I have already reviewed the original Virtual City on the iPod Touch, iPad and Android, and have also reviewed this sequel on the Mac. If you have read any of my reviews you know that I really enjoyed the twist on the SimCity gameplay. Now G5 has released the sequel, Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort for the Mac and PC. I’ve been playing for a while now and am ready to declare a new gaming love or if this one needs to go back to the zoning bureau!
New buildings, new product chains, new challenges! After winning the hearts of millions of players, the best-selling city builder game, Virtual City, gets its long-awaited sequel! In Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort, you’ll get to expand your activities to the shining coast of Florida, snowy lands of Alaska, rocky mountains of Utah and arid tundras of Nevada. Complete 4 challenging locations with unique missions while fulfilling special goals like launching a Casino, building a Ski Resort and constructing an Ice Hotel. Offices and hotels, restaurants and clubs, museums and fitness centers – access the widest selection of buildings to make your very own Virtual City unique and prosperous.
? 52 Challenging Levels in 4 Settings: Blustery Utah, Sunny Florida, Snowy Alaska, Steamy Nevada
? 29 Distinct Mission Scenarios
? 73 Types of Buildings
? 42 Types of Goods to Transport and Trade
? 12 Production Chains to Master
? 98 Special Achievements to Earn
? 45 Upgrades and Buildings to Unlock
? Game Center Support
? iOS 4+ multitasking support
Similar to the original Virtual City, the sequel is a single-player focused game in the city builder genre, one representing the all-too-rare intersection of a game with solid depth that is also just plain fun! Single player means the game is all about you and your city, in the tradition of SimCity! My questions starting the game – since the early tutorials were fairly similar to the first game in terms of content – were whether there was enough new content to make for a compelling experience. The answer was an unabashed YES! Let me dig through the basics before getting to the new stuff.
You start the game with a quick intro in which you are given a city to develop and improve. A city planner is there to help you with tips and advice, including some significant early hand-holding. Surprisingly it is helpful and unobtrusive, and actually gives you reasonable latitude to learn from the very start.
And learning is very important, as the city you have to develop has a load of needs. Not only do you need to do the usual construction of buildings, transport routes, improvements, and so on – you are also managing the business and pleasure elements of a city as well as cash flow, population and environmental concerns.
As the game progresses so do your concerns – you will once again be tackling things like managing overflowing trash, health issues, wildfires, and so on. As a result I found myself very much happy to have the integrated assistance of the City Planner throughout the game when needed. Without understanding route planning, balancing needs and so on … you could never hope to complete the game.
You start off focusing on a single small city in Utah, but rather than slowly working your way through a single-city tutorial you advance quickly from city to city and face increasingly complex challenges with less help as you progress, making mastering the early cities like Scipio critical to future progress.
I single out Scipio for a specific reason: it is my single complaint about the game. I entered Scipio having easily achieved ‘Expert’ status on all earlier levels without any difficulty. Yet I suddenly found myself struggling just to COMPLETE the level, let alone get any status bonus! This was not the only time I found such a ‘difficulty spike’, but given it was still in the tutorial areas I was absolutely shocked.
In some ways Scipio was good for me – whereas on earlier levels I simply breezed through, now I had to balance the needs of business versus the happiness of the population – each of which placed heavy demands on my cash flow. The city plan was tight, which restricted my building flexibility. I went through several attempts and even once let my attempt run out beyond 30 minutes (Expert requires less than 8 minutes!) just to see what was happening!
I’m sure that someone will drop me a message saying ‘why didn’t you just do ABCDE’? That is similar to the original, where each player develops a strategic approach that helps in some areas and hinders others.
Virtual City 2 is subtitled ‘Paradise Resort’, which surprised me since you start out in a snowy village in Utah. But once you make it through the 14 (!) missions in Utah, you head off to sunny Florida where things take on more ‘Paradise’-like dimensions! There are a total of 53 missions across four states – Utah, Florida, Alaska and Nevada.
While it might seem like changing locations is nothing more than ‘window dressing’, once you have played the game you will realize that the developers use characteristics of each area to add to the challenges. Utah is rocky and therefore you are limited in where you can build – this is unlike the open vistas that dominated much of the original Virtual City.
Similarly you will be battling against the water in Florida – real estate really DOES feel rare in the game! Then you deal with the cold and mountainous Alaska before heading to the arid deserts of Nevada.
Even after the Playground aspects of the original Virtual City, the core of Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort is NOT a ‘free for all’ – with each new city you are given certain objectives you need to meet. What I really liked about the objectives was that they were generally well-balanced and realistic. You wouldn’t be creating massive industry in a residential zone, nor can you have all malls and parks without any resources to support them. Happiness of citizens matters, as does your environmental rating and how much cash you are bringing in based on the citizens, entertainment and business elements.
The major challenge comes from tight resources and overlapping objectives – you might need to increase industrial output in a certain area but not be able to destroy other buildings to build in additional capacity to help you meet your goal. It can be frustrating – particularly since you have a fixed time to complete the goals, and more than a few times I found myself staring at the countdown hoping my bus would get everyone to the mall or the last upgrade would finish in time. But at the same time it teaches you to be more focused and efficient, to watch your objectives and make sure that everything you NEED to do is taken care of first.
After getting your objectives underway you can continue making things better for your residents and industries which will help you earn a better score and more resources to use to buy new things to build and things that will provide for a better environment and living situation for your citizens. Then you move on to the next city!
As you work your way through city after city you will start piling up achievements – the game claims there are 98, though personally I never found myself all that concerned with piling up the achievements. On the other hand, earning Expert awards was definitely my goal for every level – which again was my singular frustration: again and again I’d find myself breezing along and suddenly struggling terribly. I seldom found myself in the middle, unable to make Expert but easily able to hit all the goals: either I’d easily succeed or totally fail.
Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort remains my current favorite city-building game after playing on the Mac and now the iPad, and is available on the iTunes App Store for $6.99 ($4.99 for iPhone). And as always you get the free download with in-app purchase for the full game. That makes it an easy recommendation – especially since you can download a generous demo to get a feel for the game before buying the full version. Personally I got more enjoyment out of this $7 game than many games that were much more expensive. If you never played the original I would suggest checking out the free edition before committing to the full game. If you enjoy it as much as I do – or if you loved Virtual City, buy with confidence!
Here is the YouTube trailer for Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort:
iPad/iPhone Game Review: Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort
Where to Buy: iTunes App Store, also available for iPhone .
Price: $6.99 ($4.99 for iPhone)
What I Like: Excellent tutorial; Clear and challenging objectives; Plenty of variety of things to do; loads of achievements and unlockables; excellent graphics; game is a blast!
What Needs Improvement: Some missions are disproportionately difficult to reach ‘Expert’ status.