Review: Townscaper

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I’m not here to debate what is and isn’t a game, especially when the creator themselves describes their creation as more of a toy. What I’m here to do is tell you why it’s good, or perhaps why I spent seven hours of my weekend playing it. It’s true that Townscaper lacks the goals or action of what you’ll usually find on Steam. But what it offers instead is an incredible amount of creative control to build adorable towns as familiar or fantastical as your heart desires. This does something that no SimCity or builder has ever done, really, which is simplify the creative process down to single clicks of the mouse, and produce wonders of incredible scope and scale from them.

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Townscaper is a town-building toy, I believe we’ve established that already. When you load into the game, you’re greeted with a vast expanse of water. Clicking anywhere will produce a tiny piece of paved ground. Clicking the ground again will construct a tiny house atop it, in the selected color on the left. You can expand the ground a significant distance by clicking around the water, and make buildings pretty much as large and tall as you like. That’s it, that’s all you do. With this simple interface, you’re free to build islands and towers and castles to your heart’s content, just by stacking building pieces atop each other with but a click.

Now, the reason this works so well is because of how the game puts the buildings together. You’re not mashing blocks together into weird shapes, after all. No matter what you do in Townscape, it’s going to look good because the system dynamically adjusts your structures by what you place. So, a single click makes a tiny house. A click on its roof makes it a two-story house. Clicking next to it makes it longer. You can turn your buildings into arches, give them steepled roofs, build elevated walkways atop them, suspend them in the air with pillars, and so much more. Certain combinations of elevations can produce steps, and boxing in a section of ground with houses creates gardens. There’s so much to do here that you can spend hours just exploring the possibilities, without even cracking into your magnum opus.

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This is the beauty of Townscaper, the fact that you can’t go wrong. Everything fits together, and everything is designed to look good while doing it. And if you don’t like how something comes out, you can unmake it just as easily with right-click. The game is full of wonderful dynamic details like postboxes, shrubberies, clotheslines, and birds. Literally everything you do is going to be amazing, and I know that for a fact because I turned my children loose on it and they made amazing islands and towers with no coaching whatsoever. This is an unparalleled tool for creation, allowing people with any degree of skill or coordination to make towns they’ve only dreamed of, and to have fun doing it. I never realized how specifically I needed this in my library, and now that I have it, I honestly can’t stop tinkering.

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