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EA’s Hot For The Holidays Event Previews: ‘SimCity Deluxe’, ‘The Sims 3 Ambitions’, ‘Risk’, ‘Yahtzee’ for the iPad and ‘R-Type’

While Madden NFL 11 was undoubtedly the star of the show at the top secret EA Hot For the Holidays event last week, EA was also showing off a couple of predictable sequels, iOS adaptations of Hasbro classics, and third party titles published by EA.

SimCity Deluxe – This sequel of sorts is basically little more than a makeover of the original SimCity [$2.99], it’s a little disappointing that EA is releasing this as a separate game instead of applying these fixes to the existing one, but I suppose you could say the same about most EA sequels. SimCity Deluxe is going to have seasons (and disasters to go with each) as well as graphics that look a lot like SimCity 4 for the PC. In the game you will finally be able to modify the terrain with touch controls, which actually was a lot of fun. The new UI is also substantially less clunky, although still suffers a little just because there’s so much you can do in the game and packing all those functions in to a sensible touch-based interface is never going to be easy.

The Sims 3 Ambitions – I’ve never really been one to get sucked in to The Sims, but the sheer popularity of the series is undeniable. The Sims 3 Ambitions, much like SimCity Deluxe takes the same basic formula from The Sims 3 [$6.99] and greatly improves upon it. Unlike The Sims 3 World Adventures [$6.99], EA doesn’t currently have plans to allow you to import your existing sim in to the game which I’m sure some people will be disappointed by. Regardless of that, Ambitions is host to tons of improvements. You can now build rooms of your house just like the computer game, there are kids in game, players have much more control over the speed of time, and the city area is much denser with many more career paths and activities for your sims. For me, my favorite part of Sims games was always building my house, so I was very excited to see they finally added that functionality to the iPhone game and even more so when I saw just how well the touch interface worked for building.

Risk – Moving on to EA’s massive pile of Hasbro IP is an officially licensed Risk game, and there’s really not much to say about it other than it’s Risk. The game has a futuristic look to it with scan line graphical effects everywhere, modern looking troops, and a soundtrack that wasn’t half bad. What killed me about playing Risk at the event was it just seemed like too little too late. When the App Store first came online I was practically begging for a Risk game on my iPhone, and since then there have been many highly competent Risk spinoffs such as Lux DLX 2 [$4.99] which not only is universal but also features over 80 different maps to play on. If EA gave Risk the Carcassonne treatment and provided a well designed game from a well known name with asynchronous push alert powered online multiplayer, Risk would have been the easiest game in the world to recommend. Unfortunately, with local multiplayer only, the only thing that was captivating about Risk was the brand name.

Yahtzee for the iPad – Originally created all the way back in 1956 and with classic gameplay that couldn’t be more basic and playable with little more than five dice and a piece of paper, it definitely was a little silly seeing Yahtzee on the iPad. Silly as it may be, I’ve really enjoyed nearly every game with solid local multiplayer on the iPad, and Yahtzee will be no different. The iPad game will have four different gameplay modes, as well as Facebook Connect functionality to boast about high scores and issue challenges.

R-Type – Last, but certainly not least, is the upcoming iPhone port of R-Type. We’ve covered the game in the past, from its original announcement last year to the recent screenshots released. In any shooter, high frame rates and precise controls are both very important, and I’m happy to say that R-Type completely met my expectations and I can’t wait for it to be released.

These games consist of EA’s “summer lineup", and aside from Madden which is set to be released on August 10th, and Risk which is already available in the New Zealand App Store and should appear tonight in the US App Store, when these games get released is anyone’s guess. EA typically doesn’t publicize games that aren’t very close to being released on the App Store, so hopefully we’ll be seeing these games very soon.

Yahtzee, Reckless Racing and Madden NFL 10 are the only games EA seems to have planned for the iPad anytime soon, and when asked about their plans for the iPhone 4, moving forward EA doesn’t plan to do more iPhone 4 specific versions of games like NCAA Football by EA SPORTS HD. When possible, they said their games will support the various features of the iPhone 4, but were reluctant to offer specifics beyond that.