I was really looking forward to diving into Virtual City Playground. I’m been on a major “sim” kick lately and my hope was that this would provide me with way to take my infatuation with me wherever I went. Productivity, what’s that? Despite some crashing issues I had the first few times I tried running the game, I eventually got it working after a reinstall. It was time to don my Mayor sash and turn MEGATechopolis into a thriving city. As it turns out, I really had no idea what I was in for.
Virtual City Playground boasts some pretty sharp visuals and, while mobile gaming has admittedly grown by leaps and bounds, I was still impressed at the level of detail on everything. Not only would you see smoke coming out of smokestacks, but you could watch your tiny little garbage trucks operate their mechanisms and, when you build a house, you can occasionally see folks playing in the front yard, throwing a ball back and forth. This is all very, very small, something that makes it all the more impressive.
The touchscreen controls work nicely with the genre. Flip through a menu with your finger, choose a structure by pressing it. Drag your finger across the screen to position it where you want it and hit the check mark button to place it. It’s all very intuitive. I have a few nitpicks, such as an apparent inability to drag a line of road. You have to individually press each square when laying road, when it would be faster and easier to simply drag your finger and create one long stretch. But I’m not going to get bent out of shape over something so minor. There’s plenty of other problems to get bent out of shape over.
Another issue I took was with the difficulty – there isn’t any. To be fair, this is partly due to preconceived notions on my part. I was expecting something similar to Sim City, while the game is much more like Farmville or any one of the dozens of games like it. You build buildings, roads, and send trucks driving up and down them. You plan out bus routes and erect monuments. There’s a happiness meter and an environment meter, and the latter fell into the negative while I was playing, but it didn’t seem to cause any sort of problem. You cannot lose. Just think of the title’s “playground” as “sandbox” and you’ll get the idea.
Remember when I compared this game to Farmville? If you don’t, you have a terrible memory, because I made the comparison like three lines ago. Virtual City Playground is more like those games than you think. You have gold, which can be used to buy plenty of rudimentary things. Then you have energy, which you must expend to do anything. Once you run out of energy, you wait. Similar to how things work in Facebook games, you’ll accumulate more energy as time passes. There’s also Invest Points, which are used to build more important structures. About ten or so missions in, I was tasked to build a monument. Unfortunately, I needed way more Invest Points than I had. How do I get more? By spamming the hell out of my friends on Facebook until they’re no longer my friends or forking over my hard-earned cash.
I was truly looking forward to Virtual City Playground and I’m ashamed that I didn’t initially see it for what it truly was – another “free” title that revolves around micro transactions. And the worst part? It’s not even that good.