Review: SimCity BuildIt – Not the Mobile SimCity I Was Hoping For



I’ve been dreaming of a day when I could play a SimCity game on my tablet. Just think of how awesome it would be to have a full, city building experience on the go! So when I heard about the newly released SimCity BuildIt mobile app months ago, I have been silently waiting to see it launched and in action. I installed it on my iPhone 5S this morning and took it for a test run.

My initial impression on this: This is not a SimCity game. It’s Farmville with a coat of SimCity paint over top of it. And I’m really disappointed.

If you were one of the folks who disliked the newest SimCity PC game, don’t even take a look at this. It’ll just make you rage.

Game Mechanics

Everything is on a timer.

Sure, the graphics and interactivity are lovely, but I repeat, this isn’t a SimCity game. You lay down a road, but you don’t zone an area and watch it grow under a hopeful mayor’s eye. Instead, you plop down tiny residential lots, which are fixed-sized squares that don’t grow on their own. And you only get a fixed number of lots to place depending on your level.

To progress, you plop down stores and factories, which also don’t grow on their own, nor do they really seem to offer jobs to your sims that I could tell. Instead, these stores and factories produce stuff like wood logs and nails. These are run on your normal freemium game timers, which you can speed up using the purchaseable in-game currency. Once your factory is done producing stuff, you use it to upgrade your residential lots. The more lots you have and the more developed they become, the more resources they require from you to continue to upgrade.

Upgrading is how you increase population, earn experience for levels, and earn money (which I read is super hard to come by once you get into the upper levels). Each level unlocks more plots to place, and other stuff like parks, service buildings, etc. So everything you do is gated by your level. No just flopping out a zone and watching it develop. It’s very hand-held and very limited compared to real SimCity games.

The only good element of the game was that you can pick up and move existing buildings without destroying them first. So arranging your city is easy to do, which is good since the tutorial had you throwing down factories across the street from your residential lots. Ew!

Other Woes

Requirements for upgrading a residential lot.
Resource requirements for upgrading a residential lot.

This game chewed through my phone’s battery like crazy, even when it was turned off! Not only that, but my phone heated up while playing the game to an extent I’ve never seen with any other app. That really can’t be good.

When I attempted to connect the game to the iOS Game Center, SimCity BuildIt crashed. Trying to re-launch the game, it would crash every time Game Center attempted to launch alongside it. I couldn’t get into the game to disconnect it from Game Center, so I was unable to continue playing.

That was the point where I called it quits and uninstalled it. I think reinstalling was the only option I had to maybe fix the issue, and that would just put me back at the very start by wiping my city. So I’ve left it uninstalled, and sadly have no interest in trying this game again.

My final thoughts: Even the old Facebook SimCity Social was more engaging than this offering, which is nothing more than a stripped down freemium attempt to use the SimCity name in a mobile app. It’s nothing you haven’t seen a thousand times before. Unless you really like that kind of game, stay away.

If they could have just given us a real SimCity game, even at a blanket cost, I would have bought it.  Instead, they opted to take the freemium cash-grab route, which was what I was afraid they’d do.

I’m a sad mayor to have to write this post. *sigh*  🙁

This is what your residential area looks like - all these bubbles requesting resources to upgrade.
This is what your residential area looks like – all these bubbles requesting resources to upgrade.


  1. Given that modern tablets and phones must have many orders of magnitude more processing power than the machines games ran on in the 80s and 90s it mystifies me why mobile gaming is so poor. Well, no it doesn’t, really. It’s a market thing not a technology thing, obviously. The producers have found that there’s absolutely no need to make complex, time-consuming games and apps when they can make as much or more money knocking out shallow clones and gimmicks.

  2. Definitely heats up the iPhone like it’s been sitting in the sun for a few hours. I can’t see this being any good for the phone. Make sure you kill the app by swiping it away when not using otherwise it stays hot.

    1. yep. me too. Indication that there is some rubbish code in there making the phone work super hard. Also kills the battery. Second the ‘kill it when not in use’ idea.

  3. Hey I’ve been around the block for quite awhile & for some reason the original SimCity never stuck & BuildIt does work for me. Yeah, I hated it at first & then realized it was teaching important lessons in resource planning & pacing development. I’m sure the original is waaaay more sophisticated & more strategic – perhaps this is what some of us needed to appreciate the original- I know I’ll be giving it a shot when I can get my hands on it!

    1. Glad you’re having a good time with it – I can understand if it’s the kind of game that you enjoy. That’s fine!

      It just didn’t follow the original SimCity design in most ways, so it wasn’t the game I was hoping it’d be. If it can help introduce the SimCity series, however, that’s a good thing! 🙂

  4. Should have read this before downloading. I’ve been playing it for a month and it damaged my iPhone. I have a big cover and dos not notice it got so hot until I took it out one day for another reason and was shocked at how hot it was. Too hot to touch!!!
    It must have overheated so much the radio chip is impacted and now my cellular connection is jumping like crazy between full and no network without moving the phone.

    Warning: this free game might end up costing you hundreds of dollars.

    1. Oh no! I’m really sorry to hear that the app may have damaged your phone! It’s been a long time since I’ve played this app and wrote this review, but I remember the heat and thinking that couldn’t be right.

      Eventually, that phone (which I took really good care of) died at 2 and a half years from a swelling battery. I now wonder, looking back, if this app could have had some effect on it.

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