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March 3, 2012 • Gaming, Reviews

Virtual City Playground for Kindle Fire Delivers City Builder Goodness!

Recently I reviewed Virtual City for the Kindle Fire, finding it the first mis-step in the franchise for me – while the content was there, the performance was laggy on my Kindle Fire even compared to the normal Android version. Since I had loved the Android version of Virtual City Playground, my big concern was that Virtual City playground would suffer the same fate – so let me assure you that it does NOT. Virtual City Playground brings the full Virtual City experience, and is a pleasure to play! Let’s take a look!

The Hype:
Virtual City Playground allows you to build the city of your dreams and then run it. With this fun app, you can build dwelling houses and industrial buildings. Produce goods and deliver them to the shopping malls. Set up a mass-transit system to take your citizens to places like parks, cinemas, and stadiums. Make your city a better place to live by recycling garbage, adding hospitals and fire stations, planting trees, and upgrading buildings to make them more eco-friendly. Make citizens happier by launching spectacular public events. Achieve balance between key parameters of your success: Time, Income, Environment, Population, and Happiness. Enjoy nearly 100 optional quests and achievements.

Your city lives even when you sleep. It earns you credits and energy even when the game is minimized or closed. Ensure you have garbage trucks recycling, tech stations, fire stations and hospitals working to maximize credits. You don’t have to buy credits or energy or investment points – you can always check back in a few hours instead. You can earn invest points by posting to Facebook (once per day) and for gaining new city level. You can boost your energy regeneration by constructing landmarks.

PLEASE NOTE: This app lets you purchase digital content using actual money. You can configure parental controls for in-app purchases, which will require your Amazon account password or a 4-digit PIN, by tapping the Menu icon and then Settings.

The Reality:

I reviewed Virtual City HD for Android last fall, saying:

Virtual City is my favorite portable city-building game, and is available on the Android Market for a free download with in-app purchase for the full game, making it an easy recommendation recommendation. Even the in-game purchase of the full adventure at $2.85 is an absolute must-have for anyone who has ever enjoyed a city building game, but I would still suggest checking out the free edition before committing to the full game. If you enjoy it as much as I do, buy with confidence!

Of course, in my review of the Kindle Fire port I noted performance issues, saying:

The developers did a great job bringing high quality visuals to the Fire, but there is a price to be paid in performance. Too often my taps seemed to be ignored, and I couldn’t tell if they hadn’t registered or I had just missed – one time I added three busesby accident, and other times I failed an objective due to taps not registering while the clock ticked on. Even after a full restart I still had the same issues.

So let’s take a look at the game once again, and then I will return at the end to discuss performance.

Virtual City is a game that I keep on my iPad and go back to every now and then because it is simple and fun. After it was initially released for the iPhone and iPad, G5 added the ‘sandbox’ mode that allowed you to freely develop your city, which was an awesome feature included with the Android version at release:

The SandBox mode lets you start with a blank city and some amount of money. As the starting screen says ‘there are no deadlines, no limits, and the only rule here is to have a good time.’ If you want to add extra cash for building, you can buy virtual cash using an in-app purchase (i.e. with REAL money) – but as stated, it is purely optional, and you can even remove the button so that kids or others using your iPad don’t accidentally charge purchases to your iTunes account. This is a great way to handle things that is very family friendly!

I absolutely LOVED that G5 ‘broke out of the sandbox’ and released Virtual City Playground. It takes all the awesomeness of Sandbox mode and makes it a standalone game!

There isn’t much more to talk about, so let me remind you of the basic gameplay of Virtual City:

You start the game with a blank canvas of a city to develop. A city planner is there to help you with tips and advice if desired, including some significant early hand-holding through the introductory stages.

Rather than give you a set of defined goals and a timeline, Playground allows you to build what you want but gives you optional quests to complete. These might have to do with population or money or certain buildings, and hitting the goal rewards you greatly – so you can go on and build more!

To really enjoy this game you should have at least played some part of Virtual City. This will allow you to understand how to develop the city and meet their needs. Not only do you need to do the usual construction of buildings, transport routes, improvements, and so on – you also need to manage overflowing trash, health issues, wildfires, and so on.

So while the integrated help is critical, having built up skills is even more important.

There is already loads of new content in the game compared to when I played the iPad version. G5 is constantly adding new stuff, with the goal being that you will spend real money buying in-game currency and research points in order to make use of everything.

Of course – I always stress that there is no such thing as a free commercial game! G5 needs to make money, and like so many others they have discovered that ‘freemium’ is the way to go. As I have mentioned a few times you can easily ring up MUCH more in ‘in game’ currency purchases than had you paid $4.99 like Virtual City. Also, over time G5 has threaded Facebook integration deeper and deeper into their games, and with the freemium twist you can actually post for resources. For many it is better than spending money or ‘grinding’ to gain currency, but for non-fans of social media it can feel overly intrusive.

My big issue was with the Android version was data download. As I continue to remind folks, because the Kindle Fire is a WiFi device, the developers simply make it a full download … and I simply cannot overstate how much I love that!

Virtual City Playground has a target audience – people who like Virtual City. The game allows you to escape into your virtual world and build the ultimate city and refine and optimize in order to gain achievements and unlock new items. It is a load of fun, and so long as you are careful about your building plans you should be able to stick to the resources you develop in the game – otherwise the in-game costs can add up quickly (minimum research/currency packs I found were $2.08).

Here is the trailer for the Kindle Fire version:

Kindle Fire Game Review: Virtual City Playground

Where to Buy: Amazon AppStore for Android
Price: Free (in-game currency can cost real money)

What I Like: Excellent tutorial brings you into the Playground; Clear and challenging objectives give you reasons to keep playing; Plenty of variety of things to do; excellent graphics; sandbox mode is a blast!

What Needs Improvement: Strong Facebook tie-in and ease of spending real money might turn some off.

Source: Free Download

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