The new SimCity game for iOS and Android may have a four-star user-review rating on the iTunes app store, but a glance at those reviews — and some time playing the game — make it clear that this city's got some problems.
I know, I know: "Oh, it's Kotaku harumphing about a new SimCity game again." But, well... have you seen what they did with SimCity for this new game SimCity Buildit?
We've got an attractive 3D game that lets you zone and build a city. That's good!
Not so good? SimCity fans, how much do you love timer-based resource-production as the primary means for growing your city?
Let's say that you zone some plots of land for houses. In most SimCity games, you tweak the tax code, improve the roads, maybe build a police station nearby and, bit by bit, those homes improve. In SimCity Buildit? You can do some of that, but the main way you improve the residential areas you've zoned is by dragging resources to them. Take this example, where the building will only advance if we put some steel into it:
Here's another residential zone that you can develop. You'll need nails for this one:
Short on nails? You can make nails out of steel at a building supply shop (you may wait five minutes for them to be made, or you may pay virtual dollars to hurry that up).
You need steel to make nails. How do you get steel? You make it at a factory. You must wait one minute per steel girder (or you may pay to hurry that up). With a big enough factory you can at least fill three orders at a time:
While you're waiting, you could develop this plot of residential land, if only you had two more hammers...
Naturally, if you're short on hammers, just make them!
That will be a 14-minute wait per hammer, if you have the right supplies. Looks like someone doesn't have enough wood:
Where do you make wood? Factory. That takes three minutes....
Or, yeah, you could hurry that up by spending some fake virtual dollars. Easiest way to get those? Pay real money:
If any of this strikes you as unusual, then you haven't played a free-to-play mobile game lately.
You can play this new SimCity without paying anything. The good folks at TouchArcade have a handy guide that explains how best to do this. Nevertheless, this kind of game design gets you user reviews like this:
"They call you a 'Mayor' but a mayor doesn't have to work in the factories and ask for more stock every 2-5 minutes, and have to collect it personally in each factory."
Take a look at this...it's what you do in this game:
Tap-tap-tap. Collect those resources. Is this SimCity? The wait-then-tap-then-spend-then-wait formula is more FarmVille or Clash of Clans.
To be fair, there are people who really like the game, and they too have written reviews on the App Store. Some of them think that the people who dislike the game might just stink at it. To wit:
Other five-star reviewers also advise patience. Play the game smartly, they say. Play it just a few minutes per session and you'll have a good time.
I was struck, though, by the following review. It's the first one that appears on the App Store. It's a five-star review. And this is what it says:
"Scam the system"
You're being advised to game the game so you don't have to pay for the game. Ugh.
If a game is good, I think the people who made the game deserve to be paid for it. So the idea that the best way to play a game is to avoid all the ways it asks you to spend feels perverse.
But there it is.
There's free-to-play mobile gaming in 2014 for you, as exemplified by SimCity Buildit and its brethren. You can wait to progress. You can buckle and pay. Clearly, some people find this fun. And some people — yeah, me — just think: "Hmmm. Maybe I should go back and try that PC version again. It had its problems, but it wasn't anything quite like this."
Since SimCity Buildit is free, you can try it yourself and be the judge. Be patient, ok?