Oooooh a cute city builder. Wait, no, what is this?
Developer: Matt Hooper
Publisher: Sometimes You
Genre: Fast paced city simulation
Release date: 3rd of November, 2016
Let’s take a deep breath, this is going to be painful.
First and foremost, Citalis looks good. The art direction is pretty attractive, and it also helps that there are some cars giving life to those gorgeous floating islands. The game is already half of the way into my pants before I even launched it.
Upon release, the game had a wall of text instead of a proper tutorial. Thankfully there have been improvements since and there is a proper tutorial, albeit fiddly. The gist of the information is that there are three areas – business, residential and park. Beauty and water need to be raised to a certain level and need to be kept quite high otherwise criminality increases in the business buildings and they get shut down, thus yielding no more money for the player. There are no parameters to influence residency, water and beauty themselves. Their only purpose is to allow for business to bloom; thus unintentionally being a satire of capitalism.
There are specific tiles to put water reservoirs on, so I start by doing that. After a few moments, the entire area gets flooded. Why? Because for some arbitrary reason the player needs to manually lock the reservoirs before they reach 100%. One lapse of attention, and almost everything on the island is defaced. Great. I start over, build a reservoir, a business and a house. Crime rate increases like crazy and within a few seconds my building gets shut down. I have to start over. I remember that the game wants me to build parks, so I add a few trees. Perfect, my crime rate is not increasing anymore. I have 700$ and need 900$ to buy another building, so I just wait. And wait. And wait. While my money slowly drops down to zero despite the game displaying that I should be making profits. I start over a few times to the same result. At that point, I was beginning to feel like an idiot.
By a miraculous chance, I click on the money bar after selecting my business building and I receive the amount that was displayed. Oooooooh… That’s what happens when there is no tutorial on release – although as I mentionned earlier, a fiddly tutorial has been added since then explaining these basic annoyances. Anyway, I can now fully start the game. So I click on the bar and earn money, it refills within a few seconds. I click on the bar, it refills within a few seconds.
Waaaaait a minute. I build a new building, and I have to alternate clicking between the business buildings and their money bars when they get refilled.
I have been had! This is not a city builder, this is a clicker game. I am severely put off now. There is nothing interesting to do… It’s important to keep adding parks and reservoirs, and the business buildings can be upgraded so they make more money per second. That’s all there is to the game. Click click click click.
Just for being a clicker game I could pan the game, but since I know that there is a public for that I made an effort and persevered through the bore. And you know what? It’s not even a good clicker game. I believe that clicker games work because it is satisfying to rapidly click and upgrade numbers to a crazy amount. The problem with Citalis is that it is not possible to just click your life away like a purposeless machine gun. Each building has to be selected before clicking on its money bar, then selecting the next building. A task that can be daunting when the buildings in the forefront hide the buildings behind them. And when there are more than six buildings, it becomes pointless to build more because by the time you clicked them all, the next one is ready to be harvested anyway. And if there are too many to click, by the time you go to the next building the bar has already reached 100% then falls back down to zero. Additionally, the buildings only go a few floors high so they never yield increasingly insane amounts of cash. Even if they did, there is basically nothing to do.
All there is to do in the game is to laboriously click on many tiles and many prompts to collect money, with no interesting feedback loop. Just tedious awful unnecessary micromanagement. It’s neither a city builder nor a good clicker game, it’s a bore simulator. Citalis is neither satisfying nor relaxing. Looking at the screenshots on the Steam page is far more enjoyable than playing the game itself, so even despite the very low price I cannot recommend the game. Since the graphics are attractive, according to this scale Citalis is saved from being “Horrible” to simply be classified as “Very bad”. I don’t want to leave you frustrated, so instead just go play this in your browser.