Friday, 17 July 2015

App Review No. 88 SimCity BuildIt

Strong Points:
Pacing starts out well (if a bit quick)...
Graphics are good
Music is good
Sound effects are good (especially when you level up)
The Global/Friend Trade Center is helpful
Offline mode is a nice touch
Very easy to make basic materials
Building is almost instant
Upgrades are good for pacing, length and aesthetics
Being able to move buildings is a great idea
Being able to watch videos/get presents from other cities is a great way to get rarer items/(in the case of videos) Simoleons
The cargo ship is a good idea and helps get you Simoleons/Golden Keys...
Dr Vu's Disaster Tower is an interesting concept...

Weak Points:
...and then completely collapses
Simoleons are quite hard to get
Advanced materials are harder to make
Storage fills up very quickly
No way to lock materials on the Global Trade Center to friends only
Upgrade storage/expansion items are hard to get without keeping the game on for hours
Residences have to be close to beaches/mountains in order to benefit (and so some, especially older, cities may need a complete redesign)
... but the materials you need often take too long to make in order to use it
... but using it/rebuilding your city can be too expensive to warrant it

Rating: 77%

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
Canada, Australia and New Zealand: 24th October, 2014
Rest of the World: 16th December 2014

Controls: tap to interact with the city

Oh, I so wanted this to be amazing! A city in my pocket that I could keep coming back to and improving and a population that I could rule over with an iron fist... I mean help to prosper, of course. And that's how it starts.

The point of the game is just as it says on the tin: to build a city. In order to do this, you need to build houses using various basic materials (wood, metal etc.) that can all be made in the factories (and, except for a bit of time, for free!) as well as advanced materials (nails, planks etc.) that can be made in the various stores (using the basic materials and a bit more of your time). Then you can upgrade these houses using more materials (and, as a nice touch, this changes the aesthetics of the building). Where you place the residences also affects the gameplay, as places with a higher land value (increased by more/better services/specialisations, that I'll explain later) will attract more wealthy citizens and, therefore, give you better residences/more taxes. Finally, once you unlock the airport (by getting enough population) you can build Tokyo themed houses that will give you more taxes/population.

As well for building houses, the materials you make can also be used to get that other, all important resource: Simoleons. The way you do this is by selling the materials on the Global Trade Center (either to friends or to randoms (or to the game, if you wait long enough; although there's no way to lock it to just friends so expect randoms to buy it more often than not). Furthermore, you can occasionally, sell materials straight to various members of your city, should the speech bubble pop up. The other way to earn Simoleons is through taxes in which a fixed amount is earned in a 24 hour period (which you then have to collect) and is fully controlled by your citizen's happiness (if only real taxes worked like that!). The Simoleons are then used to buy shops, factories, services and specialisations as well as to upgrade roads (so, basically anything other than residences).

In order to raise your population's happiness (although they don't seem to mind about these services until you unlock them) you need to build services (and some specialisations). Services include: water, power, trash, sewage, fire stations, hospitals and police. Water, power, trash and sewage are relatively easy to handle as you just need to build more of the relevant buildings and can put them anywhere (although, you'll need to remember not to put residences in the pollution zones caused by a lot of the buildings). Fire stations, hospitals and police, however, are a bit harder. The reason for this, is that these buildings have an area of effect and, so, you have to be quite particular in where you put them (so as to get the most 'bang for your buck'). This is helped, slightly, by getting bigger/better versions of these services but, due to the unfortunate size increase, will often lead to you having to edit your entire city to fit in one more fire station.

I've mentioned that things have to be unlocked and this is done in two ways. One through old-fashioned levelling up (exp is gained by building/upgrading residences and gives is what unlocks the various services, shops, roads and materials) and population. Population (once again, gained through building and upgrading residences - are you beginning to see their importance?) is used to unlock the various upgrades to factories and services as well as to unlock the myriad of other things in your city (such as Dr Vu's Disaster Tower and the Cargo Ship). The other thing that increases your population is specialisations (such as parks, education and transport), all of which are expensive (besides, perhaps, the parks) and area of effect (so more of a mid to late game thing).

