Did you play SimCity on a floppy disk? Are you uncomfortable with the “theft” part of Grand Theft Auto but you love running around and playing mini-games? Did you quit checking Twitter and suddenly find yourself looking for things to do on your phone?
Boy, do I have a game recommendation for you. I’d like to introduce you to my newest guilty pleasure: Pocket City 2.
I’m actually not a big mobile gamer. And despite semi-regularly spending $7 on a single cup of coffee, I’m pretty stingy when it comes to paying for apps. But when I read the description of everything you could do in Pocket City 2, I couldn’t pay for it fast enough. I have not regretted this $5 purchase since.
It’s a mobile city-building game of the classic SimCity genre: you build roads and residential zones, police stations, and parks — everything your citizens need. You do all of this in a hovering God mode, like in SimCity, but you can also jump in and explore in delightfully low-fi 3D. As your city grows, you unlock new buildings and features — and you have to balance a budget while your citizens complain about traffic and insist on having things like “schools” and “functional waste management.” It’s great.
This game goes deep, especially when you enter the “free roam” mode. You can play a mini-game where you’re a rideshare driver, fly a helicopter, walk into stores and buy food or clothing items, adopt pets at the animal shelter, and furnish your own Mayoral home. I’ve been playing it, um, let’s just say a lot, over the past week, and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.
Its $5 price is actually one of the things I like best about the game. You don’t have to wait to generate certain resources. There are no in-app purchases. You pay once, and you’re in. I played EA’s own SimCity BuildIt for a while, and sure, you can ignore the microtransactions and play for free, but it feels kind of icky. You can also run out of things to do if you’re not willing to pay to speed up resource generation. Not so in Pocket City 2. I’m too embarrassed to admit the long stretches of time I’ve spent playing the game after everyone else in my house has gone to sleep.
The thing about this game is that it’s also really goddamn delightful
The thing about this game is that it’s also really goddamn delightful. There are funny little details throughout it; citizens walk around your town saying things in speech bubbles like “I don’t trust birds” and “Want more money? Get another credit card!” One building sign advertises a bookstore called “Page against the machine,” and there’s a bakery with a sword logo called “Bread of the Wild.” Bread of the Wild! You can eventually build a public transportation system with subways and elevated trains, the latter of which you can actually walk on and ride around your city. It’s an armchair urbanist’s dream.
I could go on about the neat little discoveries you can make throughout the game or the delightful ways you can interact with your city, but I think it’s more fun if you just download it and find out for yourself. And anyway, I need to get back to my city — I heard Bread of the Wild just opened.