PC Roundup • Page 3

Fantasy Wars, Simon the Sorcerer 4, City Life, Penumbra: Black Plague, Sims 2: FreeTime.

City Life 2008

If you examine an aerial view of Washington DC, the streets sketch out what appears to be an owl sat on top of a pyramid, allegedly. By the same token, Paris probably resembles a giant string of onions from space. And Grimsby, well, Grimsby looks like someone's taken a giant dump that got lodged in the east coast and steadfastly refused to flush into the sea. Whatever your favourite city and any striking resemblance its street map bears to anything animal, vegetable or fecal, it can be recreated in City Life 2008.

Newcomers to this latest version of City Life won't find the tutorial very helpful, as it's a series of non-interactive screens that only explain the basic principles. You can pore over it all safe in the knowledge that you'll have forgotten almost every word by the time the game proper starts. On the positive side, City Life does provide a fair bit of in-game prompting as to what you should be doing.

And what should you be doing? Throwing up residential and business buildings so people will flock to your town and turn it into a metropolis. There's also the service industry to consider, so electricity and waste management plants must be placed, along with medical facilities and shopping centres. Wherever these are lacking on the map, big icons are painted over the affected populous so it's easy enough to keep things ticking over. Video clips also pop up letting you know about any overall problems, such as a lack of jobs for a certain social strata.

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The pavement colours mark out the neighbourhood's dominant social caste.

The key twist to City Life is this element of social dynamics. There are six classes, and the have-nots hate the elites, the blue collar workers hate the trendies, and the goths hate everyone (or they would if they were in the game). Mix antagonistic groups together and they'll fight or worse still a riot will flare up, which is fun to watch (the 3D graphics can be zoomed in to ground level) but not good for your score.

While these social factors and different demands and reactions from the various groups are an interesting idea, the game suffers from a lack of direction. The scenarios are largely the same, with equally vague premises that basically boil down to building a big city with the odd nuance thrown in by the surrounding terrain or climate. There are graphs hidden within menus that give you more feedback on your city status and ability to plan, but the temptation is to simply plonk down buildings as and when the icons and videos tell you.

Having said that, there's nothing offensive here, and if you haven't tried City Life before it provides a reasonable if rather plodding casual city-construction experience. Those who own previous incarnations of the game won't find it a worthwhile upgrade, as it merely adds some new scenarios (which aren't much different to the old), a fresh dollop of buildings and an editor that allows for importing satellite maps. Nothing to get too excited about, really.

5/10

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