iPhone/iPad App Review: Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort

The original Virtual City from G5 Entertainment came out more than a year ago, and proved to be an excellent time and resource management game with shades of Sim City. Now, G5 has released the follow-up, entitled Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort for both the iPhone and the iPad. We’ve chosen the HD iPad version to review here, as the original certainly benefited from being played on a larger screen.

If you’re an established Sim City fan, then think of Virtual City as a simplified version of the challenge levels, where you’d be tasked with curing a city of its problems – ease the traffic in New York for example.

In Virtual City, the problems all revolve around resource management and transportation, making you less of a mayor and more of a manager, as it’s important to make money in the process. Your home base is a garage, which contains a variety of trucks, buses and dust carts, all of which can be deployed over your city.

The early levels see you building supply chains between businesses. For example, for the bakery to make pies, it needs to be supplied by the dairy and the mill, then the pies need to be transported to the supermarket, the airport, the train station or in some cases, neighbouring counties.

Each business generates waste, which must be collected and transported to the recycling plant, where its materials are often required by other companies. Virtual City 2 promises 12 different production chains to manage and 42 different types of goods to transport. You manage the businesses too, upgrading them when funds allow to produce more material and to have less of an impact on the environment.

The cities have an important residential aspect too, and the people who live there need to be ferried about by bus (nobody owns a car in Virtual City), have their rubbish collected, and homes upgraded when possible. Cities can be enhanced by building fountains and plazas, restaurants, gyms and theatres.

Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort has four different locations – Utah, Florida, Alaska and Nevada – and a total of 52 levels to play through. Each location builds up to a challenging final level, where there are multiple goals to achieve before completing it.

Settling down for a game of Virtual City isn’t something that should be undertaken lightly, as not only is it addictive, but it can be very time-consuming, with some levels taking up 30 minutes or more to play through. The game does save itself though, even if you exit the app, so don’t worry if you’re forced to stop.

There is a timer for each level, which rewards you with “expert” status should you achieve your goals before it expires, but on anything other than the first few stages, it’s incredibly hard to beat. Despite looking and sounding quite simple, Virtual City 2 is a considerable challenge, and working out how to maximise profit and make best use of your available vehicles takes plenty of skill and thought. That’s before you’ve tackled your city’s environmental rating, visitor approval or resident’s happiness too -Paradise Resort has a lot more depth than you expect.

Thankfully, the interface makes performing all the actions very easy – it’s simply a case of tapping on the clearly labelled icons, and sometimes confirming them with a tap on a tick. Vehicle paths are clearly shown, it’s obvious when businesses are operating and when they need attention, and a series of audio alerts mean you don’t miss out on problems.

G5 have a huge catalogue of games for iOS, all with a similar style, and Virtual City 2 is another example of the clear, concise and easy to learn control systems it employs. It’s not without problems though, and a few shortcuts could be added, for example a mass reroute for buses, the chance to visit the R&D lab from inside the game and the option to speed up time.

Too much more would ruin its simplicity though, and it’s a credit to G5 that its resisted the urge to add a host of new, confusing features to this sequel. However, this also highlights what’s wrong with Virtual City 2: It’s almost indistinguishable from the original.

The iTunes blurb talks about new buildings and new products, but they’re more variations on a theme, and although they may have different names, the game is played in exactly the same way as before. A more accurate title would be to drop the 2 and simply call it Virtual City: Paradise Resort, as it’s more a continuation than a sequel.

It’s refreshing to see G5 hasn’t implemented an array of in-app purchases though, something which has blighted some of its other titles in the past.

Despite the lack of anything really new, Paradise Resort is still brilliant to play, and the tiny, beautifully animated graphics a joy to observe. I would have liked to see the game enhanced for the new iPad’s Retina Display though.

The iPhone version is priced at £1.99 and the iPad version at £4.99, plus there is a Lite option that provides the first few levels for free, with the chance to unlock the full version with an in-app purchase. It’s not the cheapest app available, especially on the iPad, so should you buy it? Absolutely! It’s a huge, lovingly presented game which will take many hours to complete, plus it requires a lot of thought to get right, especially if you want to become an expert. Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort is a must-own and should prove to be a hit with gamers of all ages.

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