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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Visit Virtual City today!

Virtual City
Game Category: Casual - Time Management, Simulation
Developer / Distributor: G5 Entertainment
Release Date: 15 Dec 2009
Rating: ESRB - Rating Pending

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Ever wanted to play a casual version of Simcity? Well, we chanced upon Virtual City a few days ago and have not stopped playing with it since then.

Guess, we've been hiding under a rock for far too long. After all, Virtual City has been out since December 2009. There's even a release that ports it over to the Kindle Fire. Imagine playing Virtual City on that after breezing through another chapter of your latest novel!

Virtual City truly fits the bill of a city simulator to a glove; and it oozes quality too. Let's see our checklist - the game comes with lovely residential homes, busy industrial buildings, flashy commercial areas, and idyllic parks - check, check, check, check. Plus, there are also other special buildings like hospitals, and fire stations - check.

Seems like, that is probably where all similarities end... Once we hurdled past the first crucial ten minutes of Virtual City, we immediately realized that the game's lifeblood relies on not only constructing and placing buildings to optimize production of resources, but more importantly - to set up an extensive transportation system that fetches resources to the right place.

Virtual City is a great game for all
Game Play
Virtual City comes with 50 levels spread out over 5 states - Colorado, California, Michigan, Montana, and New York. Levels are played sequentially so you can't pick your choice of level to play; you can however return to play a level where you did not manage to win yourself the coveted gold award there.

The game starts you off with a snazzy little story sequence that shows you driving down a fictitious highway called Route 00. As luck would have it, your car gets a flat and you have to stop in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, a huge Peterbilt truck comes roaring down Route 00. The truck has a huge logo that says "VirtualCity Transport Company" and aboard it is Sarah.

What an unbelievably lucky break
Sarah is one happy auburn-haired gal - for she has finally completed her onerous task of tracking you down: just so she can personally tell you that you have inherited your great-uncle's family business. Talk about sweet serendipity!

Sarah will be walking you through most of the game, although she will be more active during the first few levels. These early levels act more like a long and extensive tutorial that teaches you several important concepts in the game. You will be reading tutorial style messages that you must follow to complete the level.

Sarah will be helping us out quite often
There are several important concepts in Virtual City: Basics, Commerce, Environment, and Population.

  • Garage HQ - This is your Headquarters while playing the level. You select it to build your fleet of trucks, dumpsters, and buses.
  • Three areas of play: There are three areas of play in Virtual City - Commerce involves juggling with resources, Environment has you striving to get rid of rubbish, while the Population needs to grow and remain happy.
  • Upgrading - Your buildings can be upgraded; doing so allows them to produce even more resources. This also applies to vehicles - upgrade them to transport even more resources / rubbish / people.
  • Unlock new buildings - After completing a level, you may even find yourself unlocking new buildings that can be used in play from that point on.
Upgrade your HQ to have a large fleet
  • Production buildings - these either produce a resource, or take in an input resource so that they can produce a more valuable output resource.
  • Trucks - You will be transporting resources via trucks and will get paid for delivering the correct resources to the relevant production building. You can even do city trading by sending your trucks off the map.
  • Product Chains - There are seven available in Virtual City. The screenshot below shows the product chain for making lovely Pies. To summarize, you need to send Milk and Flour to the Bakery (which can be obtained from the Dairy Farm, Grain Farm, and Mill). The Bakery then bakes a lovely Pie that you can sell at Shopping Malls.
  • Upgrade: Remember to upgrade buildings and vehicles to be able to produce / transport more resources
Lovely American Pie
  • Upgrading buildings - Every building produces rubbish which will only serve to ruin the environment. You can help do your part by upgrading buildings, which will reduce the rubbish output by a specific amount.
  • Dumpsters - Deploy a dumpster vehicle to dispose rubbish at a recycling plant. You must set up the route for the dumpster to either visit every building that produces rubbish, or a central trash collector.
  • Keeping the environment clean and green - Build fire stations, hospitals, fountains, plazas, and more to do your bid to save Planet Earth. Don't forget to remove unsightly debris and grow forests to improve the environment.
This place is in absolute shambles
Population and Happiness
  • Upgrading houses - Houses come in various sizes and can be upgraded to increase your population.
  • Buses - Get your population to visit entertainment places like shopping malls, theatres, or stadiums. And don't forget to throw a big party at the Plaza, this will only serve to improve the happiness rating for the level.
As you can see, there's a lot involved in Virtual City that it takes quite some effort on your part to fully experience what the game throws your way. Early levels are played out on a single screen at first, but later on, you get to play levels that may span several screens. These require you to either scroll left and right (at first), or up and down. There are also surprises like building a huge railway depot, a marina, and even a huge spaceship launch pad - lookout for these captivating levels of play, the experience is definitely different.

