Game App Review — SimCity BuildIt by EA


For those who has always sucked at the SimCity game franchise, you would be glad to know that this latest incarnation by EA Games isn’t so annoying… once you get used to the mechanics. Or maybe it was just me that sucked way back when. In any case, SimCity BuildIt is a much more easier (and less stressful) game for both Android and iTunes.

Starting out with your brand new city:

In the tutorial, you start off building a road. After that, you are asked to place a residential building next to the road in order to start your first residential household. What I instantly liked about it, is that there aren’t any zoning regulations and you are able to build anything next to each other (mixed usage land). Building is pretty simple: as long as you have the supplies that are asked for (steel, wood, seeds, plants, chairs, etc…) you are able to expand without any other requirements. To know when you qualify for an upgrade is when you see a yellow helmet with a check next to it. A plain yellow helmet (like in the picture above) just means that they want to build but material is missing. It is then up to you to tap on the factories to acquire that material. You can also request that the architect draft up new plans which will set you back 30 minutes but will randomize other materials that you may have to expand.

Materials and Money:

Getting materials are pretty simple. There are no prices to getting material. The only thing you have to lose is time by waiting for them to build. Your basic materials are: steel, wood, seeds, minerals, and plastic (I think there’s one more expansion but I haven’t leveled up enough to unlock it as of this post). With subsequent level ups, you unlock other factories that create more complex materials such as nails, hammers, shovels, chairs, and such. Those more complex materials are used in expanding hi-rise buildings with higher property values. Those materials take a lot longer to create compared to the basic materials (30 mins to create a hammer compared to 30 seconds for steel). Of course with many games out there nowadays, you can always speed that up with in-game dollars (that also cost real money to purchase if need be).

To build, you can tap on the various types of buildings on the right hand side of the screen to choose what you want to build. You have roads, residential buildings, commercial buildings, factories, and governmental buildings. Leveling up will allow you to place more diverse buildings around your town. Many buildings are purchased with in-game currency that is generated through taxes or selling your excess materials and others are purchased through keys that you gain when you start exporting materials through the city’s seaport. You can also obtain money by utilizing the Global Trade HQ, which allows you to visit another city to purchase their excess supplies or the Trade Depot, which allows you to place for sale your excess supplies and advertise so others would see your items when they go to their Global Trade HQ.

Your Citizens:

Compared to the old SimCity, you do not really interact much with the residents. You can see that they are unhappy by the little smilies or unhappy smilies that float off the buildings. There is also a little display that shows your approval rating (which affects the amount of taxes that you can receive per day). Sometimes you’ll get bubbles that display from the buildings. When you tap on them, you may even get a little reward– which could be an item that helps you expand the city’s storage building to house more items or to expand your land possession– so do not neglect to tap on anything. Usually any blue icon in a bubble signifies good thoughts whereas red icons mean that those residences need something and you must place something nearby to satisfy their needs. Outside of figuring out the placements of the buildings to get optimal happiness, it really is not hard to satisfy your citizens. Just keep the nasty buildings (smoggy factories, smelly sewage treatment plants) away and keep the good ones (parks, schools, firehouses) nearby. After figuring that out, my citizens are happy and I’m not seeing yellow ‘meh’ faces and more green ‘yay’ faces. Not too shabby.


The game is fun, it is not much of a hassle if you are in the ‘set it and forget it’ mood with your games. I like that I am not rushed to level up or complete quests (although the cargo ship seaport quests do have a time limit to them). I have played other freemium games that require you to check in much more than this one and I have to say, this is much less stressful compared to them. Give it a shot, who knows, you may enjoy being the Mayor of your own little cybercity.

If you are inclined to visit my humble little town, my city’s name is “Bad Wolf”.


[Free] Android App Review: The Sims Freeplay

There are two types of people in this world: those who have played The Sims, and those who have not.

If you’ve never played The Sims before, I heed you to go run, run as far away as you can before you get sucked into this game.

If you have played The Sims before, mostly you can attest to the fact that you’ll get so wrapped up into the gaming experience that next thing you know, it’s daylight and it’s time for school. Or so that has been my history with The Sims. There were many a days back in my youth that I’d boot up The Sims (only for 30 mins!) and then next thing I knew, it was 2AM in the morning and I needed to haul my butt into bed for school in the morning. The Sims is like a black hole of gaming.

