A saviour to small towns across America, Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort tasks the player with moving from town to town and achieving objectives that improve the local infrastructure.
As a sequel to the original Virtual City from G5 Entertainment, this casual city management Sim allows players to go into a town, make the required improvements and then leave for the next town, fleeing into the night with nothing but a collection of achievements and a sense of accomplishment. Split into some 52 different levels, this approach of making improvements to partially built towns will appeal to the casual gamer more so than a full city simulator, although it should be noted that some of the levels will keep a player busy for a fair amount of time. One particular level I spent over an hour on before realising that I had messed up, which is something else that the casual gamer should be aware of, some of the levels are especially tricky.
Anyway, the player is in charge of three main areas; transportation, upkeep and production. To this end, the player can choose where to place new buildings, plan routes for delivery trucks and public transport, and ensure that not only is everyone in the town kept happy, but that the town itself is clean and safe.
The transportation revolves around creating routes for the various vehicles to travel along. At the earliest stages, this will involve delivery trucks picking up goods from one building and taking them to another. Public transport comes next and the player must place bus stops in strategic locations to usher your little inhabitants to work or the local entertainment spots. As the game progresses, the player will find themselves planning routes for other vehicles, such as refuse trucks to pick up the rubbish and drop it off at the local recycling plant.
The upkeep aspect will, as previously mentioned, see the player ensuring that rubbish is picked up, as well as planning for fire departments and such. But it will also require that the player builds places for entertainment, such as stadiums or malls, increase the environment rating by adding trees or fountains, and upgrade what is already built.
Almost everything in the town can be upgraded to some degree. Upgrading housing can increase both the population and environmental rating, upgrading office blocks will increase the number of people that can work there, thus increasing job satisfaction, upgrading buses will make journeys more pleasant and thus more profitable, and the list goes on. Many of the objectives will require the player to reach certain targets for the various stats, such as daily income, environment or population, and upgrading things in the city is the only way to reach these targets. Each of the towns that the player works in only has a limited amount of space, so constant expansion is just not available.
The third aspect, and perhaps the complex, is the production. Here, players must create production lines within the towns. An early example is pie – the player must transport grain from the farm to the mill to make flour, which must then be transported, along with milk from the dairy farm, to the baker. The resulting pies must then be transported to either the mall to be sold, or to other towns in exchange for more goods. As the game progresses, these production chains become more complex and, at times, somewhat vague, leaving the player to work things out for themselves, which all takes time.
Because although there are no penalties for taking a long time to complete a level, there is a time limit to be adhered to if the player wants to achieve the expert rating. Some of these time limits are so incredibly short that they seem nearly impossible to achieve, but at least they are something for the more seasoned players to strive for. Even without trying to hit these target times, players will find that the game will keep them busy for easily in excess of 10 hours, which is nice.
The presentation of the game, both in the way that the towns look and the layout of the interface, is really impressive. Everything comes to life in the towns with bright colourful graphics making it a joy to watch. The interface is laid out for ease of use and doesn’t get in the way of the games enjoyment. In this respect, G5 Entertainment have excelled.
The only real fault that I have with this casual game is that at times the player is given very clear objectives without any clear method of achieving them. This leads to a certain amount of trial and error, and thus the inevitable restart of the level once a route to success becomes apparent. This can cause the game to drag a little as players try out different methods without success. But this is more a fault for those trying to achieve an expert rating than for the casual players who are really not bothered by their times.
But overall, Virtual City 2 improves upon its predecessor in every way, and will provide the casual gamer with hours of entertainment. It may not be the deepest city management Sim, but it is certainly the most fun.