Pocket City: A Mobile City Builder for Sim City Fans

Pocket City

A Real City Builder

Pocket City’s big selling point is that it’s a real mobile city builder that is not balanced around pushing people towards in app purchases. There’s no herding players towards spending money to speed up construction (it takes seconds), buildings that can only be be purchased with premium currency (there is no premium currency), or in app purchases of any kind here.

That is not to say that the game will feel entirely foreign to players who have tried mobile city builders in the past. It starts off much as any other mobile city builder, with a tutorial that has players build a few buildings in designated spots. As they progress players will level up by completing quests and building stuff, with higher levels holding the promise of new buildings.

Where the game does things differently, aside from the complete absence of IAPs, is in the freedom it gives players. After they complete a short tutorial players will be free to design their city however they choose, provided they have the cash and necessary buildings unlocked. That means building roads, residential zones for citizens to live in, entertainment venues to keep them happy, and commercial or industrial buildings to make sure they have jobs. Players will also need to keep a number of other things in mind as they build, including citizen safety, power generation, water, and the environment. Each of these is essential to having a functioning city with a happy, growing population. It is in how players choose to go about meeting these goals that makes every city different.

Although Pocket City places some emphasis on planning in order to make sure that the needs of the citizens are met, it also has some random elements to it. As with older city builders like the beloved Sim City 2000, Pocket City has disasters. Players will need to worry about things like fires, tornadoes, and volcanoes. Although it’s hard to plan for a major disaster, players have the ability to mitigate damage by having plenty of fire stations to put out any fires and cash on hand to rebuild damaged parts of the city. It adds a bit of depth and personality to the game and has the potential to create a few memorable moments.

Pocket City Premium Versus Free

Developer Codebrew Games has opted to go offer two separate versions of the game. The free version of Pocket City has ads that can help players get some more money, but still has no in app purchases to worry about.

The premium version of the game is ad-free and has a number of improvements over the free version. The biggest change is the addition of a sandbox mode which lets players build their city without worrying about unlocking buildings or cash. It doesn’t offer much of a challenge, but it does give players the freedom to try out different creations. The paid version of the game also gives players the ability to have more saved cities at any given time (up to 20 versus 2 for the free version). Smaller additions include a customizable town hall and multiple difficulty settings.

The Little Things

Among the many things Pocket City does well is a number of much appreciated features that are unlikely to be primary selling points. These features include multiple visual settings to help the game run on slower devices or save battery power, the ability to switch between landscape and portrait mode, and ample opportunities to see what the towns citizens want. Players are even free to change their city’s income, sales, and property taxes if they’re in a cash crunch or are feeling particularly generous. Also of note is that both versions Pocket City are playable offline.

One thing that might initially put off players is that saves are not shared between the paid and free versions of Pocket City. Those that upgrade to the paid version will download a new app and will initially be told to make a new city. However, players can easily export their city from the free version of the game through the options menu. This generates a short code that can be used to then download that same city onto a new device or version of the game, including downloading a free version city using the paid version. It also means that players can easily share their creations with their friends. It’s a fantastic feature that certainly beats standard cloud saves.

The Darker Side of The City

Pocket City may be one of the best mobile city builders, but it isn’t perfect. The biggest issue at launch is stability. The game crashes, a lot. Players can find their game shutting down unexpectedly from time to time without any error notice. This has been reported by players on multiple Android devices. Although certainly bothersome, it’s more frustrating than game-breaking. The game auto-saves frequently and the crashes booting up the game is quick so players won’t lose much time when the game does crash. It’s also an issue that may be fixed in future updates.

While Pocket City’s buildings are pretty and varied, the presentation does have some issues. The game’s audio adds little to the game and is best left off thanks to less than stellar sound effects. Oddly enough the game gives players the option to turn the music off or turn off all audio, but no option to turn off the sound effects alone. Some visual effects, particularly fire, are also a bit out of place. Though fire effects weren’t exactly impressive in older PC city builders either.

The Best Mobile City Builder

Pocket City providers gamers with a true city building experience on the go. It doesn’t cut corners or compromise the game in order to push people towards microtransactions, nor does it completely dumb-down the experience for mobile audiences. It’s exactly what fans of city building sim games are looking for.

That isn’t to say this is a perfect game. Crashes and some sound effects mar the experience, but they by no means ruin it. The freedom the game provides easily overcome any setbacks players may experience. The ability to place roads, raise taxes, and worry about whether there are enough fire stations in case a disaster strikes make the game more compelling than any mobile city builder out there.

If you’re a fan of city builders, the $4.99 asking price tag for the paid version of the game is absolutely worth it for sandbox mode, multiple difficulty settings, and to support an indie developer that has made something awesome. Those on the fence can try out the free version and get what is quite close to the same experience and then consider whether they want to upgrade.

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The Best Mobile City Builder
Available on Google Play
Note: This review reflects the author’s views on the game at the time it was played. The state of the game may have changed since that time.