First, a few sweeping generalizations about this modern era of gaming. Game designers are implementing better, more intuitive user interfaces and controls. Failure is not so much about punishment as it is disappointment. And complex systems and mechanics are much more streamlined, allowing us to just sit back and play, while still enjoying the various complexities of a given game without the mess and fuss.

Games are just… easier now than what they were before. I think no other genre has benefitted more from modern design than the simulation. Your ten-year-old, for example, can probably enjoy Firaxis' Civilization V just as much as you do, despite the fact that you undoubtedly have a better grasp of it intricacies. It's more playable now, which is quite the change from previous iterations.

But when I look at SimCity Deluxe for iOS [$2.99 / HD], I don't see that new level of polish and refinement, streamlining, and kneading that a lot of modern games showcase. It's just SimCity, except on a touch-based platform. You start with nothing, as usual, and then build a huge, hopefully thriving city with roads, bustling industrial and residential districts, parks, and other constructs ripped from life.

There's no denying that it has a certain magic to it -- creating something out of nothing is still as compelling as ever and SimCity is one of the best, most complex series' to do this in. But Deluxe isn't accessible. At all.

I feel like we all know what this franchise is about, so I'll keep this specifics discussion brief: in Deluxe, you need to build roads, water pipes, power lines, dumps, and then manage all of these various bits of infrastructure before you can even start running your city's simulation. And then when you do get to the point of simulating, you'll have to start negotiating these bits and pieces, weighing them against each other while carefully watching a resource meter drain or rise as your city -- and it's interesting parts like industry -- grow. Later, you'll be able to add money-sucking civic buildings, monuments, and parks, provided you've the infrastructure in place.

And you're always just a few missteps from failure, provided you don't hit the self-destruct button on your own civilization first via alien attack (a real mechanic).

What I'm getting at here is a long-winded way to say that Deluxe is a very traditional SimCity game. It has a few modern bells and whistles, sure. The UI is rather clean and the distinctions between components are crystal clear. Also, it doesn't burden you with ticky-tacky stuff like building houses or non-important buildings. But in most other regards, this is an old-school simulation that requires a lot of time, patience, and Chess-level think-ahead logic for city planning, zoning, and taxing.

The iPhone version of Deluxe launched earlier this summer and received a decent bit of acclaim, though it had a fatal flaw: the screen was too tiny for the abundance of UI elements and the thousands of tiny little grids in which you can build were hard to access as a result. Deluxe, however, is available on the iPad starting today.

Just as you'd expect, it's better for it -- it's easier to click within the game and the UI has a lot of breathing room. I still find myself struggling to connect roads and keep things in an orderly fashion, though, I'm thinking this is more a result of the isometric camera than anything else. Working at a slight angle isn't easy for a city planner in the early stages of the game.

Aside from that, we're looking at a picture perfect port with a platform-specific flaw: it tends to chug. The iPhone version of Deluxe is pretty snappy, but the iPad version, for whatever reason, suffers frame drops or otherwise general slowness.

I think I can sum up my impressions of Deluxe with this: the game never entices me to stay in it too long, and I wish I could play it with a mouse and keyboard. The precision isn't there despite the spacing and there aren't enough carrots leading me through.

If you're a card-carrying member of the SimCity Elite Club who has spent many a sleepless night in torturous anticipation of a SimCity for the iPad, you're in a position to enjoy Deluxe. You'll be able to put up with the archaic design, in other words. For those of you out there who aren't familiar with the series and Deluxe would be your first plunge, this isn't the title to start with. For Deluxe, you need a good sense of how SimCity works and what the game demands, or else you'll risk getting lost and frustrated.

Just a couple of mode notes: Deluxe boasts a tutorial that does an OK job of walking you through the basics, but fails to really dive into what it takes to create an uber-successful, bustling city. Starter cities are available, too, for those who can't quite break through the rags-to-riches play or handle Deluxe's much-too-steep learning curve. Additionally, several scenarios are available for the advanced player who wants to hit an end game goal or needs a challenge.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Brad Nicholson


  • Brad Nicholson


  • Surge

    Sim City, Sim City Deluxe, and now Sim City for iPad. EA can shove it, they wont be getting a dime of my money.

    • Anonymous

      I agree it's annoying. Might be worth it to wait for a sale.

  • Wdxdd

    shut up brad u bellend

  • Noor

    Good review,really a classic game, Thanks. For Latest on iPhone,iPod,iPad,Android and Jailbreak please visit Thanks

  • Anonymous

    The comments so far are really helping me decide whether or not to get this.

  • Charles Albert

    Sim City always lacked proper tutoring, and some gameplay elements are really misplaced, like farms for instance: it just says to make big areas of low industrial, if the land values are low enough, then you got a rural area, but all i've got are huge industrial areas, that soon after end um dying. Sim City franchise sadly always was a niche franchise, and the producer never cared to atract new games by making clear some gameplay mechanics.

    • Anonymous

      Well that's quite realistic. Have you been to Detroit lately?

    • Ants Kiwi

      Niche?  lol, funniest thing I've read today.  Great insight there.  Given its sold millions of copies across the franchise, it can't be called niche.

  • zilog

    I always preferred the original, top-down SimCity. It did not look nearly as pretty as the later isometric incarnations but it was much easier to get into and quicker to play. I think it would have made a much better fit for the iPad than porting SimCity 3000 or whatever this is.

