by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
True challenger to SimCity
City Life 2008 Edition, and the original City Life from 2006, both owe a big debt to the mother of all city builders: SimCity. The basic concept of building residences, business districts, industry etc. and trying to balance these all so that you still make a profit is simple, but engaging. There isn't really much you can do to make it even better, but when City Life appeared in 2006 it certainly made a fresh kind of splash: now you had to balance the needs of six different social classes in addition to nicely detailed financial concerns including much more than mere taxes and construction costs. In addition, you got great freedom in the layout of the city and a 3D camera that could take you to the street-level and give you a real sense of what your city feels like to live in.
New things come with sequels
Now, with City Life 2008, the basic concept hasn't been changed one bit. Everything that was in the original is still here. But you get some extras that will hopefully enhance your gaming experience: 23 new maps to try and 60 more buildings to build, increasing the number of maps to 50 and the possible buildings and constructions to over 360. This may sound like a very big number indeed, but it should be remembered that the buildings are grouped into various sets that contain variations of the same thing: you get different sizes of parks, plazas, shopping centres, residence buildings, power plants (from windmills to nuclear plants) etc. In the end, the game makes it pretty easy to keep track of them all.
In addition to the new buildings and maps, you will also have the possibility to import your own satellite maps (well, not your own, but some that you've acquired from somewhere), height maps and textures, which will make it possible for you to actually re-create your own home city, if you have that kind of patience. For me, the real-life and imagined maps that come with the game are definitely enough (well, at least for now).
I think it is a safe bet to say that pretty much every gamer has played one or the other city building game out there. Given their simple but attractive basic premise, they make for some of the best casual games out there. And by casual, I mean the sort of games where you don't have to have your eyes sharp at every moment, prepared to react at the slightest hint of trouble. Rather, you can easily let the game play by itself, gathering funds to your coffers while you go and get some more coffee or go out for a walk. Unless, of course, your financial planning skills aren't what they should be, and you are making losses. For office workers in the know, games like this beat solitaire with their hands bound behind their backs and their eyes blindfolded.
The same applies to City Life 2008 Edition. Once you have chosen the bit of land to start your construction from and placed your city hall, you need to build residential districts and industrial areas to bring in the first people and offer them some work. And the people will naturally need some health care and shopping possibilities as well. But, once you have made sure that the basic areas are covered, you can easily let the game run peacefully by itself (or use the highest game speed acceleration) to let your coffers fill up. The game doesn't force you to grow your city any bigger than it needs to be, but, of course, that is the very point of these sorts of games. But there's no real hurry, especially if you choose to play the game in Free mode with no goals to be met.
The social schism
The spice of City Life 2008 is undoubtedly the social planning that you must do in order to build a successful city. When you start the game you will be dealing with Blue Collar workers and the Fringe people. And these guys really don't like each other. It is advisable to build typical Blue Collar businesses into a different area than the Fringe people businesses, so that they don't even have to use the same streets to get to work, let alone live right next to each other. Acting as depressingly as real people in the real world, these guys are likely to start fighting and even burning each other's homes unless you have some sorts of controlling systems in place – e.g. community centres, police and, in the worst case scenario, fire-fighters and SWAT teams. And the media outlets will be happily fanning the flames – for each of the culture groups have their own television media that will pick up on any conflict and report it, naturally forgetting objectivity and victimising their target group at the expense of the others.
No Pros and Cons at this time