In any case, there’s a whole bunch of Sims game versions and subsequent expansions. If you’re interested, you can check out the list here. If you scroll down towards the end of the page, you can see the list in its entirety, and it’s overwhelming that’s for sure.

Not surprisingly, (as mobile gaming is on the rise with more and more people getting their hands on more technologically advanced smartphones these days) EA has developed a Sims for the Android Marketplace (as well as the iOS store). The Sims Freeplay is a free app on Marketplace that one could download to play on their phone. There is also another version, the Sims 3 for Android but has a hefty price tag of $6.99. There’s no point for me to buy an app until I see how it works on my phone, so off to download Freeplay I went.

First off, although the installation is only 13mb (not that heavy considering how graphically intensive The Sims is) you will have to turn on wifi to install an additional 600-800mbs for the game itself.

If you want to compare:

  • Battery Mix, a (IMHO very informative) battery monitoring app on Android is around 4.1mb
  • Angry Birds (without any expansion such as RIO or Holidays) is 15mbs
  • And if you really want to go old school – a CD-ROM rip of an average movie is around 700mbs (standard rip, not counting high quality DVD, or Blu-Ray downgrade)

It shows how far smartphones have come along in regards to internal memory space. Downloading the game to my Samsung Galaxy SII Epic 4G Touch, I was a little peeved that it didn’t utilize my 4G connection, instead pushing me to choose between the slower 3G and wifi.

Once downloaded, I started the game by creating a Sim. The graphics are beautiful, that’s for sure. It’s so clear on my AMOLED screen. I don’t usually play games, but I was amazed at the clarity of the sprites.

First goal.

There’s the usual free will option where you can make them interact with objects around the house, but the game pushes you to complete certain objectives that I find a bit annoying at times. It keeps flashing until you complete it, only to find another objective goal come up.

Carol and his dog, Sparky (not really, you can't give the dog a name, sadly).

After a few goals completed, you’re urged to create Sim friends for your first Sim. It seems to have a combination gameplay from Sims 2 & 3. You can invite other Sims to your house, and control them to help you complete your objectives. The level bar on the top of the screen seems to be a collective stat no matter how many Sims you have in play.

Farmer Carol grows corn for money.

You don’t get the option of actually having a Sim job until you level up some more… which is a bit time consuming.

All in all, while I’m willing to give Sims Freeplay a chance, I noticed a few things that I’m not too peachy keen on:

  • HUGE Battery drainer. Keep it plugged into the charger, or keep it in the background (and your display off).
  • While the game is free, the money isn’t (somewhat). You may get a few Simoleons here and there, and if you worked hard at it (growing crops/fulfilling objectives), it still doesn’t cover when you need to upgrade furniture or create a workplace. Here is where the catch comes in. EA will offer to give you some Simoleons if you go into Marketplace to give them some real cash for in-game currency. I think it’s $4.99 for 5,000 Simoleons. If you’ve got cash to burn (or your parent’s credit card), go on ahead. For those who doesn’t want to waste money, you’re better off growing some more corn/pumpkins.
  • There is no speeding up time. You have to watch them interact in normal speed.
  • Everything happens in real time. Some interactions take more than a minute (be nice/be romantic). That means you have to wait for it to finish before allowing your Sim to do anything else. Whatever time it is in real life, is whatever time it is in the Sims (e.g.: if something takes 6 hours to accomplish, and it’s 4PM in real time, then that means they’ll be done around 10PM).
  • There is no actions queue. That means you have to wait until the action is finished before you click on them to do something else.
  • If your screen goes to sleep, turning it back on will boot the Sims to a loading screen instead of back to the game itself.
  • The game needs to be connected to their servers in order to work. This means you need to have an active data connection (not great for people who pay for their data).
  • Speaking of data, EA apparently doesn’t factor in the people who have 4G connections, and will not allow the game to connect to server unless it’s on a wifi connection. If you’re on 4G and want to bypass it by not using wifi, you have to turn on the wifi first, connect to the game and once it loads, disconnect it and turn 4G back on. The game borks every so often though, when the screen goes to sleep and you turn display back on again.

I can understand why it doesn’t have a stellar rating on Marketplace, but again, willing to give the game a shot. I think I’ll have to draw the line at having a Sim growing pumpkins though (it takes a whole REALTIME DAY!).

ETA: The thing I found out, is that at least you can keep your hair from being ripped out while you wait for those long interactions to finish, is that you can just leave the Sims running in the background and come back to them later. That’s one little solace for the end users at least.