Overall I have to rate City Life as one of my favorite city builders, bringing back a lot of nostalgia for my early Sims City days.
In 1989 a little company by the name of Maxis put out their first product, a game called SimCity in which players controlled the creation and maintenance of their own city from zoning restrictions, to electricity grids, to traffic jams, to killer monster attacks. For the next 11 years until the release of The Sims, also by Maxis, SimCity was one of the best selling Sim games in the industry. Building on that culture of success is the latest offering from developer Monte Cristo and publisher CDV Software is City Life.
Big black smoke is a sign that something is wrong! Call 911!
Cities by night. As time passes you get a unique look at your city
City Life is a game build on a basic idea. Build a city. But the buck doesn’t stop there. Not only do you have to build your city, but you have to make it thrive. Success is measured in the eyes of the population and the bank and it takes more than knowing where to point a bulldozer to balance such factors. Like most Sims there is no real story driven challenge to this game, instead it is focused on a series of goals that teach you to take advantage of various environmental factors, pulling from five different zones each with a specific climate and land type. Each zone has several maps associated with it, and different goals are connected to each map. In order to give the player some direction and provide a learning curve not all the maps are available when the game first starts up, but instead the maps open as you successfully clear their predecessors. This method of teaching the player the game is effective and helps the make up for a severe lack of documentation or hands on tutorial. Hands on experience seems to be the best and I found myself quickly leaping into actually building and playing with the interface instead of trying to slog through what help there was.
In the early maps much of your attention is on developing small areas of the map and enhancing what already exists to bring in population and make sure you’re funds are full of cash for future building. Quickly things get more complex as the maps require reaching specific goals that range from winning awards, to stabilizing your profit and creating harmony between your residents. Speaking of whom, one of the unique aspects of City Life comes from learning about your citizens and what it takes to make them happy. Unlike the early days of Sims City, there are six resident categories in City Life: elites, suits, radical chic, blue collar, fringes and have notes. These six categories represent people with their own needs and wants, and sometimes they aren’t in agreement with what they want in their city which leads to grumbling among the populace and eventually can create civil disturbances and riots…neither of which being good for your status as the boss.
Tagged! Even a perfect city has its vandalism
The long commute
Sometimes the list of requirements and keeping everyone happy and everything running can get a bit overwhelming, but City Life allows you to pause the game at any time. As well the game provides a monitor of your progress and will give you hints for where your trouble spots are and suggestions for how to fix the situation. The game is not without mercy for the first time simmer, or the experienced simmer that wants to experiment with the controls. The danger level of fires and natural disaster are present in this sim as well and these can’t really be planned for, but can be adjusted to quickly in order to save the citizens and keep your city in business. If there’s a real complaint to be had it’s that there is a formulaic nature to City Life. Learning the curve is complex initially, but once you’ve put it all together it becomes a matter of just adjusting your master plan to the minor differences between maps and goals and pushing forward. This isn’t necessarily completely bad, but the ADD simmer is going to find themselves looking for ways to increase the challenge map to map. The freeform version of the game also allows for just building to your heart’s content if you’re not big on objectives and structure, and make the replay ability of the game nearly endless.
Graphically this is a fun game, with buildings and background that changes as the city does. The look of the graphics is clean and crisp and never really drew me out of the experience of the game. The visual cues of the changing city can also give you a hint as to where trouble is, and where there’s success. When you can see the flames coming off of a high rise there’s little question about where the fire department needs to report to. One of my favorite features, personally, is the first-person camera mode that is built into City Life. This is a unique ability to change from the typical city building overview mode and go wander around with the people and get a look at your city at ground level. This camera view isn’t really helpful towards deciding where to put the newest grocery store, but it’s a hoot to walk around reading the advertisements and watching the swaying tree branches in your park.
The sound effects and music for City Life are well produced in general. They don’t do anything absolutely unique, but they add spit and polish to what is a well designed game. If you’re playing for long stretches of time the music can become a bit annoying, but I can’t really list that as a complaint since almost any diddy heard for a three hour period over and over again tends to test the patience.
Sunrise on the busy metropolis
Signs of industry. Your workers need jobs, but no one wants to live next to it
Overall I have to rate City Life as one of my favorite city builders, bringing back a lot of nostalgia for my early Sims City days. Definitely worth the time and the box price even if I’m left wondering why my city is full of pink and orange Volkswagen bugs. Maybe there was a sale.
Favorite gaming moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
I love the first person point of view. It does nothing for me as far as making better building choices, but being able to wander around street level and see what all my little people are doing is fun. Kind a like an ant farm.