If you're business minded, and you're the sort of gamer who likes resource management games like SIM City or Farm Frenzy, then you might like today's game, Little Big City. This spin on the city simulator genre tasks you with transforming a cosy back water into a bustling metropolis. With the inclusion of real-world micro-payments in exchange for more resources, does Little Big City have what it takes to part you from your money?
Little Big City
Little Big City starts out with green fields, interrupted just by a grid of roads. Fortunately, you're not thrown in at the deep-end. You, as mayor, have a friendly personal assistant (PA) who will give you pointers about what you should be doing.
This game actually makes for an interesting mix of open-ended and guided gameplay. In addition to your PA, there are other characters who will 'suggest' certain things that would be a good idea for you to do. There's a business advisor who is there to coach you on helping local businesses, and there are local residents who each have their own needs.
The business advisor
All of these instructions take the form of 'missions' that you have to complete, but you can do them in any order you like. Pretty soon you'll have blocks of housing to increase your population, plots of farm land to plant for the city's food stocks, etc. Along the top of the screen you'll find various resource counters which are all interdependent and need constant monitoring.
Being assigned new missions
To build the city funds, you'll collect rent from residents and businesses; and to collect food you'll harvest from the fields. Food is used when a housing unit requests a food delivery – just like ordering groceries online! Ultimately, there is the energy meter which cannot be topped up as easily and this limits how many moves you can make in a period of time – acting as a pacemaker for the game. (I tried building more power plants to speed things up, but it didn't work!).
Building power plants
While you have city cash, there's another pool of cash at your disposal, simply called "Cash". This cash reserve allows you to shortcut any problem in the city, such as unlocking structures you haven't earned yet, buying more energy, and clearing missions you haven't yet completed. You start off with $12, and the only way to get more is to buy it with real-life money; and that's how the developers of this game are trying to make their own money, as the game is free and doesn't have advertisements. The method of in-app purchasing is done through operator billing. I didn't go through this process.
Developing a busy city
Micro-payments are an interesting idea in gaming. If done correctly, and if it's an addictive game, they can be very lucrative. I felt that with Little Big City, the rate of city development soon outpaced the regeneration of energy points, leaving the player to either just wait for their energy to regenerate, meanwhile all the buildings around them are begging for attention; or buy some cash so he/she can instantaneously recharge and get on with playing.
Being prompted to give a micro-payment
Little Big City plays well for a game of its genre, the graphics are suitably cute and clear, and the game is responsive. However, I ultimately felt that it was pushing you a little too hard into parting with you money by putting the brakes on the gameplay too quickly. The more optional micro-payments are, the more amiable I think we'd all be to paying them.