SimCity BuildIt

EA Games for mobile devices.

All Sims games, except the slipshod versions made specifically for the Nintendo Gameboy (in its various manifestations), are hypnotically addictive. SimCity BuildIt keeps you, as Mayor of an ever burgeoning metropolis, on your toes, constantly needing currency (of at least three types) to enable an increase in population, which creates a need for manufacturing, which creates a need for space expansion, which creates a need for expansion icons, which creates a need for currency, which…..In fact, it is not your toes which get the work out, but your fingers, hopping like acquisitive fleas across your mobile device.

If you should succumb to the lure of ‘easy cash’ and pay real money for sim currency, use that money wisely, and wait until you really know how to use it. Gone are the days when a fair, flat price for a game included all that the player needed. Old games beloved of The Varnished Culture cost $60 or $70 some decades back. That seemed extravagant, but we would rather pay (say) $150 for a complete game now, than download something for free which is carefully calibrated to keep the player needing more and more in an endless, cynical loop. The SimCity BuildIt junkie is kept hooked with the strategic unlocking of new types of product, residence, specialised buildings and facilities, each of which in itself requires more specialised products, residences, specialised buildings and facilities. That said, SimCity BuildIt can be played for free, or for a reasonable price, provided that you, as Mayor, are not impatient. Play for an hour a day, on the bus, or while waiting for Telstra to answer the phone. Put the game down and walk away. Just say “no” (for now).

The graphics are crisp and attractive. Skyscrapers are fantastically lit at night; brightly coloured cars turn at traffic lights, merge and park; little sims march quickly along the streets. The controls are generally easier to manage than in earlier SimCity generations – although when playing on a small screen, the ultra-responsiveness can lead to annoying slips. Annoying too, are the constant floating icons such as the coins, inviting the Mayor to trade with AI Mayors, and the yellow helmets indicating that a residential upgrade is possible. It were preferable that these could be toggled on and off, but it is likely that EA’s behavioural analysts have found allowing players to do so might result in a sudden inclination to go to rehab.

The sound effects are charming, appropriate to each zone. Machines bustle and voices tannoy indecipherable messages in the factory zones; children shout in the residential areas and plane engines whine at the airport (which you can build so as to trade with Paris, London and Tokyo when you have lured 120,000 sims to your city). The cities are customisable to a point. Although there are seemingly endless upgrades, buildings and  landmarks to build, the fussiness of the sims and budget constraints do inhibit aesthetic creativity. Sims are fussy. They will not live happily within certain range of sewerage or manufacturing plants. They want parks and more parks. Parks must be on roads. Each residential zone needs its own fire station, police station and health clinic. Woe betide the mayor who allows the city to run low on water.

Mayors can communicate and trade, via clubs. But in general, trading takes place by lucky-dipping into other Mayors’ towns via the Global Trade HQ. This can mean frenziedly visiting city after city, looking for just that thing you need, one of which you sold a minute ago, before you needed it.

This is a fun game, repetitious and riveting. Don’t pay too much for it, but don’t stint on the parks, either.


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