Sim City
| Sim City Mobile

You're the mayor of a bustling city, and everything's gone to pot. Your transport infrastructure is a shambles, the police can't cope, and a few blocks have just gone up in flames.

What do do? Blame those pesky immigrants, of course. It's bound to be their fault somehow.

Happily, Sim City avoids the knee-jerk political granstanding of the real world in favour of more positive solutions. You're in charge, and the buck stops with you. This city-management simulation has been super-popular on a host of gaming platforms, and has now brought its cerebral charms to mobile.

You get to be mayor and town planner, turning a barren scrub of land (we're being slightly poetic here, there's actually a lot of trees and rivers) into a thriving metropolis. Then you watch in horror as it falls to bits in front of your eyes.

Sim City is one of those strategy games that can seem daunting when you think about the whole game, but actually leads you in fairly well, explaining actions as you go along. The action takes place on an isometric map, and kicks off with you building a power station, and then placing residential, commercial and industrial zones about the place, along with roads, public services and parks.

You do this by selecting these different things from a menu at the side of the screen, and then placing them on the map. It needs careful thought to succeed � for example, you don't want to have your residential zones next to your industrial zones (unless you want your citizens to be belching smoke out of every orifice), but you want to have good transport links so they can get to work without a 17-hour commute.

Once you've planned the zones, you can watch people move in and your city grow. A helpful chart at the top of the screen indicates whether you're over- or under-stocked with residential, industrial and commercial zones, plus scrolling messages remind you when you should think about expanding. And of course, the challenge in Sim City comes from this expansion, as you're forced to juggle more and more issues across a larger city.

Sim City is nothing if not comprehensive. You can tweak your city's tax rate, and decide how it's split between the police, fire and traffic departments. You can even call up a Statistics page telling you how full your zones are, and how much power your city is using a day � useful in planning when to build new power stations to avoid blackouts.

And then there's the natural disasters. Your city can meet all manner of natural problems, from fires to tornadoes to... well, some of them should remain a surprise. So the game isn't just about managing your city's growth � it's literally about fighting fires when required.

It's certainly challenging, with the option to construct your own city from scratch in the Freeplay mode, or take on different scenarios � for example coping with a blackout, or reducing pollution.

But how does it play? The small mobile screen feels limiting at first, as you can't see a huge proportion of the map. But a few minutes' play settles you into the controls, so you get used to zooming out when necessary, and working within the confines of the screen. It can be a bit frustrating scrolling up and down the building options � this game was originally designed for a mouse after all � but you do get used to it with perseverence.

Of course, Sim City pales against the latest console version of the franchise � it's up to version four � so if you're a fan of those you'll need your NostalgiaSpecs to find much of interest in this mobile game.

But for people who've never played Sim City elsewhere, or who have fond memories of the series' earlier incarnations, this mobile edition is well worth a look.

Sim City

An absorbing strategy game that will awaken the town planner within you