Virtual City Playground - A gorgeous-looking sequel that's marred by the blight of freemium
It's pretty rare these days to get excited over a city-building game, but excitement was flowing like illicit cash in a corrupt organisation when the original Virtual City was released. But we're talking about the sequel here, a game that carries over the name of the original but almost none of the greatness. Sure it's an adequate city-building game involving the running a city and managing deliveries/production lines, but G5 Entertainment have seen dollar signs and it's pretty much ruined a good thing. Continue Reading
Release Date: 20/10/2011
Available on: iOS, Android
Reputations to Live Up To
It's always a pleasure to see a developer come up with a game that truly delivers something a little out of the ordinary, particularly when working on a game of a genre that's looking pretty full. I mean, how many Plants vs Zombie copies does the world need? The answer isn't many, but most developers weren't listening because they went ahead and made hundreds of shoddy defense-style games anyway, didn't they. So when G5 Entertainment released the original Virtual City, it really could have gone either way, but as it turns out it was quite the entertaining piece of city-management entertainment. Virtual City Playground is the sequel with a lot to live up to. Sadly, although it recycles much of what make the original great, it unfortunately gets the whole freemium model all wrong.
Playground? More Like Payground
Don't worry if you haven't played the original Virtual City: it's a doddle to explain because it's a pretty standard example of a city-building game. You'll be building a city (big surprise) by using your mobile device's touch screen to direct the placement of essential structures and systems such as buildings and the roads that will allow your residents to access said buildings. This is the fun part, partially because you're essentially the architect of the city you're about to run, but mainly because in these early stages you would ordinarily - you know, before reading this damning review - be blissfully unaware of the financial roadblock you are about to encounter.
It is when you come to the furnishing of your newly-built city with amenities such as shopping centres, banks, and factories that you realise the steep cost of doing business. I'm not talking about virtual money here either: one way or another, Virtual City Playground is going to cost you, and whether you pay with money, time, or incessant (and unavoidable) posting to Facebook is really up to you.
Luring You In Then POW, Right in the Wallet
Before you come to the upsetting realisation that this is a money-grabbing venture (where you are the grabee not the grabber), all things seem quite rosy. You've got a relatively open world in the game, meaning flexible building of pretty much what you want as long as it is sustainable for the population levels. There's a fair amount of managing the smallest things like the running of the buses and other public services as well, and that's a lot more detail than you could have expected from Sim City 2000.
But when you hit the inevitable wall that stands in the way of your progress, it looks an awful look like an extortion-shaped wall with G5 Entertainment's name plastered all over it. While the original Virtual City allowed you to earn a reasonable quantity of cash from selling goods produced by your industrial buildings, the developers seem to have both slashed the cash that you receive from selling things whilst simultaneously inflating the prices of the buildings and other extras that you will need to buy in order to expand your city. Effectively the developers have your wallet by its particulars, and the only way to progress is to either open it, wait a hell of a long time for currency to regenerate, or make posts to Facebook.
It's a colossal shame that this series has become about raiding your wallet because it had so much potential. The gameplay is still quite enthralling and flexible in ways which other titles of this genre are not, and its graphics are even stylish as you could ask for. There's no excuse for getting greedy however, and Virtual City Playground is a game that serves as evidence for the crime of a developer seeing nothing but dollar signs and letting the potential fans of the game pay the price, literally.
Virtual City Playground is developed by G5 Entertainment.