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BalanCity asks you to build the world’s most misguided city

BalanCity is a diamond in the rough. The menus and presentation of the game leave a lot to be desired, but the actual game, the act of balancing hospitals atop skyscrapers without accidentally sending your whole city into the ocean, is about as compelling as city-building gets. It’s no SimCity (2013), but no one seems to have told BalanCity that. Hence it tasks you with the typical challenges of a city-builder. You have to keep your approval rating high or people will protest in the streets of your unbalanced city. And you’ll need to keep your emergency services working to…

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BalanCity will challenge you to build an entire city on a seesaw

BalanCity, due out this summer, touches upon one of the major difficulties with constructing a city, one that videogames often miss out: fighting against uneven foundations. The concept of the game is deliriously absurd—mount a mass of buildings atop a seesaw—earning the creators the right to summarize it as “if SimCity and Jenga had a love-child.” You have offices, airports, train stations, power plants, monuments and more to pile on top of one another, all while ensuring that the total weight is evenly balanced. It seems that at all times you’ll need to be aware of the physics at play here,…

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Soviet City will turn urban planning into terror control

City building games are rarely exercises in democracy. The player’s agency stems from her role as a central planner; she designs cities that hopefully please their residents, but this is not a consultative, bottom-up process. Considerate urban planning in the city-building game is an act of benevolent dictatorship. Soviet City, a forthcoming strategy game for PC, takes this association between city builders and central planning to its logical extension. Instead of being set in the deracinated utopia of most city builders, the game is set in soviet Russia, a place that may have wanted to be seen as a utopia…

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Learn the science of the subway in Mini Metro

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Mini Metro (PC, Mac)  BY Dinosaur Polo Club New York City admits now that it made a mistake when first rejecting Massimo Vignelli’s subway map back in 1972. It had a modernist design that favored clarity over the clutter of trying to be geographically correct. This meant a preference for turning the urban sprawl into a series of straight lines and bold colors. This visual design is something we’ve come to expect of subway maps these days. And it’s what Mini Metro, a strategy game about…

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Now you can test if your Cities: Skylines creations actually work for humans

In city builder games, the player is god. No capitalization is called for here: She is looking on from on high, but she is not omnipotent; she must watch human forces desecrate her creations from the heavens above. Most games grant their players agency they would otherwise lack, but the risk of POV-induced hubris looms large in city builders. These are games about building human environments, yet the actual humans tend to only matter on an aggregate level. When it comes to the lives of individual citizens, on the other hand, Orson Welles’ speech from The Third Man comes to…

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Block’hood is everything vertical cities promise to be… and aren’t

What is a neighbourhood beyond a collection of functions such as greenspace, housing, shops, and schools—figurative building blocks that can be strung together to build a functioning environment? The neighbourhood-as-collection-of-blocks metaphor appeals to videogame creators and audiences because it is an easily digestible abstraction and one that can easily be mapped onto basic game mechanics. This is how Sim City eventually bequeathed games like Oskar Stålberg’s Brick Blocks, in which you extruded a block of flats out of a base grid. Now this variant on the venerable city-building genre is getting beautified in Jose Sanchez’s Block’hood. Block’hood, which is due to…