SimCity for iPhone: ASOD (Advisor Screen of Death)

I was ecstatic when I discovered SimCity for iPhone. It is, without a doubt, the best “deep” game for the iPhone that I’ve encountered. (Stuff like Bejeweled is great too, but they’re in a completely different league.)

I have long been a fan of the SimCity series. I haven’t really played SimCity 4 much, mainly because it seems that with each new version, Maxis EA gives the Mac version less and less attention. Or, more accurately, they give MacKiev even less time and a stingier budget to do the port from the PC version. So, it’s bloated and sluggish and slow. But for me, SimCity 3000 was great, and that is the edition that was the basis for the iPhone version.

I love it. It is unbelievable that they could pull off something like this on the iPhone, but they did it. Mostly. It’s great, but it’s buggy.

The worst bug I’ve encountered, twice now, happens occasionally when clicking one of the advisor links in the news ticker at the bottom of the screen. What you get is… ugh… this:

Sim City Advisor Screen of Death (ASOD)

In the spirit of the classic Windows 95 BSOD, I’m calling this bug the ASOD: Advisor Screen of Death. I have no experience with iPhone programming, but I suspect that the text you see is the variable names or some kind of parsed placeholder text where the actual advisor message is supposed to appear. Unfortunately, not only is the text not being properly loaded, the actions for the buttons aren’t, either, meaning that once this appears, there’s no way to make it go away… at least, no way other than clicking the iPhone’s Home button, which does a fine job of returning you to the home screen… but it quits SimCity in the process, and if you hadn’t saved in, say, the entire amount of time you had just been playing the game, it can be incredibly frustrating.

So… if you like SimCity and you own an iPhone or iPod Touch, by all means, buy this game. You will enjoy it immensely. Just remember two things:

1. Save. Often.
2. Think twice. Skip advice. (Or at least approach your advisors through the “…” menu instead of the ticker.)

Update: A few other bugs, or at least flaws, I’ve noticed: the city’s population seems to fluctuate wildly from month to month, with no logical explanation; demand for the different zones seems to bear no relation whatsoever to the tax rates for those zones, but almost seems to just follow an arbitrary pattern of ebb and flow; and the budget numbers do not adjust month-to-month, making it really hard to track current revenue levels. Maybe this last one is the same in the computer version too, but the budget seems to require a lot more close attention on the iPhone.