No, this isn't Transport Giant
There are four notifications you don't wish to see while playing Virtual City. They are:
  • Vehicle breakdowns - This happens with surprising regularity that it becomes quite an irritation; quickly select the vehicle and start repairs on it.
  • Fires - Buildings may catch fire and cause it to stop all production (including loading and unloading of vehicles parked there). Select the building and hit the button to put out the fire by helicopter. If you built a fire station in the level, all fires will be extinguished for you automatically.
  • Disease - A person who falls sick during the game will not travel to the shopping mall by bus (or participate in other leisure activities) until he is cured. You can rely on a doctor being flown in by helicopter, or a helicopter is automatically deployed if you have a hospital built in the level.
  • Garbage Overflow - A building may produce too much garbage which causes it to be shut down. Get a dumpster to drive by the building, or manually invoke the Decontaminate button to clear the rubbish.
Fires and Disease
Virtual City comes with an isometric look that reminds us quite a bit of Simcity 3. According to the developer, there are over 50 different types of buildings - all meticulously hand drawn and bearing different looks and styles (depending on the upgrade level in place).

The in-game interface features a handy status bar at the top as well as several reference tabs below. There are tabs that show the fleet of trucks, dumpsters, and buses under your employ, the build menu, and the goals you must accomplish to complete a level. All information is neatly presented and does not feel cluttered.

The music is fast and exciting (as befits a transportation company) and the sound effects make good use of everyday things you hear off the street - like the ratcheting sounds from a wrench, or a helicopter flying overhead. There are no voice overs in the game.

What to build next?
  • There is a wealth of building options in Virtual City, and the game is excellent for players who dream to become a mayor of their very own city.
  • Virtual City is a fun and challenging game that requires quite some thinking especially when trying to nab the gold award at later stages of the game.
  • The 50 level campaign is going to take many hours to complete; let alone to unlock all the highly sought after game achievements.
  • You can trade goods with other cities for that added flair to game play strategy.
  • There are sandbox modes for each of the regions in the game.
  • Comprehensive help is provided to explain advanced concepts not covered in the tutorial.
  • The game employs a rich and colourful graphics palette with lots of excellent looking sprites to ogle at.
Virtual city is visually stunning
  • You can't adjust the game's speed.
  • The game does not remember what you built last, so you must navigate through the build menu to get to what you want to build again.
  • Virtual City may be too complex for some players looking for something casual to play.
  • Vehicle breakdowns continue to irk to the point of tedium at later levels.
At long last!
Virtual City is a game worthy of everyone's attention. The game play variety within cannot be described by mere words alone. There truly is so much to see and do within, that you don't just walk away casually after building a landing pad; you actually walk away with that lopsided (or smug) grin on your face - content with having conquered a great challenge.

You must give the demo a try today! You should be glad to know that the game is also available on Kindle Fire (which we mentioned earlier), as well as on the iPhone, iPad, Macintosh, and Android.

California, knows how to party!
Daily PC Game Review Score:  7.5 / 10
Review Date: 30 Nov 2011


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