As well as money, you also need Golden Keys in order to get specialisations, and these are gained in two ways. Firstly, through completing jobs (by sending various amounts of three materials - all three have to be sent to get a Golden Key but you also get some money for just sending one or two of the materials) on the Cargo Ship which is a nice, short-ish, thing but can get annoying when the materials you need take a few hours to make. Secondly, there is Dr Vu's Disaster Tower which, like the name suggests, let's you cause disasters (such as meteor strikes) on your nicely made city. You level up these disasters (so as to cause more destruction) every time you use them and get a Golden Key once you rebuild the ruined residences (for quite a few materials, I might add).

The final two things you can build are roads and government buildings. Roads are both pretty self-explanatory and probably the most important thing you can build in the entire game. The reason for this is that you can only place other buildings next to roads (annoying, but it makes sense). Luckily, upgrades for roads (so as to decrease traffic) don't increase the physical length of the road but just add more lanes (so you don't have to edit your entire city when upgrading a road). Government buildings, however, seem to serve almost no conceivable purpose other than having to exist and, so, could have been rendered to buttons rather than take up valuable real estate. They include the Town Hall (literally, no purpose), the City Hall (where you collect your taxes), the Mayor's Mansion (where you can check/complete your achievements in order to receive SimCash (the premium currency; and one that is both less useful and harder to get than most build-em-ups) and the City Storage (where you can view/upgrade your material storage).  

In order to upgrade your storage/expand your city's size (even onto the beaches), you need to collect various other materials, either by buying them or by collecting them from your happy citizens. These upgrade materials are split into three types (storage, expansion and beach) of three separate materials and various, increasing, amounts of these materials are needed to do a specific upgrade/expansion. An added benefit of these upgrade materials is that they sell for a lot of Simoleons (a problem with them is that they need to be bought for a lot of Simoleons as well).

The graphics/animations are great (with a hugely noticeable difference between iPhone 4's and 5S's) and the music/sound effects are pretty good to (especially the levelling up one - fireworks, anyone?). One nice add on is a day/night cycle (although, it doesn't appear to be synced to real-time) and it, and the traffic, adds some more vibrancy to your city.

Overall, the game is a nice attempt at a mobile version of the city building genre but could be improved by slowing down the earlier game and lengthening out the end game as well as by removing some of the limitations of the game (such as a limited expansion area and high costs).

Goodbye for now, Harry 

Update: after reaching certain (exp) levels you can now permanently upgrade commercial buildings, (up to three times) using Simoleons, which will let you speed up production time on things like nails and donuts! And, coupled with some behind the scenes fixes, you should be able to grow your city like never before!

Update: add a touch of French flair to your city with the new Parisian neighborhoods, landmarks and Special Items! Deliver and earn these items at the Airport (which can now be built sooner at 140,000 population) in order to unlock the Parisian customisation pack. Or buy and sell them on the Global Market! Finally, the helipads now have helicopters (where were they before?) so you can bring your sky to life!

Update: but, while your sky might be full of life, your city will be full of... PG Halloween themed death! Introducing five new, limited-time and Halloween themed buildings (listed under parks) as well as eerie effects when your city lights up at night... But it's not all doom and gloom! You can now enjoy more commentary from your citizens and, so, earn more rewards! Finally, the performance of the game has been improved!

Update: the Brits have arrived and brought with them a whole host of British themed items, landmarks and buildings! So, there's a Pot of Tea! A Bobby's Helmet! A Telephone Box! Use these items to build some London Town houses. Classic London landmarks such as the Globe Theater IV and Big Ben are also included! (Un)Fortunately however, there is a distinct lack of classic British drizzle. As well as the British stuff there's also 25% more land (including more beachfront) and quests that you can complete to fulfill your citizen's dreams (and steal their hard-earned items)!

Update: climb the mountain of life and you shall reach the fabled Mountain Holiday update for SimCity BuildIt! Create the mountain resort that you've always dreamed of with 10 new expansion areas and 17 new specialization buildings including a Mountain Lift, Half Pipe, Train and Winter Castle (are you ready to let it go?... #notrelatedtoDisneyinanyway). Furthermore, in order to get you in the mood for the time of fake trees and fake snow, you can place a selection of limited-time collectible Holiday themed buildings such as the Holiday Tree, Ice Skating Rink and Delicacy Market (mmm... I'm hungry now). Finally, you can now level up residential buildings for unique looks and speed up production with Epic Projects! P.S. all players will receive a free gift from the SimCity BuildIt team!

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