I reviewed the original Virtual City (TMA Review) last year and found it to be an entertaining casual variation on the build-your-own-city theme. Though much closer to the Transport Tycoon franchise in spirit than SimCity, the mixing of various gameplay elements and the addition of quests to guide the development made for an excellent package. Building on this quest system G5 Entertainment has done what seems to be the fashionable thing these days and has gone freemium with Virtual City Playground.
Virtual City Playground follows the same basic city-building idea as the original. This time there isn’t any sequence of separate scenarios; instead you’re thrown into a semi-open playing field (extension bought separately) to build and run that city you’ve always dreamed of. Take that, Mr. Mayor!
The basic idea is to build up various production facilities and organize supply chains to earn money. Freedom reigns, as in theory, you’re presented with an open field and left to your own devices as to how you’re going to earn the cash. In reality, however, almost all building options are locked until you complete preceding quests, which generally guide you through building up individual product chains one step at a time. As well, some population oriented tasks are thrown in for good measure. Of course, you can spend loads of investment points and unlock any building right of the bat, but where’s the fun in that, right?
And herein lies the conundrum. Very quickly you’ll run up to a point where you’ve filled up all available space and want to expand. Expansion costs real cash and the aforementioned investment points can only be earned at a measly one point per level, or thanks to the recent update – for dutifully checking in the game everyday. Considering that each consequent expansion costs even more in both investment points and cash, though the latter is never a problem, you’ll almost immediately run into a serious deficit of them. Especially since some of the buildings can only be constructed with said points. Loads of cash for more investment points, anyone?
Visually Virtual City Playground builds on the base of the original by adding new buildings and landmarks. The graphics still hold up quite nicely, so you won’t be left wanting in this respect. The controls however are a bit clunky both in terms of construction and everyday management. Tapping-n-dragging through 10+ pages of environment buildings is frustrating as hell. And the preciousness of real-estate makes you pack the buildings in as dense as possible, thus making it nearly impossible later to select the one you actually want. Lastly the addition of being able to close the app and have your city continue to live and breathe for making money offline looks great in principle. In reality it leads to the necessity of recalculating all the changes on each switch-back to the game, adding loading times even when restoring from the multitasking tray. And waiting for the game to load after a good night’s sleep for a reasonably built-up city can easily take a whopping 5-10 minutes (or even more) on an iPhone 4.
Overall Virtual City Playground is quite a nice addition to the sandbox building genre. It offers all of the features of the original well-balanced city-builder and more for a hefty price of FREE. Unfortunately some interface flaws, along with the horrendous loading times will often test your patience. But at the zero price point offered, Virtual City Playground is definitely worth a try, only if to make you buy the superb Virtual City.
With this I declare Virtual City Playground officially touched!
|Title:||Virtual City Playground||Developer:||G5 Entertainment|
|Reviewed Ver:||1.2||Min OS Req:||3.0|