Developing a city really ought to be stressful. The kind of job that’d leave most of us weeping on the floor amid a mess of traffic simulation reports. Two hours into VR town planner Little Cities and we definitely found ourselves on the floor. Thankfully, though, stress was the furthest thing from our minds.
You see, Little Cities isn’t a realistic city-building game. It doesn’t even pretend to be. You can forget traffic, taxes, and tedious terraforming – all this gentle VR sim asks of you is to plonk your rear down and bring a barren island to bustling life.
Most city builders pride themselves on their complexity; the depth of the simulation. Little Cities is more preoccupied with putting a smile on your face. Each level is an island in miniature. Laid out in front of you, it’s free to shimmy and shift around with your hands, too peer at up close or admire from afar.
As you lay down roads and erect houses for new residents, you’ll need to balance income and interests by placing industrial and commercial districts too. Building options are chosen, gratifyingly, by popping bubbles with your fingers, while a wave of your hand holding the trigger sends construction vehicles scurrying to complete their tasks.
You start with a tiny patch to develop, unlocking new buildings and areas to construct them as your town levels up. Demands like network coverage and nearby education are only introduced as their buildings unlock, meaning it’s rarely possible to plan your design to accommodate them first time. It’s a minor frustration, until you realize your towns are meant to be adapted. This is a world in which residents won’t even blink at the suggestion to bulldoze their homes so you can whack an aquarium in their place. Little Cities inhabitants are a forgiving lot.
There are adjacency bonuses, income, and resources to consider, but they’re never made into threats. The game won’t even provide explicit numbers for your power and water supplies. Notice the supply bar beginning to empty? That’s your sign to plonk down another wind turbine or water tower. The only buzzing notification you’ll receive is to acknowledge your town leveling up with a celebratory release of balloons.
Each island brings unique buildings and natural challenges – a desert to navigate limited water supplies or a suspiciously active volcano to add increased risk of fires – but we never felt like we were struggling. If you’re looking for challenge, Little Cities goes out of its way to avoid generating it.
Without constant, pressing concerns, there’s plenty of time to just sit down and admire the mini metropolis you’ve built. You can zoom in close to watch blocky cars shift out of an ambulance’s path, or pull back to lift your head close to hot air balloons drifting through the sky. All without risk of finances running into the red. You should probably play Little Cities from a chair, but we had far too much fun sitting down on the floor to properly surround ourselves with the island.
In essence, Little Cities is a toy box. A chance to shut your brain off and tinker with tiny houses like a child empowered by LEGO and imagination. Though with VR, there’s thankfully there’s no need for cleanup or the risk of stepping painfully on a missed piece. When the alternatives can play out more in spreadsheets than the actual game world, being little, perhaps even simple, can offer a welcome break for a tired brain.