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Supplier: Paradox Interactive
Price: $19.95Reviewed: Feb 22, 2011

Cities in Motion
Author: T_H_Schafer -- Posted: 2011-02-22
Developer: Colossal Order
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platform: PC
Price: $19.95

Cities in Motion is a mass transit simulator where the player utilizes busses, trams, subways, water busses and air transit to transport the huddling masses. You'll manage public transportation in four different cities: Vienna, Helsinki, Berlin, and Amsterdam, through different time periods and beside fluctuating economic times. Your duty, if you choose to accept it, is to please the population with efficient, well priced mass transportation methods all while steadily raking in cash money.

As a game which asks you to plot bus lines, keep prices fair and generally manage a mass transportation company, Cities in Motion is more fun than I believe it has any right to be. After realizing that I sunk a full hour into creating several bus lines and watching how some stops crowded heavily and became unhappy frown-towns filled with sour-faced carless saps, I realized that Cities in Motion used the same sort of voodoo that city building simulators often use upon me. There's just something about zooming out on a well populated area and watching how your actions effect a sea of tiny artificially intelligent so-and-sos as they live out their weird little digital lives that keeps me in my chair longer than I often expect.

The setup is fairly straight forward. You're free to play sandbox mode in any of the four cities where you'll be free to do as you please when you please to do it. Taking on the campaign is where you'll be given cities, often with public transportation systems already built, where you'll have to streamline your methods in order to appease a bus craving population. Each mode will often offer different goals to accomplish which are rewarded with cold hard cash. These often come in the form of reaching out to distant locations to offer your low price communal services. During the campaign you'll often be asked to connect specific parts of time with specific methods of transportation. Things get complicated by traffic systems which are vastly different in the four cities you'll see.

After playing through the tutorial I had a pretty keen grasp of how to build up a somewhat competent public transportation system. For example, in order to get the people on the buses you'll have to build bus stops, plot out a line that the buses will follow, buy a bus and give it all the green flag. That's step one. After that I soon realized how much depth there was. Each kind of transportation has its own strengths and weaknesses. Busses are the easiest and cheapest to deploy but you'll have to watch out for crowded stops and increased traffic. Trams can often avoid some traffic since they aren't married to roads, but there is an increased cost associated with rails and energy consumption. Things get more expensive with subway systems, but their speed and passenger load are second to none. Water buses and air transportation are the most unique, and with my play through they seemed to offer the most challenge to get them to appeal to customers.

Before building up your lines there are things to consider like where people work and live, where they shop and where they go for leisure. You can get a bird's eye look at the city through different lenses which show this type of information and makes it easy to see where the most profitable locations would be for public transportation. You'll also have to take a look at the city's economy in order to see how to alter your prices, take out loans if you get low on cash flow, see what demographic your transportation appeals to (tourists, white / blue collar workers, pensioners, students etc.) and pay for some advertising to get the word out. All of this information is offered at a glance making it simple to understand and rarely overwhelms. Even seeing what stops are infuriating customers is easy to see allowing the player to make adjustments quickly.

Cities in Motion is fairly detailed visually, often times surprisingly so. After playing fully zoomed out for the majority of my time I decided to get a closer look. Little touches like soccer matches taking place in a stadium and crowds gathered in an outdoor market lend a lot to the experience. Each city offering a unique look also goes pretty far in making the game shine.

In the end, Cities in Motion is sort of addicting. At the time of writing this I've yet to master the ins and outs of how to create a truly masterful public transportation system. That's something I actually look for in my city simulation games, a level of depth that makes me feel like I'll always have room to improve and the feeling that I'm stuck in the ebb and flow of an evolving city. The game even offers an editor allowing you to create your own city which lends some more staying power to a game that already has a lot of it. As simple and complex as it can be, Cities in Motion ranks right up there with other city management games. It certainly offers a different, more specific focus than say Sim City or Cities XL, but if these are the types of games you find yourself enjoying, Cities in Motion will be more than a fun little diversion.

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