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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Cities in Motion (PC)

Virtual simulators such as Sim City have eaten away a great deal of time throughout this reviewer's life, and the recent incarnations/ copycats have, from experience, often failed to match that pink elephant of the simulation room. Cities in Motion is specifically designed towards the transport aspect of city management (removing all others) and provides a wonderfully designed, if slightly repetitive challenge that make its mechanic an ideal for any simulation game.

I hate waiting for trains on the road



Taking the helm of transport minister from 1920-2020, you are charged with constructing and maintain the transport circuits of any of a set of the lesser known but important European cities (including Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam, looking ridiculously spiffy). Your roles includes controlling land transport, naval transport and flight with most historical options in each available. Whilst this monotonous task might sounds boring – most simulation games are a little more multi-focused - the game designers have created a little masterpiece and make it genuinely fun as the ridiculous attention to detail makes the game feel realistic and regular rewards pumps the ego. Indeed, meeting the demands of the seven societal classes including students and tourists is enough to keep you constantly challenged, especially whilst sticking to an appropriate budget, regardless of the difficulty setting chosen.

The tutorial is conceptually fantastic and executed well. Whilst taking the player through the important gameplay modes with remarkable clarity and offering a constant rewards system for successful completion is ideal, it is the manner of the instruction that deserve plaudits. The player genuinely learns the interesting gameplay through a step by step set of instructions that make what would otherwise be complex processes logical and easy. Further, it is well paced and doesn't eat away a large part of an afternoon for the transport enthusiast to be sufficiently familiar to successfully complete missions.

This city is running like clockwork. So, not Sydney


Gameplay is fun, the controls are easy and responsive and the interface is far from cluttered. This is not to say it is uncomplicated but the colour distinction is spot on. It is rather logical that your aim is to create profitable transport routes, and one feels constantly challenged to do so, lest you face the wrath of the unhappy commuter (in that case, can I suggest CityRail in Sydney play this game? - Ed). However, one drawback is frustration as the unhappy commuters fail to give direction to fix their gripes, but then, this ironically feels more realistic. Micromanagement is required, but is simply achieved through well placed option boxes. Sadly, the game does tend towards the repetitive with its single focus in only dealing with transport, but the create a map option and the challenges imposed via the commuters and your own goals should capture the imagination. As a result, replayability is not great, but for such a cheap game, the worth far exceeds the price.

Music is nothing spectacular but the solid soundtrack does not detract from the experience, whilst the sound effects, when present, are nothing special. Graphics are excellent, the video files stored in the game highlighting your transport vehicles once on their route through remarkable, curiously clean cities.

This top down view is... less interesting. But more functional


The game is for all those who enjoy simulation games, new people to the genre or those who enjoy the ideal of creating a functional mass transit system in major European cities. If you've been told of the virtues of simulation games but never had a title to try, this is highly recommended and an easy way to get involved without being overwhelmed.

Indeed, the mechanic of games like this should be used as a prototype/yardstick to be incorporated in any future simulations that need transport (so, all of them).

- Owen S



Review: Cities in Motion (PC)
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