Quest owners have been spoilt when it comes to city-building sims as of late, with Cities VR releasing just a few weeks ago (check out our review through this link) and the delayed Little Cities now arriving on the platform too. Whilst offering similar experiences though, there are enough differences between them both to ensure they each deserve your attention.
With Little Cities, you’re getting a more streamlined and casual approach to city-building, but one that still offers enough depth within its mechanics to be a lot of fun to play. Plus, you’ve got to deal with VOLCANOES, which is always a big plus in my eyes.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Little Cities sees players building their cities from the ground up, with each of the playable islands giving players a grid of tiles to work with where they can place roads, key structures, and the essential districts of their metropolis. It’s up to you to make sure profits are flowing through the city but also that the people are happy, meaning you’ve got to balance out money-making commercial and industrial zones with residential districts for people to inhabit, with a fair bit of pre-planning required if you want to make the most out of the space you’ve been given (a handy little graph gives you a good idea of what zones you need so this is never too complicated). This space might seem a bit limited at first, but don’t worry, your boundaries open up as you progress and you’ll have a booming city in no time.
One thing I’ll say about Little Cities from the get-go is that it felt more puzzle-like than other city-building sims. Rather than fine-tuning the little details of your city through a bunch of intricate menus or making decisions on how you prioritise your funding, it’s the placement of your buildings that affects how well it is run. Do your citizens feel unsafe because of crime? You’ll want to make sure your Police Station is central so that it’s covers a greater catchment area of your city. Need to raise education standards? Get those Schools built across the city. Running out of water or power? Get the stations in place to build your resources back up. You won’t be messing around with behind-the-scenes menus to keep your city in ship-shape, but instead place buildings in the right places to fix your problems.
What’s interesting is that not all of these options are available from the get-go. On each island, you’ll level up by keeping your city flourishing, with each new level expanding your land and offering new buildings to erect. It adds a cool sense of progress to the game where you’re continually working towards new goals, whilst the new buildings you unlock add an extra piece to the overall puzzle thanks to the fact you HAVE to find somewhere to place them within your city. Do you sacrifice city happiness by ditching some residential space or do you sacrifice income by getting rid of some industrial zone? Those are the decisions you have to make.
“Little Cities is a fun and relaxing city-building sim that’s more about building functional cities as opposed to perusing through menus.”
It’s a simple system and I’d be lying if I said Little Cities is a difficult game, but it didn’t stop it from being a lot of fun to play. Planning out cities, connecting them together, and placing new facilities such as Fire Stations, Airports, Theme Parks, Race Tracks, and so forth always felt rewarding, whilst dealing with all sorts of natural hindrances such as mountains or volcanoes (that can erupt and cause destruction) added to the enjoyment. The progress system ensured there’s always something to work towards, whilst unlocking new buildings and increasing the size of your city opens up new things to deal with that ensure you never stop micro-managing your city’s layout.
The only real flaw came with the fact that it could get a little predictable. Whilst there are six islands to work across that do bring their own little problems to deal with, I found I was doing a lot of the same things over and over again. I got into a rhythm of knowing what worked and what didn’t, whilst the streamlined flow of Little Cities’ gameplay meant that there isn’t a lot to play around with outside of your city placement. Again, it didn’t stop me enjoying building up my city and the casual approach will definitely appeal to players, but veteran city-building sim players might find that it lacks the depth they would’ve been used to.
One thing I really loved about Little Cities was its presentation, with the colourful and charming world one that felt wonderful to be a part of. It has this vibrant art style that feels befitting of the game’s more causal vibe, but is also packed with little details that bring it all to life. There are plenty of little interactions that occur within the city that make it feel like this genuine living and breathing space, whilst seeing things like birds, planes, and air balloons fly by act as the perfect reminder that time is always turning in this lovely little world. The fact that it all takes place in virtual reality is the cherry on top.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Speaking of which, it controls well in the headset with players able to grab at the city to navigate it and pull up simple menus in their hands to perform actions. Motion controls are a great alternative for a mouse and make placing objects within the city a breeze too, so it’s never complex to actually DO anything in the game. It’s just a really relaxed experience and one that even a complete newbie to city-building sims would feel comfortable with within ten minutes of playing.
Little Cities Review
Little Cities is a fun and relaxing city-building sim that’s more about building functional cities as opposed to perusing through menus. Sure, there are decisions to be made and you have to be efficient in your work, but there’s more of a focus on cleverly placing each building and zone of the city as opposed to pulling all of the strings behind-the-scenes. It’s simple, but not at the expense of player enjoyment. It looks lovely too, with the vibrant colours and charming building designs making it a wonderful world to be a part of.
Of course, the more casual approach might be less appealing to some city-building sim veterans and the gameplay loop is guilty of feeling a bit rhythmic between levels, but that didn’t stop me from having a great time building my own little cities.
Developer: Purple Yonder
Platform(s): Meta Quest 2 (Reviewed)