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Balancity Review

Imagine a vertically aligned Sim City 2000 where, due to a lack of space, you have to build everything on top of each other. Then imagine that your "wise" forefathers decided to settle their new home on top of a balancing scale. Then, if you can possibly fathom, envision constant meteor showers, alien invasions and earthquakes that show up and ruin your day. That is BalanCity, and it's glorious.

Balancity ReviewBalancity Review

introduction

In a nutshell, BalanCity is a simple city management game with a strange and exciting twist. The twist is that you always find yourself building on a shaky piece of earth that's balancing on a thin pillar.

I fail to see any scenario where explorers would set out in search of greener pastures, see a flat piece of land balancing in the air and think, yeah, this will be our new Utopia. But clearly someone, probably a man, and probably named Nigel, spent a little too much time with Puff the magic Dragon before scaling said land mass and planting the flag of his people right in the middle, grinning as he did so, right before he lost his balance, toppled over the edge and fell to a quick and meaningless death. Nigel's death was a tragedy, but the flag had been planted, so despite Nigel's questionable herbology practices, your new settlement location has been chosen.

Your job is to provide for your people, grow your population, build monuments and most important, keep the balance.

Balancity is available on Steam for $7.99.

gameplay

The basic principles that apply in BalanCity are fantastically simple to grasp. Even so, you do have your share of tutorials to play that will guide you through everything you need to know.

The primary goal is to get your population as high as possible. A simple enough task, in theory. Plopping down your first apartment blocks, you immediately see the first problem, your citizens have no power. Despite protests by Greenpeace, you fuel your city with coal power and do your part to melt the polar ice caps. And suddenly physics kick in and remind you that a coal power plant is much heavier than a couple of apartments. If you're quick enough you can deploy a few more living spaces to even things out. If not then your 15 seconds of hard work will be waiting for you at the bottom of the ocean.

Once you've restarted and intelligently placed the power plant in the middle of the platform, you hear your people screaming for jobs. So you give them some office blocks and for a moment there is peace. Despite the fact that everyone now has a steady job, some pimple faced moron still feels the need to steal from his fellow BalanCitians, which indicates a need for a police station. The police station offers you the services of their patrol helicopter which you can dispatch to vanquish the evil mugger dirtying your streets.

Similarly, you have to add a fire station and hospital which provide you with 2 additional helicopters to combat fires and injuries, of which there will be many. There is also a military base available, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Balancity Review. High up, things tend to get a bit skew, and they catch fire.

Your citizens are a simple folk, all they require is power and employment, from there you can work on expanding. Since balance is of key importance, you have to watch where you place what. Stacking a bunch of apartments work well until one crawls too close to the edge, topples over and knocking down the office tower next door. A tiny slip up like this could send everyone you love and care about into the shark infested waters that inevitably surround your city. To assist with keeping things stable, you can bunch 4 apartments or office together to form a large, solid block. Stack 3 of these blocks next to an elevator tower and you'll have a skyscraper. Just keep your homes away from the coal plant or they'll degrade and won't be able to merge unless you plant a few trees in their front yards. I've always looked at power plants and thought that those wide open fields around them would make a perfect backyard, as long as I have a cedar tree or two to help me forget that I'm getting the black lung.

One other thing you need to keep in mind is your height limit, which is rather low to start with. However, as soon as you have a few people who call your city home, you can add a civic building of sorts which raises your height limit. These buildings vary from a town hall, to statues, bridges and famous landmarks. They are usually large, heavy and as you can imagine, oddly shaped. This makes placing them tricky because you need to put them somewhere where they won't tip the scales and you have to plan ahead and make sure they don't take up too much valuable building space.

Keeping things running smoothly is easy enough, as long as you keep your focus and place your buildings evenly. You dispatch your emergency services to assist with the odd fire or mugging but then things get interesting when mother nature opens Pandora's Box. There aren't many natural disasters but they can be difficult to deal with. Earthquakes seem terrifying but usually only leave you with a fire or two to put out. A meteor strike however, can be devastating when it hits the right spot. This will most likely destroy several buildings but worse, it could unbalance things and send whatever remains down to dine with Davey Jones. 

Balancity Review. Need a new platform to bridge two parts of the city, just use a stadium, duh.
The most exciting disasters, however, are alien and monster invasions. That's where the military base I mentioned earlier comes in. Build a base and you have the ability to construct missile launchers. Their shape makes it impossible to build on top of them but luckily their small size means you can stick them in all those odd corners where nothing else will fit. You have to add as many of these as possible to defend against invasions, no Independence Day nonsense will be tolerated.

Lucky for you, economics don't seem to exist in BalanCity. You don't have any form of resources or currency to worry about, you can just keep building and trust that everything will be okay, until those damn Martians come for another visit.

Game modes

As mentioned, you start with a few training missions that introduce the mechanics and give you some simple goals to complete. Even with my parently duties taking up much of my time at home, I finished training in less than an hour. 

Further, you have scenarios that mimic well known cities like New York, Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai. Each of these scenarios have their own unique set of civic buildings, such as the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the Eifel Tower in Paris and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco. Your goal here will be to construct the full set of unique civic buildings which are only unlocked once you reach a certain population. They also try to mimic the actual cities like having Rio de Janeiro spawn two islands around your main platform where you can expand to or having Berlin crawling with muggings and riots. Of course the American cities have frequent alien invasions, because as Hollywood has taught us, that's the only country worth invading.

Finally, there's free play, which as you may have guessed, let's you build freely until you grow tired or a meteor kills everyone.

Balancity Review. I solved the mystery of Atlantis.

design

BalanCity's design carries on the tradition of simplicity. Not that I was expecting Sim City 5 or anything but a little more diversity in this regard would have been appreciated. The graphics are simple enough that this would have made a great mobile game that would run on even the oldest smartphones. This might have been the idea since BalanCity does have a mobile version available. This version is, at time of writing, unstable but still in development.

The sound is equally disappointing. I'm pretty sure there was only one soundtrack which was just a medley of basic tones and only a handful of effects, the most frequent to play being the annoying "Help me!" cry when someone's being mugged or has been injured.

Balancity Review. Batman was a witness but decided to do nothing, I always knew he was a fraud.

conclusion

Despite the design drawbacks, I thoroughly enjoyed BalanCity. Every game lasts only a few minutes so it's a great option when you have half an hour to kill. The lack of content means you won't be spending endless hours toppling skyscrapers but the gameplay is oddly addictive and you might find yourself hounding your previous high score often.

The simple gameplay and quick matches make it ideal for a tablet app, so I'm eager to try it out when development finally wraps up. BalanCity might not be one of the all-time greats but it certainly put a smile on my face, and for now, that was enough.

PROSCONS
  • Simple, yet addictive gameplay
  • Great time killer, when you have a few minutes to spare
  • Mobile version in development
  • Subpar design elements
  • Lack of variety
7
Good

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