The game SimCity came out in 1989, but its presence is still felt in every corner of the gaming industry. From new incarnations on consoles and PDAs and phones to new versions for PC and other platforms to influenced games for a variety of platforms, it is clear that Will Wright had SOMETHING right! The iPhone and iPad have been home to a number of games in this style, and I have just found my new favorite – Virtual City from G5 Entertainment!
Build a city of your dream – a residential paradise or an industrial center. Build dwelling houses and industrial buildings. Produce goods and deliver them to the shopping malls. Setup 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.
Trade with neighboring cities and accomplish the construction of landmark buildings like Marina, Train Depot, and Spaceship Launch Pad. Help troubled cities get back to prosperity, deal with economic downturn, population crisis, and consequences of natural disasters. Achieve balance between key parameters of your success: Time, Income, Environment, Population, and Happiness. Play over 50 challenging levels, and unleash your inner mayor in Free Play mode on 5 large sand box maps.
Support of iPhone 4 Retina Display
50 Challenging Levels in 5 Settings: Colorado, California, Michigan, Montana, New York
18 Distinct Mission Scenarios
Free Play Mode on 5 Large Sand Box Maps
More Than 50 Types of Buildings
25 Types of Goods to Transport and Trade
7 Production Chains to Master
16 Special Achievements to Earn
Tens of Upgrades and Buildings to Unlock
There are four basic city-builder game types on the App Store: good games with good controls, bad games with good controls, good games with bad controls, and bad games with bad controls. I have played some that represent all four, so I was pleased to discover that Virtual City is a good game with good controls. I should have expected this since G5 has delivered some great stuff in the past for both the App Store and PSP.
There are actually two other distinctions for city-building: community based and single player. So while games like City Story follow in the steps of things like Farmville and take a very community-centric approach, Virtual City is all about you and your city, in the tradition of SimCity!
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 also need to manage overflowing trash, health issues, wildfires, and so on.
You start small with a single city, but quickly need to branch out – Virtual City offers 50 cities across 5 U.S. states, and at times you will lack the local resources and need to branch out between communities to get what you need – or to provide to another community to gather resources for your own.
Virtual City isn’t 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 well-balanced. 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.
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!
There is one button on the main screen that offers an apology rather than functionality – SandBox. As of now that functionality is missing, but G5 Entertainment has told us that they are submitting the update that includes SandBox in mid-October so it should arrive soon.
Having sampled the PC version of the game I can tell you that SandBox takes a very good game and makes it great! Once you get through the required stuff you can just keep building and improving and working on the city to make it perfect. Since the core gameplay is a blast, endless mode is even more fun!
Virtual City also looks and sounds great. All of the screens in the review were snapped on my new iPod Touch with the hi-res screen, and the game looks fantastic on my iPad as well. The touch controls are perfectly implemented, making it easy to find what you are looking for and select things. Virtual City is available on the App Store for $2.99, making it an easy recommendation even without SandBox – once it is added in, this is an absolute must-have for anyone who has ever enjoyed a coty building game.
iPhone Game Review: Virtual City
Where to Buy: iTunes App Store
What I Like: Excellent tutorial; Clear and challenging objectives; Plenty of variety of things to do; excellent graphics
What Needs Improvement: Missing SandBox mode