    • Ryan Scott Tandy

      i think it's been about 20 years since simcity was topdown, going with that approach would be a massive step backwards. however the actual 3d execution is still not quite there yet 🙁

    • TKO

      See, the big gaming companies have always been thinking like that: That once you've gone 3d, you can't go back; people won't buy it, etc. But, with more independent developers on the iPhone, 2d games have been more common; and they're selling well. I think a classic Sim City would do well. I'd certainly buy it. (An original The Settlers/Serf City too, while we're wishing .. thanks!) 🙂

  • Einstein Rosen_bridge

    The reviewer seems like they must be kind of young or have ADD. If you are a patient gamer and like simulations or games like Civilization then how bad can it be? I can't figure out if the review is saying that the game is poorly executed on the iPad or it's not fun because they have no idea how to play (it's really not hard and finding out is what makes it fun). If you want a social networked/farmville/cutesy/hold your hand mindless game its probably not going to be your thing to play Sim City if it's your first time. However, I grew up playing the franchise through all it's iterations and am secretly hoping to see KOEI titles like Aerobiz show up someday. I want a second opinion before I plunk down my cash as I got burnt by the tiny screen issue with the first one.

    • Eli Hodapp

      The point we tried to get across in the review is that if you love SimCity, this is the game for you. You'll be able to skip the tutorial and drive right in, likely forgiving any shortcomings because you're playing SimCity on your iPad. However, if you're the kind of person who is like "Oh hey, I heard about this 'SimCity' thing..." you're going to be in for an uphill battle that you'll likely give up on before figuring out all the nuances that make for a successful city that us veterans of the series have known about since the early 90's.

    • Brad Nicholson

      First of all, tl;dr. Second, you're drawing a stupid distinction that I didn't. When I talk about streamlining, automation, solid UI, progressive systems, and transparent rules, I'm not talking about "FarmVille." I'm referring to good design. I used "Civ V" as a touchstone in the review, though it looks like you glossed over that and its subsequent points. "SimCity" is still littered with the components of yesteryear. It's hard to master or learn and even harder to commit to as it lacks a lot of common, and even modern, trappings.

      • Brad Nicholson

        I should add that if you're one of those tough guys who can really grit it out and deal with "SimCity," good for you. Knock yourself out. You may, however, want to consider that your tastes a little out of date. Us ADD people enjoy enjoy all the good points of design that I mentioned earlier.

  • Smochina4000

    Nice! I would like to see "Traffic Giant" on "iPhone" and "iPad". ^_^!

  • Daniel Fischer

    The ADD Sim City Societies didn't do very well. I guess they gave up on the market 😉

    But you have a point with this incarnation of Sim City being no different from 2k, 3k or 4 safe for minor details and the (compared to 2k) modern UI. I like it because I liked the older Sim City games, but I wouldn't have said no to something new either, for a change.

  • Joeydeacon

    i just played it for a few hours, its fun. i like it. defo worth getting. how do you stop propertys from dying/decaying though? i seem to have stopped it happening in the residential(green) zone by making parks etc. Im not sure though. any help?

    • TKO

      I think you have to have demand for that type of structure in that aread..

  • Brementer

    This game is great!!!!! That is all.

  • qbgabe12

    since this is a EA game, I am confidence I can one day get it @ 2.99 or less ... 🙂

  • Miloo

    Wow, Brad sure gets needlessly defensive when someone doesn't like his reviews. Suck it up Brad, you don't like the game all that much and /that's/ OK right? You can't be a critic stuck behind a glass wall you girl.

  • Dreamnext

    I played with Ipad Simcity Deluxe for a few hours, and it was disappointing in a big-city setting built from scratch. When your city becomes big the game becomes unstable.

    First, at around 250,000h you are unable to save your city, having to rely on the autosave file. Pressing the ... button causes to close the app.

    Then, at around 300,000h, the app begins to close randomly when you browse the place or add new items.

    Finally, at around 340,000h, the app begins to close with no apparent reason.

    For me, the Ipad version was too unstable to be playable.

  • sanbaba

    Hihi, after the recent price drop (a regular occurrence according to appshopper), I'm tempted to pick this up as I'm an oldschool SC fan from back to the very first one. I figure a few little touch screeen niggles won't bother me. What worries me more is that in the year after this game's release (2011), there are countless comments on the web about how unstable this game was - at least at launch - and very few comments so easily found elsewhere. I would be very bothered by ruined save games and constant crashing. Ordinarily I would turn to the Appstore to read more recent reviews (the game was last updated in November 2011) but since I live in Hong Kong I can't seem to get anything on the ipad to talk to me about the US Appstore. Apple, cunty snausages that they are, don't allow me to read US reviews, when obviously reviews should be filtered by language, not nation. Anyway, anyone got an updated review, or some sort of appstore mirror site I could check? Thanks.

    • circadia

      I was hesitant to buy it for the same reason — lots of reviews about crashes and glitches. But because of the low price, I took the gamble. I've been playing it for a few weeks now with no problems. The only glitch I've run into is that the news ticker will often tell you you don't have enough water, followed by news that you have plenty of water. When in doubt, just query your water sources to make sure everything's fine. Aside form that, the game has worked great for me running on an iPad 2 with ios7.

      • sanbaba

        thanks. in this era of appstore-constantly-updating, virtually-everything-is-an-online-game insanity, both offering a game for review and reviewing it only once seem slightly fraudulent! of course I wouldn't want to have to review a game hundreds of times either so toucharcade et al are totally off the hook... but at the very least, the ios appstore policies seem deliberately designed to obscure details... kinda reminiscent of graphics card naming! ;P

SimCity™ Deluxe for iPad Reviewed by Brad Nicholson on . Rating: 2.5