Purple Yonder’s cute city-building game Little Cities has been available for Meta Quest 2 for over a year. When I first played the game at launch, I found it wonderfully charming, well-balanced and easy to pick up. However, it was a tiny bit light on features to extend the gameplay once I’d explored all the available areas. A year on and I still find that same delight as before. Now with all the added bonuses a year out in the wild provides in our Little Cities review.
This is the first virtual reality (VR) title from British indie team Purple Yonder. With publishing help from VR veterans, nDreams, Little Cities is just that, build your own miniature metropolis. Rather than a plain expanse of land with a few environmental features all of Little Cities’ locations are sun-drenched archipelagos. So you’ll inevitably have at least one major island to build upon, with smaller islands to expand to.
Little Cities come alive
Split between Campaign and Sandbox modes, the main aim with each location is to reach level 25, unlocking new areas and items in the process. Before that, it’s time to get building, with Little Cities featuring one of the easiest and most accessible building menus you’ll have seen in a game like this. All the details required for planning, how much money you have, whether there is enough water/electricity, and are the residents happy are to be found by looking at your watch. Everything is bright, bold, easy to read and minimal.
Almost like a Swedish furniture store, keeping things minimal is certainly at the heart of Little Cities so while those stats are informative there’s no in-depth tweaking. Die-hard construction simulator fans may even be a little aghast at the fact you can’t play around with finances, raising or lowing taxes, diverting funds to build something more practical or taking out loans to create an absurd monstrosity. None of that here in Little Cities. Think of it more like a quaint English village on a Sunday, there’s one pace and that’s with your feet up on the sofa.
Which makes it ideal for those who love Quest’s hand-tracking functionality. You can use either control method but Little Cities’ hand tracking implementation is some of the best we’ve seen. Highly intuitive, you can grab the world to move it, twist your wrist to reorientate buildings and scale the world by bringing your hands together. Amongst many other abilities. This is all aided by the fact that construction is housed in bubbles. Press one to open the utilities options to find your water, cell, and wind turbine towers. Or open up the services bubble which houses the police station, fire department and so on. All of which can be swapped between your left and right and in the options menu.
Like any city builder roads are your first step with placement in Little Cities a doddle. These are all placed in straight lines – no bendy roads here – so cities always do end up in a similar grid structure. This is also necessary due to the fact that certain buildings like the fire station have a set coverage area. Necessitating a central location for maximum coverage. After that, there are three main districts to build, Residential, Commercial and Industrial. Residents need places to live, places to work and places to spend money, balancing all three creates a booming economy so you can spend even more frivolously. You can’t build homes next to factories as residents will become unhappy and that’ll hit your wallet.
In practice, if you follow the building suggestions – i.e. when there isn’t enough houses – then you’ll barely experience an issue. The game balances things so well (almost too well) to maintain its calm, tranquil settings that even as a volcano in the middle erupts, spewing lava and molten fireballs at your city you’ll not be bothered, shrugging it off and replacing the building.
Little Cities mixes up the gameplay via a selection of environments and region-specific buildings. As mentioned, one area has a giant volcano to build around, not only causing occasional havoc but also blocking network signals and other amenities. Or then there’s the desert location filled with sandstorms that can only be controlled through the planting of trees. As for the buildings, some areas will let you build a theme park or a stadium or a campsite. Each having its own bonuses to adjacent buildings.
Previously, the problem Little Cities had was once these were built and you’d hit level 25 to unlock everything you couldn’t do anything else. That’s been fixed with the Sandbox mode, offering endless permutations. Now you can build your own archipelagos, placing your own water features, distinctive environmental features and more.
There are also new modifiers to make the game easier or more difficult. Add a populace that gets angrier or give yourself endless funds, the choice is yours. And that’s the most important addition of all, choice. Giving the videogame far greater depth than it previously had and even better value for money.
Little Cities Review Summary
To describe Little Cities in one word it would have to be ‘pleasant’. Much like an afternoon on Wordle, it’s the sort of experience you can put your feet up and enjoy. There’s no friction to the gameplay, accessible and intuitive in minutes, which makes it great for those new to VR. It now has that added depth and flexibility it sorely needed without adding complexity. If you don’t want the boring side of city building – balancing budgets or getting into horrendous city planning fundamentals – then Little Cities provides a straightforward slice of utopian city creation.