My feelings on Kairosoft's new simulation, Venture Towns [$3.99 / Lite], are mixed, leaning on negative. My recommendation is rather weak: I'd say buy it... but only if you dug Oh! Edo Towns [$3.99 / Lite] a lot.
Venture Towns, for the most part, is a carbon copy of Oh! Edo Towns set in the modern day. You'll build houses and then people will buy them; you'll build buildings and then people will work in them; you'll buy cafes, and arcades, and pastures, and parks, and then people will spend money in them. A grid-based placing system keeps everything as neat and tidy as can be, and a UI choked with options and graphs and additional mechanics will be where you spend the most of your time.
Buildings, in order to be efficient enough to profit, need to be paired with other very specific buildings. People, in order to fair well in the workplace, need to earn bonus statistics given nebulously from these buildings. Special items, on the other hand, can increase the parameters of buildings, shops, and commerce.
All these systems feed into the overall research and build structure; buildings dish out research points at unpredictable intervals, and this gives you the power to research new buildings. Money gathered then goes into building the stuff you just researched.
This is all pretty simple in theory, but there's a huge, catastrophic catch: the only way to execute well and learn what works is to continually fail, and to fail so badly that you need to start new games over and over again. This is a code-red, oh-my-god-I-hate-this-game kind of stuff -- and nothing really saves it.
I've had to dump around five hours into deficit drowning towns in order to even figure out how to position houses and stores together efficiently. Worse, it has taken over four restarts to get a handle on the combination system -- what buildings go together to create the most profit -- and how to acceptably micro-manage my citizens and buildings with boosts. Venture Towns never gives you the tools to be successful. It fails to give you any kind of blueprint for success, and there's obviously one it wants you to use, or else it wouldn't punish you so much.
This is a problem that feeds into everything else just about as well as its structure feeds into the research and build model. Kairosoft's typically sluggish pacing feels even slower as you flounder, the hot-and-cold translation effort gets even more grating as you're forced to read bad tutorial bubbles, and the dumbphone-geared interface gets even more in the way as you knowingly suck at the game for hours on end.
Venture Towns uncharacteristic ruthlessness makes what's usually forgivable with Kairosoft's formula unforgivable. It makes me feel like the whole thing has been played out; that sly hesitancy to give me all the important information up-front comes off as underhanded, the cutesy visuals feels like a mask, the resemblance to other Kairosoft games conceptually and mechanically is grosser, and the mechanics are bulky and the systems brutal. Its just all so muddled. Confidence and fun come at a costly premium of tons of your time and patience.
For what it's worth, there is a decent-enough game buried in this mess. After wrapping my head around all of the unmentioned mechanics and systems and uncovering most of the title's great mysteries -- such as how to advance as beyond as a town, how to unlock cars as vehicles, and how to grid buildings -- the actual game part, the weighing and measuring of what to build and when, became magically entertaining.
It just sucks that Venture Towns sucks until you invest massive, massive amounts of time into failing and discovering what the game is actually offering. As a whole, it doesn't feel like a fully fleshed out title -- there's too much hanging in the breeze.
Oh! Edo Towns has a similar kind of approach, so I think that game's fanatics might find something they might like in Venture Towns. I gotta say though, the modern backdrop doesn't do this game any favors; it's bland, SimCity type of stuff with Kairosoft's characteristic wrapper.