If there is a genre I really enjoy playing, it has to be something between strategy and simulation that drags me playing for hours. I have experienced the feeling with titles like Game Dev Story, FarmVille and even PocketFrogs. Only God knows the amount of time I have spent with these.
Although G5 Entertainment has released some titles that can ruin your social life, I knew that the iPad version of its building and transport simulation game would be my end. Virtual City HD [iTunes Link] uses several simulation and resource management ingredients seen in other titles and wraps them into a game where you have to conquer the US with your newly inherited transport company.
Unlike classic transport games such as Transport Tycoon where you profit from delivering goods, Virtual City allows you to command every step in the supply chain. You build a factory, manufacture products and sell them to your neighbors or at the mall. During the first stages of the game you will learn how to master these in the most efficient manner. However, there is more to it, as the local authorities will commission your company with the task of developing housing, infrastructure, sanitation and more importantly, environment. The latter will be a key factor in succeeding, as your manufacturing activities will have a carbon footprint and waste output that you will need to deal with.
The game is structured on short missions with a set of goals and resources allocated. These range in complexity, and completing them will be necessary to get the hang of the game and to practice your own strategies. The developer included a sandbox mode where you can play freely with no specific target, so remember that playing the missions will earn you the necessary skills to make the best out of it. Although the levels are quite easy, supervising every aspect of the company will be tricky. The control scheme is practical, but not the most beautiful I've seen. It reminds me of games like Build a Lot, where you have a menubar with different options and tapping on vehicles and properties is almost irrelevant. For the sake of simplicity, factories and vehicles can work pretty much on their own once you have given them orders, so you can concentrate in other tasks.
Virtual City HD has lovely graphics, nice effects and almost every building is animated. Nonetheless, everything lack a bit of realism that gamers look forward to in simulation games. There is also a matter with the lack of freedom in most levels, as the iPad screen will cover the whole city area (with its obvious limitations) and large maps where you can move around are only available at advanced levels and the sandbox mode. Players will not be able to rotate the map, which was a usual feature in most PC titles.
The gameplay is fluid, entertaining and might make you forget about the shortcomings mentioned above. The production side reminds me of Farm Frenzy, as you must produce certain goods, deliver them to a processing plant and perhaps create a second product from it. You make money with every delivery, so it encourages you to develop different product lines.
I did like the environmental part of it, where you have to build public spaces and upgrade factories t meet certain green standards. As you might have imagined, this will require plenty of funding and will again, encourage you to increase your profitability. If you are looking for a game that can put to test your multitasking, finance and logistic skills, Virtual City HD is a serious option. The learning curve is long but not too steep, and you'll find yourself finishing quite fast the early levels if you are familiar with the game. The missions are varied, different and good fun, but you might feel that the set of goals are too restrictive if you think of crossing between SimCity and Transport Tycoon. The iPhone version has Retina display graphics but I enjoyed more to play in the larger screen of the iPad.
There are free versions for both iPhone and iPad (Game Center enabled), so go and make your pick. Even after completing the numerous missions, Virtual City HD is something you will come back to thanks to it's Sandbox mode. My hope: that an update brings the option to save different games.
To be nice with AppFreak readers, I'm giving away a promocode for Virtual City HD. For your chance to win a copy of this fantastic game for iPad, simply answer the following question in the comments: In which five US states can you play Virtual City HD? Just leave your answer below and retweet: @appfreak Win a Virtual City HD #promocode for #iPad. In which US states does the game take place? Answer and RT http://bit.ly/hrp58o