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Cities in Motion Review

Causing a Commotion

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Cities in Motion Review
Image © Paradox Interactive

Cities in Motion is a game that involves working your way out of jams -- traffic jams, that is. You'll be employed by the mayors of four European cities in a job that will span multiple time periods, from 1920 to 2020. While the cities have the roads, power, manufacturing and housing in place, they all lack one key piece of infrastructure needed for growth: efficient transportation lines. That's where you come in.

Trains, Lanes, and Automobiles

Seven social groups such as pensioners and students, blue-collar workers and businessmen, and tourists and "dropouts" want to get where they're supposed to go with as little hassle or inconvenience as possible.

Do your job well, and you'll minimize the city's congestion, unhappiness and gridlock. Do it poorly, and your reputation will disappear as fast as your budget. Deciding where to build and what to invest in are the keys to your success.

Cities in Motion has you creating and managing transportation lines throughout Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam and Helsinki. These lines consist solely of buses, trams, subways, water buses, and helicopters.

You'll create routes by purchasing and placing bus stops, stations, helipads, piers and/or tracks across the city, then buy the vehicles needed to operate each defined route. Vehicles vary in cost, reliability, electricity consumption, capacity and attractiveness.

Before building the lines, you need to take into account the city's population and where certain groups like to travel. Blue-collar workers, for example, need to punch the clock, while pensioners like to go to government buildings (to fill out forms!), attend church and so forth.

The most important indicator of your success, other than your bank account, is your company's reputation, represented by a horizontal bar in the top corner of the screen. Ideally, you want happy employees, relatively cheap ticket prices, no waiting lines and well maintained vehicles.

Getting Down to Business

Image © Paradox Interactive

While paying your employees low wages may seem like a smart strategy for minimizing your expenses, pay them too low and your drivers will start missing stops, skipping repairs and cursing you behind their breath.

So once you've established your routes within a city, your time will be spent maintaining your lines and monitoring a news ticker that will notify you of traffic accidents, fires, demonstrations, parades and other events that can disrupt your business.

Though Cities in Motion is a business management simulation at its core, it often feels like a puzzle game since so much of your time is spent looping or piecing together tracks while trying to figure out the optimal routes to make the most money.

Make your routes too large and customers waiting at the end of the line will grow impatient. Make them too short and you'll be squandering potential income.

Game types include a tutorial, a campaign mode spanning 12 scenarios, and a sandbox mode that lets you play any of the unlocked maps without any specific goals to worry about. There are also three difficulty settings available and a map editor that will particularly appeal to city building fans.

The editor lets you choose from five starting locations, four map sizes, and the starting year (in five-year increments from 1920 to 2020). You can then start placing individual buildings from 12 categories, including airports, commercial buildings, residences, workplaces, leisure areas and so forth.

You can also modify the terrain and add decorative elements such as trees, billboards, and more. The editor is easy to use and enhances the game's replay value, since you'll be able to add new maps designed by other players. The only drawback is that your created city won't advance past the starting year like the cities found in the campaign.

Bumps in the Road

The tutorial is a series of steps designed to familiarize yourself with the game's interface, which on the surface, looks well organized and intuitive. Want to remove a structure? Click on the bulldozer icon. Want to see a breakdown of your earnings? Click on the line graph button. The camera is adjusted by scrolling the mouse wheel, and you can easily rotate the map. Movement around the city is a snap. Yet once you start acclimating yourself to the building phase, things get a little awkward.

Cities in Motion's building interface could be a lot more streamlined. You'll have to open multiple windows and hunt around for tiny green arrows to "move" a vehicle into line, for example, instead of right clicking on the route itself or double clicking on the vehicle from the purchase menu. Creating a line is simple enough -- just click a spot on the map and a transparent image will show you where the next track or stop will appear before it's built.

Yet sometimes when you click on a stop to assign a route, it'll give you a warning. Sometimes it's just a "you can't do that" sound effect, while other times it's a warning message. It doesn't tell you why you can't do that, or what you need to do next, so you'll spend the first few hours in the game just learning how the controls are supposed to work.

Once you get a feel for the game's quirky interface, however, you'll be able to create intricate routes without much difficulty. Cities in Motion's attractive, well-animated visuals help draw you into the game, and there's plenty of tasks (between 30 and 60) to complete in each city before you'll advance to the next area.

Limited Scope?

Image © Paradox Interactive

Since you aren't creating a city from scratch, developing an economy, or dealing with competition from rival companies, some may find Cities in Motion a bit too simplistic. You can adjust ticket prices, set wages for employees, borrow loans from banks, and spend money on different advertising media to boost your business, but the city's economic well-being is out of your control. Due to its narrow focus, neither the building aspect nor the managing phase will be as detailed as what's offered in games like SimCity 4 or Transport Tycoon.

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