons to the version that EA has integrated so luckily there is the ability to turn the effects of seasons off.

autumn

Oh look, it's autumn

Scenarios, however, are a positive addition and make the game a little bit more fun for those that don’t go for the never ending gameplay Sims players have gotten used to. Scenarios offer up an already established city with some sort of problem (such as removing waste leftover from a festival) that the player must solve.

There’s also starter cities, which are similar to scenarios in that they offer an already-established city but without the goals and timescale. You can also choose whether you want these to be layout only or full city, something that I believe is a new addition, even from the PC game.

Starter City

SimCity Deluxe brings in a new Starter City feature

Final Thoughts

EA Mobile has done a nice job at optimizing the game for iPad. It’s a lot nicer than playing the iPhone game in 2x mode and offers a whole new world of enthusiasm for the game on the go. In fact, I think I prefer to play this style of game on the sofa with the iPad as apposed to the traditional position at a desk. All the charm of the series is there plus a few subtle changes such as renders from The Sims 2 being used as the advisors.

I’m not much of an iPad gamer but EA is really offering the best of the bunch right now. I’ve been known to only play the odd game of Angry Birds or Doodle Jump on iOS, but games like this and newly-released NFS: Hot Pursuit shows the real depth of traditional gameplay is possible on the platform.

However, this added depth comes at a price of some stability issues even with a fallback “AutoSave” feature.

The game isn’t excessively fresh or new and only subtle changes can be seen on the iPhone game in contrast to it’s predecessor, but for the iPad, it’s a whole new experience! And at a $0.99 price point in EA’s holiday sale, it was a steal!


Summary

EA has optimized their blockbuster SimCity game for the iPad really well and it's great to see much more in-depth gameplay available on the iOS platform. However, there are some stability issues.

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