Way back in October last year gmw3 got its first glimpse of Little Cities, a city-building title for Meta Quest. The first virtual reality (VR) product from indie team Purple Yonder – who themselves are the first studio to be published by nDreams’ new third-party publishing arm – Little Cities was quite the welcome treat, scaling back all the heavy lifting these types of management sims can burden you with for a far more streamlined experience. So why the second preview you may wonder? Well, as Little Cities nears launch we’ve been given access to a whole new island to build on, a sand-filled desert with new buildings and environmental issues to deal with.
Rather than a huge expanse of land to build your bustling metropolis on, Little Cities sticks to its namesake by offering far more compact areas of land. Designed like archipelagos, these island retreats can range from a large singular island that gradually unlocks as your level increases or made up of several smaller isles that require connecting.
Testing out the new Desert location, it was the latter, a relatively large – for Little Cities at any rate – piece of landmass with some rocky terrain, cacti, and sandstorms. Those sandstorms are the main feature as you can’t simply drop a load of homes, schools, police stations and a solar farm into the middle of a dust bowl. Nope, you need trees and plenty of them.
I noticed during the first demo that Little Cities seemed a bit devoid of plant life, I couldn’t make a park or any sort of outside play space. So bizarrely, sandstorms are what introduce trees (and only trees) into the mix, placing them just like roads creating sun-kissed boulevards lined with tropical plants. It adds some much-needed greenery whilst adding that extra bit of town planning, do I go for more commercial property or add a little foliage. Fail to include enough and residents start to get angry and nobody wants that.
Trees weren’t the only new addition to this desert region. The Oasis Dome, Yurt Village, Research Institute, Concert Hall and Observatory are all new buildings, each with their own particular bonuses. The Yurt Village for example improves residential happiness whilst the Research Institute improves industrial income. All need to be placed in reasonably close proximity to their respective zones.
Little Cities has also seen further additions to the management information and ability to immerse yourself in and navigate the environment. The watch handles everything from building demands to resident happiness and now includes both water and electricity indicators so it is easy to see when they get low. The ability to zoom into your tiny city also works – it didn’t previously. Not particularly useful during the construction phase, once that city is built and thriving getting down to (almost) street level is highly satisfying, seeing emergency services whizzing around as a building catches on fire, planes coming into land or just the dinky cars going about their daily lives.
Few of these Sim City style videogames have made it into VR which is maybe why Little Cities has been a joy to play. All the gameplay mechanics are very easy to pick up with the whole experience so laid back and casual it could almost be meditative. That does raise the question as to whether Little Cities could be too overly streamlined, so those looking for a more hardcore building simulator may find the title light on options. For now, though, I’ve enjoyed my time with Little Cities ahead of its launch on 21st April, priced at $19.99 USD/£14.99 GBP, which seems like a good price.