Virtual City — Review

City management games are generally divided into two camps; Sim City and everything else. There are plenty of these games on the App store so what does Virtual City do to make it stand out?

Firstly, its not quite a city management game. In Virtual City you are given control of your late Uncle’s transport company and it is up to you to grow it into the best transport company in the country. This normally involves you being tasked to sort out factory supply chains, repair roads and generally keep everything ticking over nicely.

The look of the game is reminiscent of Facebook games like FarmVille. It has lots of nice little touches like the people walking around the shopping mall, smoke billowing out of the factories and the grain growing on a farm.

The only problem with the visuals is that they are very cramped. You can zoom in and out with the pinching gesture but not by a huge degree. The maps in the game quickly grow to three or four times the size of the iPod screen and, with no quick way to move around the level, it does become overwhelming.

Despite it looking like a simple game you’re quickly juggling complex supply chains for several factories. These factories require resources in order to produce other goods. For example, to produce Pies in your Pie Factory you need a Dairy Farm and a Grain Farm. When the game starts adding new layers of complexity on top of the last set, that’s when the problems start.

The game gives you a lot of information but due to the size of the screen this is limited. It doesn’t tell you, for example, if one of your factories isn’t being supplied with all of the required resources. Then you’ll have a truck sitting there doing nothing whilst you are on the other side of the map upgrading your houses. Before you know it you’re running out of money and you don’t know why.

It’s things like this that stops Virtual City being as good as it should be. It is a very enjoyable city management game however it just feels too cramped, like there has been too many compromises to make it work on the iPod. A game like this needs room to breathe on a larger screen.

The game was recently updated to include a Free Play mode, where you are given an empty map and let loose to do whatever you fancy. There aren’t too many options for this, just the ability to choose the name of your city and the amount of money you start with. This mode lets you experiment and play the game your own way unlike the main Story levels. Here the game gives you plenty of maps where you are set certain goals to complete and whilst some are fun others prove that the game really needs a fast forward button.

Virtual City has great potential but there too many niggles. Getting all your factories working together and seeing your trucks driving around is satisfyingly fun but it can be a little bit too much like hard work.

Three stars out of five
Reviewed on iPod Touch
Originally published 26th October 2010