As Apple (AAPL) positions its iPhone and iPod touch as a powerful portable gaming console, having a pipeline of high quality games is important for business. And the games keep rolling out. Two new, highly anticipated games are now available via iTunes: SimCity, an iPhone edition of the classic computer game, and Rolando, an iPhone-exclusive game written from scratch.
They’re both $10, but right now, only one of them is worth it: Rolando, which is super fun and does an excellent job showing off the iPhone’s unique gaming features. SimCity, meanwhile, reminds us of some of the phone’s limitations — we probably wouldn’t buy it a second time.
SimCity – Electronic Arts – $10
We spent several hours playing SimCity last night, and found it a pretty faithful mobile edition of SimCity 2000, which we spent much of our free time playing in the 1990s. The graphics are decent, if a bit dull, and it’s cool to be able to “pinch” the game to zoom in and out, like you can with the iPhone’s Google (GOOG) maps app.
But it’s obvious that Electronic Arts didn’t have its A-team working on SimCity. Some of the menus are laggy and uninspired, the typography is not optimised for the iPhone’s screen, the gameplay is awkward, the music is cheesy, and it doesn’t do a very good job at teaching you how to play the (fairly complex) game.
The biggest problem: Because the iPhone app platform doesn’t support background processing, you can’t just leave SimCity running in the background and pop in and play with it from time to time, which is how we — and, we assume, most people — play it on a computer. (And even if it did, SimCity would probably make the rest of the phone slow as molasses.) Not EA’s fault, but still their problem.
In short: Not yet worth the $10 we spent on it.
Rolando – Ngmoco and HandCircus – $10
Meanwhile, Rolando — which we’ve been eager to play since this past summer — is exciting and refreshing. HandCircus and Ngmoco — founded by former EA exec Neil Young — built the game for the iPhone from scratch, and it shows.
Rolando could be the ‘Mario’ for the iPhone. The point: Move little round creatures around the screen, jump from one level to another, and stay away from enemies.
It’s simple, fun, slick, and memorable, and makes fantastic use of the iPhone’s touchscreen and motion sensor. It’s easy to learn, thanks to on-screen instructions. You can listen to iPod music in the background if you want, or listen to Rolando’s fun music and sound effects. And the graphics are gorgeous. (See the video, embedded below, from TouchArcade.)
In short: We can’t wait for our train ride home tonight to play more.