So, it has come to this. Console construction sims are so few and far between that we’re willing to take a punt on a tile-matching puzzle game with a side-line of city planning. Not that SubaraCity is much of a gamble, we should note, available for a mere £3.59 ($4.99) on the Xbox One store.
Why the absurdly low price? It’s a very simple affair which first debuted on mobiles in 2015, involving nothing more than merging tiles of the same colour to help a city grow. It’s so simple, in fact, that instead of a tutorial there are just a few prompts to put you on the right path.
By connecting tiles of the same colour – with the standard mode featuring four types, while casual mode has just three – the buildings located on each tile level up, leaving a 1×1 block behind. Once a block reaches level 10 it becomes a skyscraper which can only be connected to other skyscrapers.
The game’s unwritten goal is to create and connect as many white tiled skyscrapers as you can, sending the city’s population soaring. If the screen becomes filled with 1×1 blocks, the game is over. Performance is then rated using a seemingly random avian-based ranking system which ranges from ‘baby duck’ to ‘dragon’.
When we first started playing our typical playtime was 5-10 minutes a match, with the screen quickly filling with 1×1 blocks. After an hour or so we started to become more adept at planning ahead, leaving just a few unmovable blocks here and there. By the time we were ready to pen this review our typical playtime per match was averaging 20 minutes, resulting in higher tier rankings. Despite the brevity of matches, the developers were still thoughtful enough to include a save game option (with three slots available.)
On the casual difficulty you’re given a lifeline in the form of a single-use block removal tool. If used proficiently, it can save your bacon and put you back on track. It can feel satisfying to go from impending failure to a skyscraper baron.
While the presentation isn’t without a degree of appeal, being bright and bold, there’s little in the way of extra features. As for music, the few tracks present all fall into the category of ‘elevator-style’.
With no animation to speak of, SubaraCity also suffers from being a little flat and lifeless. However, there are unlockable ‘characters’ such as aeroplanes, birds, and rainbows which occasionally trundle across the screen to help things seem busier than they are. It’s one of the few flourishes.
It’s also worth noting that SubaraCity launched with untranslated achievement names and descriptions; they’re still in the developer’s native language of Japanese. An oversight, we’d wager.
As budget games go, SubaraCity is reasonably pleasurable, forever spurring you on to reach the elusive ‘dragon’ rank. Its short-burst, highly repetitive, nature makes for an experience that doesn’t feel quite at home on Xbox One, though – its mobile roots are painfully visible.
Although we can’t see ourselves clocking up dozens of hours of play in the foreseeable future, we can see ourselves making a pitstop whenever a new release needs an outrageously large update.
It’s less of a bustling city and more of a roadside distraction. If there were more sights to see, we would gladly stay longer.