City simulation games on iOS devices generally haven't been that amazing, with very few developers creating a small handful of worthwhile games in the genre. Virtual City [$2.99] by G5 Entertainment is an attempt by one developer to buck that trend, strongly drawing from the earlier SimCity games by Maxis.
Each level in Virtual City sets you up with an impending crisis, supply-line hiccup or urban restoration to resolve (to name but a few scenarios), giving you the tools as chief transport contractor (and budding city planner) to address them directly. The central hub for each of your cities is therefore your garage, from where you can deploy a range of vehicles to transport goods, transport civilians or collect garbage-- all vital instruments to achieving a happy, productive city.
Initially, Virtual City starts you off slow, holding your hand through some of the basic functions, such as earning income by shuttling civilians to malls, or creating a simple clothing supply line. Supply lines are comprised of different production centers which require a number of inputs to function. Transport therefore plays a pivitol role in fuelling your economy. Eventually you'll be introduced to how environmental concerns have an impact on happiness (and thus population) and how a healthy city is a clean city. Yes, you'll be taught to take out the garbage.
Moving on, subsequent levels will open up trade with neighboring towns and more difficult, interconnected supply lines. Eventually factors like sickness, fires, disrepair and income concerns will emerge to boost the difficulty of levels encountered. If there's one thing that Virtual City gets right, it's that it has an excellent sense of progression and learning curve; only dropping you in the deep end when it has provided you with the tools to stay afloat.
The following levels, of which there are a total of 50 spread across 5 different states, are given an interesting context selected from a possible 18 scenarios. With only the help of a hint or two, you are sent on your merry way to make things right. These scenarios can get quite complex, so it is fortunate that Virtual City features an easy to understand interface that clearly delineates end goals and interim goals to work towards to complete each level. Menus are easily navigated, and holding down on each item will reveal a tooltip detailing its cost and other information (something that may not be apparent while playing).
Virtual City's difficulty is further compounded when demands on supply ramp up; forcing you to upgrade your production structures and vehicles to boost their output and carrying capacity. This places an enormous toll on your finances, and often you'll spend much of your time devising ways to first fill your coffers. If your scenario dictates the construction of a complex landmark such as a Space Shuttle launch pad, then the entire process needs to operate as a well-oiled machine. Virtual City is no walk in the park, demanding considerable efforts in both attention and organisation of your city and structures.
Virtual City currently has a blanked out Sandbox mode on the main menu, a feature meant to be arriving in the next update. We'll let you know when this goes live. In the meantime if you're looking for help or reader reviews, check out the thread in our forums.
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