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'City Life' Review (PC)

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Many games these days are of the Sims variety where players simulate anything and everything depending on the game system. The popularity of this type of game has been an enduring theme in PC gaming for many years. One of the first and best of these types of games was Sim City, where players built their own functioning city from scratch. For many years and through several versions this idea was expanded, but there was one factor never touched on and that was how to make Sims from different income levels interact. City Life addresses this and attempts to go where no Sim City has gone before.

City life is a simulation city builder in the old Sim City mold. Players start with only city hall and must build streets and develop housing and businesses just as was seen in many of the older games of this type. The new twist is the insertion of six separate and distinct types of citizens for your city. The six types are Blue Collar, Have-Nots, Fringe, Radical Chic, Elites and Suits. In order to succeed in this game you have to have all types of these citizens and they have to get along without causing trouble, which sounds easier then it is.

The game interface is rather easy to understand, especially if you are familiar with builder games. The tutorial is text so you have to do some reading if you are new to this type of game. The first decision upon starting the game is selecting where you want to build, what climate and so on. Once this is done it's pretty much whatever you want to do, as the first order of business is to build City Hall and some roads and homes.

As is common in these types of games the Sim citizens have desires, the earliest being power and waste disposal. Unlike the classic Sim City type games you won't be building power lines nor making underground pipes. All you need to do is construct an energy plant and a few waste disposal areas nearby, so far so good. From this point on the game is different from traditional city builders. In those games you just waited for money to build up and then placed new building and such. After you have power and waste disposal, the first of your problems arise, as the people want education and shopping as well as medical care.

This may all seem straightforward at this point, but it really isn't. The reason it isn't is that you need different types of citizens to make certain services and businesses work, and things like schools and shopping centers are drains on your economy. To run a school or a grocery store, you need Fringe citizens; the problem is at the start, all you have are Blue Collars. So you have to figure out how to get fringe to live in your city.

This is where the strategy of the game kicks in, figuring out the way to lure them in and then getting them close to where they will be useful. Many of the businesses that make money that you desperately need to remain above water require high level citizens of the Elite and Suits professions, which are hard to lure to your city, but you have to start with Blue Collars and then Fringe.

Once you manage to get Fringe to move in to your city, new things unlock for you. New business and recreation opportunities, as well as better waste and energy management happen. Once you start having two types of citizens they begin to demand police and you will see the beginning of urban tension. Unless you build expensive buildings the citizens of different classes will attack each other, and this will escalate into riots and people will begin to leave the city in droves, which will destroy your economy as taxes are your major income source.

If you are doing things correctly Radical Chics will appear where the Fringes live and they in turn will spawn Elites eventually. Suits and Elites prove the most difficult to lure to your city. As tension between classes rise you will need police and swat teams, and these are HUGE drains on your economy. You will also have to provide firemen as fires can wipe out huge sections of the city easily.

This game has a good graphics engine that allows extreme close-ups so you can see what your city lifers are up to up close and personal. The buildings are well done but there aren't very many different types. One of the fun things is the streets change color slightly so you will know what group of City Lifers like a particular section of the city.

As the population increases more building types are unlocked from the game menu as are things like better hotels and other improvements. If things go bad economically you can borrow money, but this is always a bad idea in the long run. It's better to remove wasteful buildings rather then watch your available funds dry up.

There are some quirks in this game. You can be making money hand over fist when suddenly your economy goes in the red for no reason, nor does the game tell you what is wrong. At one point I had a huge economy with Suits moving in, and suddenly they were leaving and I had no idea why, and I had no idea if this was working as designed or if it's just a bug or bad programming.

All of this makes for a nice city builder with a twist, the social component. If you dream of building cities and like urban planning you can have some fun with this, but it isn't really a lot different from recent entries for this type of game. There was potential here for much more, and they appear to have dumbed down the Sim City model, which I don't think was really the way to go.

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