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Review | Cities in Motion

World in Motion

Format: PC | Genre: Management | Publisher: Paradox | Developer: Colossal Order | Release date: 22/02/2011 | Price: £14.99

Greg Giddens loves this game; he can’t get enough of it. Will CITIES IN MOTION move you?

ITS BEEN a while since I’ve seen such a strong transport management title. The cities breathe as if they were real, the interface and mechanics are intuitive, it promotes replay with its addictive experience and it’s visually gorgeous. Sure, it has a few problems which dampen the experience slightly but against the ageing competition it stands proud and strong.

It does however suffer slightly from niche appeal. Management simulation fans are the mostly likely to be taken in, especially those from the school of city management titles. It’s about balancing the budget and expanding, and keeping the populous content; the usual premise for the genre. Cities in Motion however, concentrates on the transportation system alone and even the biggest management fan may be put off by such focus.

Narrow minded?

With the focus being so narrow it’s understandable to fear a lack of content, or simply not having many options in-game, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The campaign has you deal with multiple issues throughout each of the four cities – Amsterdam, Helsinki, Berlin and Vienna – across 100 years of history. You will visit each during eras of significant change in their development. It offers interesting and varied challenges, dependent on the technology and economical state of the city at that time in history, and it keeps you engaged as a result.

Additionally, Sandbox mode allows you to play either city – including the tutorial city – starting in any year from 1920 – 2020, with no pre-built transport links but a hefty bank balance to start you off. The scenario mode allows you to play through some more specific challenges in Berlin, although only having the one scenario is disappointing.

Then there’s the map editor which allows you to build a city of your design with the building aesthetic from any of the four included cities. It’s intuitive and entertaining to create your own city, village or anything in-between but it lacks the scope to pull off your dream metropolis.

In-game, the available options and scope continues to impress. Bus, tram, metro, waterbus and helicopter make up the transport infrastructure, each with their fleets of vehicles. At its simplest levels, it’s just a matter of using these transport links to allow easy movement across the city for the population, but in practice it’s a matter of dealing with multiple factors. For example the cost of the more effective transport against the cheaper ineffective options, or maintaining a fleet of vehicles, adapting stops and lines to accommodate people getting to high concentrations of shops, services and work areas, and even tweaking staff salaries and ticket prices to match expectations and the economic state. There are many elements to monitor and management under the umbrella of transport management and it’s all in order to make a profit and improve the infrastructure.

Features and failures

With the decent quantity of game types, cities, and in-game options, it’s hard to get bored. Helsinki’s colder climate is a very different environment to Vienna for example. Each city has a unique look and feel about them, not hugely so but subtle nuances make a difference if you stick with it long enough to sense it. And for the enthusiast sticking with it, it won’t be a problem. For newcomers though, a few slight issues may put them off.

The populous aren’t the brightest bunch and will ignore empty bus stops that are only a short walk away that travel the same route. They also rely far too heavily on the metro system. The zoom function doesn’t allow you to zoom out as far as you may like, making it difficult to get a good idea of your city’s layout and issues. And whilst the mini maps helps with this, it can get busy and tricky to read when you have multiple lines or any of the information overlays activated which try to aid you in determining the busiest parts of the city. It’s also a shame there’s no undo command and setting up transport links means making payment in stages rather than all at once, which often leaves you halfway through setting one up when you realise you’re out of money.

In the end though, these issues are minor; slight annoyances that are easy to look past if you allow yourself to be taken in but City in Motion’s addictive and entertaining management experience. I love it and If you have the slightest interest in management games, if you can remember the sheer joy of games of yore like Sim City and Theme Park, then this could be the game for you.

9/10

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