City Builder First Impressions
Photographing aliens and Big Foot is just one of the challenges in this city-building puzzler.
Described as Sim City meets Pipe Mania, City Builder combines the addictive puzzle elements of connecting roads, pipes, and power lines, with the rewarding aspect of watching your metropolis come to life. Developed by Collision Studios, the game is aimed at the 8- to 12-year-old demographic, but that doesn't mean that adults can't join in on the fun. Representatives from Collision Studios came by our office to give us a first look at City Builder and show us how it all works.
The game has 100 levels spread across four continents and a bonus continent for those who are looking for a serious challenge. On each continent, you have to build up multiple cities, which can include shops, homes, and factories. There are requirements for each continent, so you can't just build a bunch of shops and move on--there has to be a balance. Once you decide what you want to build, a map divided into a grid is brought up where you need to connect a road from point A to point B within a specified time limit. At the top of the screen, a counter ticks down slowly and indicates when a bouncy red car is going to start driving on your paved road. The car chugs along at a turtle's pace, so you don't need to sweat it if your timer runs out before you're done. Chances are that you won't be finished before the car starts.
The individual road pieces that are available to you are at the bottom of the screen, and you can spin to get new pieces or lock the ones you want and spin the rest. There's a meter that limits the number of times you can spin, and if the needle tips to the overheat area, you're stuck with the pieces that are there. If you mess up and manage to build into a corner and can't get out, you'll have to start the section over. Not only do you have to connect the road, but shops are automatically built along the road, and depending on the stage, you'll have to reach a minimum number of buildings to complete the level. Shops will only appear next to a road, so you have to also keep in mind the distance between your streets or else these buildings won't have room to expand.
Once you're done, you'll watch as your city populates with burger joints and donut shops. The next stage of the city-building process is putting in the water pipes underground. As with the road, you need to connect the two points, but keep in mind that you need to run the piping alongside the road in order to upgrade the shops you've just built. When you're done, your establishments will blossom into a bustling city. But wait, there's another stage. The final challenge is putting in the electrical wiring, and it plays the same way as the other stages. Obstacles like floating rocks, or just regular rocks in the pipe level, can foil your plans unless you detonate them with some TNT. You have a tool menu where you can use a limited number of explosives, and by using the Wii Remote like a handle bar, you push down to set one off.
Boxed gifts are also randomly strewn about on the map, making it extremely tempting to build in that general direction. Most of the surprises are beneficial to you, such as multipliers, bonus points, or pausing the spinning meter. However, there are negative effects as well, like losing points, but that's the risk you take. Other things that try to get in your way include aliens, Big Foot, and mole-men. These creatures take up space on your map, and to get rid of them you need to take their picture via a minigame in which you tilt the remote to match with the outline onscreen. You have a limited number of cameras and can only miss twice, so it's important to shoot wisely. There's no timer to distract you, but it can be tricky to get the remote to line up.
City Builder uses just the remote and has some motion control, but most of the time you'll be holding it sideways using the D pad and placing pieces on a map. Visually, the game is simplistic, but it has a fun and bouncy atmosphere that is kept up by the lighthearted soundtrack and cartoonish visuals. We didn't get a chance to play the game, but for puzzle fans who like the challenge of Pipe Mania, be sure to keep an eye out for City Builder. The game is set to be released sometime next February.
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