Cities in Motion Previewification

By: Chris Evans

Published: February 2, 2011 Posted in: Initial thoughts

If you’ve ever been foolish enough to go outside, or perhaps turn on the TV during the day, it won’t have escaped you that people are gormless and stupid.  All they do is flock from one pointless interaction to another, their entire lives spent in blinkered, grey, transit; work, shops, home, work, shops, home, hospital, home, morgue etc, with perhaps a pit-stop on Cash In The Attic if they’re lucky. They should be more like me and spend every waking moment at their computers, the pathetic idiots.  Cities in Motion, not, as the title may suggest, some kind of dreadful art exhibition, is about making money from these human cattle by carting them around a city with buses, trams, subways, water buses and helicopters.  Larks.

It promises to be strangely addictive for anyone who enjoys making little video game simpletons happy by shipping them to their destinations in a good mood. It actually became difficult to tear myself away from my sandbox city knowing I’d just turned a corner and was finally making a profit.

When released next month, Cities in Motion will feature a Campaign mode, 12 different scenarios and the cities of Vienna, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Berlin.

You’ll play through four distinct time periods, stretching from the 1920s to the modern era’s state of transportation Nirvana and it’s pleasing to see the appearances of the vehicles at your disposal change accordingly each mission. The city architecture also evolves and you can see them expand as the pretty tarmac slowly wins its war against nasty old fields and trees. Nice touches, yet it would be even more impressive if you had the option to take one city through the entire time span of the game and watch it develop before your eyes according to the specific choices you make.

Games like CiM need lots of graphs and overlays to give you the information required to build a strong profitable company. It’s annoying that quite often the information you want is tucked away somewhere or shown in such an obscure manner you can’t make head or tail of it.

A prime example is when you see unhappy faces on your transport stops.  You may click on the stop, or indeed an individual passenger, but you’re never told exactly why they’re unhappy. It may be because you only have a cheap and grotty bus stop for them to stand under, or that the bus fares are too expensive.  It may be because their partner recently discovered a cache of unspeakable pornography on their computer, like what hasn’t happened to me.  The reasons for their unhappiness simply aren’t clear and it drastically hinders your ability to quickly solve the issue.

Poor passenger feedback is only one aspect of the game let down by the interface. Even the simple act of placing bus stops or underground stations (the initial steps to establishing a new travel route) are frustrated by poor interface design. It should be clear and intuitive to organise these crucial elements; without the tutorial I would have wasted a day trying to find the construction mode amid the jumble of buttons clumped together on the side bar.

Once you’ve set up a series of bus stops, or laid your tram tracks or whatever, you need to create a route for the vehicle to travel – which is easy, when it isn’t eye blisteringly infuriating. It isn’t challenging in principle, but you need to complete a circuit to finish the route and that’s where the trouble lies. You will often have to spend a bit of time fiddling around with stop locations in order to get the route to work but it was my experience with a waterbus which really pushed my patience.

I wanted my waterbus to go from Point A to Point B then back to Point A in a loop that should have completed the route. It just wouldn’t let me, and reversing the order yielded no success either. To get my waterbus running I had to set up a third stop and add that to the route. It was a fiddly and time consuming solution to get a simple part of the game working.

Cities in Motion certainly has potential and I look forward to the campaign mode and the possibilities of the map editor.  I hold my reservations about the interface; like an imaginary sick bag, it just isn’t fit for purpose. This doesn’t prevent the core game from being enjoyable, but I hope some improvements are made before release.

Chris Evans