Review: Cities in Motion

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It’s one thing to build a city, but another thing entirely to manage it. Games like SimCity are high-level simulations that let you build services like trains and bus stops and then forget about them, trusting their operation to whatever imaginary middle-managers you have. Cities in Motion is the game for them, a simulation entirely concerned with developing and managing transit systems. And while that might not sound like the most thrilling thing in the world, it’s presented in such a relaxing, charming way that it’s hard not to find joy in.

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Each scenario in Cities in Motion sets you in a fully-realized 3D city, where every building and landmark is named and given uses to the populace. You run a startup transportation company, charged with arranging bus lines, tram routes, subway tunnels, and more to achieve goals and turn a profit. The first part is pretty simple and fun, as you get regular missions to connect different parts of the city in various ways. This can be anything from running trains from downtown to the suburbs, to building a bus stop for one very lazy fellow’s house.

The second part, turning a profit, is where you might get stuck. There are a LOT of factors to consider when drawing a bus line or even just placing a stop. There are seven classes of people to ferry around, including blue-collar workers, tourists, and retirees. They all live in different parts of the city and have different transit needs, so just running lines from apartments to shopping centers might not cut it if those apartments are where students or CEOs live. There are also a mess of vehicles to outfit your routes with, each with different price tags, speeds, safety ratings, appeals, and fuel consumptions. Add to that your control over wages, ticket prices, and advertising, plus a full economic model for the city that can change the business landscape during recessions and crisises, and you may very well have trouble grasping why you’re not making any money.

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At least the interface won’t be what’s standing in your way. Cities in Motion has some very helpful information overlays for the city, as well as useful graphs and charts of your company’s performance at all levels. Routes are shown in clear paths overlaid on the city, and floating tabs over your stops display all the key information you need to make informed decisions about your service. The 3D models of everything, from the buildings to the buses to the people, are surprisingly detailed and pleasantly animated. The sound design is exactly what you’re expecting as well, with pleasing jingles and chimes over a mostly relaxed soundtrack. You’ll find plenty of content to keep you busy as well, with loads of campaigns, scenarios, and sandboxes spread across the many cities of the world. It’ll take some effort to break into, but Cities in Motion does everything it can to make the steep learning curve a fun one to climb.

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