Live a virtual life and race against the clock: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include the latest entry in one of the most popular game institutions of all time and a new racing game from a now highly respected iPhone game developer.


In addition to the big Apple announcements of new laptops and the iPhone 3G S at this weeks WWDC, other well-known developers used the conference as an opportunity to release some big name iPhone applications. I usually try to balance my coverage of iPhone apps by talking about one game and one useful utility, but with this week's big releases, I'm going to talk about two games. These games are both $9.99, so with the higher price point, I think it's worth it to give you the rundown of both so you can decide if you want to spend the money on either or both of these top-name games.

This week's apps include the latest entry in one of the most popular game institutions of all time and a new racing game from a now highly-respected iPhone game developer.

The Sims 3
Just like real life, sometimes you just want to lay back and relax on the couch (Credit: CNET)

The Sims 3 ($9.99) for iPhone and iPod Touch lets you create a character (or sim) and live a virtual life in a full-fledged 3D town. You start by choosing your look including clothing, hairstyle, and eye-color. Then you choose five personality traits from a list, from the mundane like "modest" to more exciting and strange traits like "vain," each of which will affect how you are received by other sims in town. Once you're ready, you begin your life at your small house where you'll need to take care of your sim's every need, from sleeping and eating, to showering and bathroom breaks. As you progress in the game and make more money, you'll be able to remodel your house, advance in your relationships (including marriage) and other fun activities (Woohoo--you'll know why I wrote that once you play).

Clearly, the Sims 3 on your iPhone is not going to be the expansive experience you might have on other platforms. I still found the game oddly mesmerizing as I went into town to find a job, met other sims in the neighborhood, and bought recipes so I could cook more exciting meals at my house besides simple snacks. Part of the fun in Sims games is the ability to try things you wouldn't otherwise do in real life. So don't be afraid to make a "Jerk" character and do things like kick over trash cans and act rudely toward the town people, just to see what happens. If you liked the other Sims games, The Sims 3 for iPhone is worth the price. Make sure to restart your iPhone before playing to avoid crashes.

Real Racing
Choose between a cockpit view or a camera view from behind the car (Credit: CNET)

Real Racing ($9.99) is the long awaited title from Firemint, the makers of the popular air traffic control game FlightControl. Real Racing offers excellent graphics with different camera views, 36 cars in 3 classes, 12 unique tracks, and five game modes--most of which you will unlock as you win races. You also can sync your best times against other players online and even join a league to rise up through the ranks against people across the globe.

Real Racing combines great graphics, excellent goal-oriented gameplay (new cars and tracks) and an online component that's more than just a high score list. But what makes me like this game over all other racing sim-type games for iPhone are the sensitive, but realistic feeling controls, including an autobraking system that helps you learn the ropes to become a better racer. I wasn't able to test the network racing with anyone here at work, but judging from all the other gameplay and attention to detail in this game, I imagine it is quite enjoyable. There was a lot of hype leading up to the release of Real Racing, and now that I've tried it, it seems the hype was all true. Any racing fan should definitely get this game.

What's your favorite iPhone app? What do you think of the iPhone version of The Sims 3? Does Real Racing live up to all the hype? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.