Virtual City brings out your inner micro manager

Spoiler alert! If you like games that take a lot of work and demand an investment of your time, Virtual City will deliver on your dollar. The game challenges you ability to strategize and manage resources, but it’s definitely not for players who like to see things happen quickly. Or die violent and painful deaths.

Games tend to fall into a handful of basic categories. Action and adventure games focus on shooting things, climbing or jumping over things, or blowing things up. Puzzle games present a series of challenges that players must solve, usually by manipulating some element of the game. Strategy games tend to assign goals, and players must plan and marshall resources to make sure all of the pieces are in place.

Game designers will usually try to mix in elements from the three genres to attract a wider playing audience, but players tend to gravitate toward one end of the spectrum. I prefer puzzle and strategy games, which means I’m actually going to download them to because I think I might want to play. I download games like Zombie Pie (which I just downloaded for free) or Infinity Blade simply to review.

Virtual City sits at the farthest edge of the strategy game galaxy. You can blow things up, but the explosions are small. Tiny by comparison to action games. Mainly houses and factories that blemish the environment. You can also bulldoze things, but that’s the extent of the excitement. The rest is just boring old business.

Some strategy games appeal to action players because they involve war. But Virtual City is about time and resource management. Nobody dies. They get sick and their houses catch fire, but hospitals and fire stations take care of that. No burning corpses or zombies walking around.

So why would anyone like Virtual City? Because they prefer strategy games to blowing things up. And Virtual City presents some serious challenges to players who like to plan and don’t mind exercising a lot of patience.

Fortunately, players can skip the largely irrelevant story mode and jump right into levels. The player’s role is to manage the residential areas, waste management and industrial supply chain of increasingly large cities and urban areas. Each city presents a new problem and available resources change.

The city may be suffering from wildfires or epidemics. The industrial base may need to be replaced with something more modern and environmentally appropriate. The city may be overdeveloped and need to lose industries and gain wilderness. The sanitation system may be in total disrepair.

Virtual City challenges players with a number of urban development goals. At one level players may have to rebuild cash starved industries with no cash of their own. On another they may need to rebuild the city with industries that are more environmentally friendly.

The challenges must be answered with a variety of resources. In one level, players begin with no cash to invest and must figure out how to revitalize a cash-strapped industry. In others they may have as much as $50,000 to invest but no working roads to connect neighborhoods and businesses.

Each level teaches players new strategies that they can bring to new management goals at higher levels. They must also decide when to add new businesses, upgrade trucks, build mass transit systems and even landscape with parks and fountains. As they complete their tasks, players earn additional capital to invest in new businesses, theaters and recreational facilities.

The end of each stage also presents players with monumental tasks. Players will need to build train stations, marinas with yachts, airports and finally launch a space ship.

Each stage presents players with a monumental task, including building a train station and even launching a space ship. It’s not enough to build the facility. Players will actually have to launch their yachts and airships.

Players won’t find many easy levels in Virtual City. By the time they reach the second stage, they will be hard pressed to complete levels, much less earn gold cups for the best solution. I had to restart many levels because it took me fifteen or twenty minutes to figure out what I was missing.

Players also have to stay on top of every detail. Many businesses may need to receive supplies from multiple businesses and even other cities. Those businesses will also need supplies from multiple businesses or other cities. Some businesses may need to supply several factories, which means players may need to upgrade the factory and truck fleet. If they upgrade too quickly, however, they may run out of cash.

The trophy room is well designed and the trophies are all meaningful. Players don’t earn trophies for simple accomplishments like “build three buildings in one level.”

For players who love to reflect on their accomplishments, Virtual City presents more achievements than many Game Center games. They can earn statues for finishing with ten gold medals, for raising a million in cash, and raising the population from 0 to 3,000. Every trophy requires a lot of work and planning (many across several levels). Virtual City gives out no free achievements (e.g., explode three bombs in one level).

Most of all, players need patience. Some of the levels make take half an hour to finish, and players may have to wait two or three minutes between moves before their businesses can generate the resources they need to continue. Virtual City isn’t chess, but it may prove equally challenging.

For my part, I finished the game and then lost everything when I had to replace my iPad. I waited a few months and then started to replay again, and still enjoyed every minute.

Jenny Manytoes rates Virtual City

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Virtual City. But then cats can wait for hours stalking one bird. Dogs would need something far more manic. Me, I think it’s a best buy, but I’m holding back the extra bump because some readers will consider it a big waste of money.

Which is exactly how I felt about Infinity Blade. And I can think of plenty of players who would consider that an absolute best buy.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat

  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 5 Stars - Biscuits, Entertainment, Games, Strategy Games and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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