Megacity Empire: New York «

For those who desire to shape a metropolis, Megacity Empire: New York is an incredibly solid city-building sim that turns boring bureaucracy like taxes and zoning into something great. It’s hardly unique — the original SimCity did this nearly 20 years ago — but its clear user interface, richly detailed visuals, and charming New York setting are considerable improvements to the genre.

Your biggest challenge in building this megacity involves balancing the budget. A year of deficit spending results in an instant loss, so the game constantly forces you to make tough decisions. Fortunately, a knowledgeable adviser and helpful heads-up display keep your priorities clear. By clicking on, say, a struggling office complex, you may learn that it requires a nearby school to improve the neighborhood’s education. Building the school results in a larger office, which produces more income and helps offset the building cost.

Besides the interface, which is incredibly well suited for the limited screen and controls, Megacity Empire offers a generous amount of building space within the game’s scenarios and Free Play mode. While they lack the personality of SimCity: Societies, Megacity Empire’s preset situations are more realistic and demanding, like providing education or waste management to the people of New York. Free Play is hardly an afterthought — it’s a satisfying, open-ended experience, and saving the quarter-million dollars needed to buy the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty feels like a real accomplishment for your city.

If I’ve got any complaints about Megacity Empire, it’s that it leaves you wanting just a bit more. After mastering Free Play, it’s possible to max out your city’s layout and budget, leaving you with nothing left to build or buy. It’s got only two major New York City landmarks to build, and your rare city ordinances are generally inconsequential. There’s definitely room to build the series even further, and perhaps a Chicago, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles sequel would offer greater variety. Still, it’s a well-executed, classic city builder that may inspire many mayoral hopefuls.

Played on a Sony Ericsson K800i


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