Although there’s a charming aspect to how the game looks, the UI and controls hamper the experience from the very beginning.
Genres: City Builder, Management
Developer: Blackstaff Games
Publisher: Merge Games
Release Date: 22 April, 2021
I saw Buildings Have Feelings Too (BHF) as a possible game that I could review, and although I thought it looked kind of cute, a city management game wasn’t something I was actively looking for. However, out of the blue, someone associated with BHF sent me an email with a review key, before I even responded to show my potential interest. I’m not one to snub an offer like that, so I activated the game to see what it was all about. By that time though, the reviews on Steam were already mixed, which didn’t inspire much confidence from me. These buildings have feelings though, so I’ll try to be tactful.
The goal of BHF is to check with the buildings of the neighborhood, find out what their desires are, and work towards satisfying their wishes. There’s no theoretical limit to what this could entail, but it revolves around getting enough buildings of a particular type and star level in place. Some of your effort will be spent on upgrading what’s already in place, though you’ll also have to establish a few buildings from scratch. The resource available for buying items is bricks, which you earn from completing specific requests and upgrading buildings. It doesn’t take long to build up a decent stack, but if you aren’t efficient and have to keep recycling structures to put in a new business, you can wind up in a downward spiral.
A simple problem I encountered was not knowing where to find the next item necessary for upgrading the building, such as whiskey barrels, which comes from distilleries. Until you unlock and level-up a building with that resource, it won’t be displayed on the building that requires it, which isn’t very useful for someone new to the game. I’d rather know where to find it, and know that it’s something I won’t get for a while, then be clueless as to whether it’ll come up soon or might not be relevant until much later. One concern I’d have about BHF is how complicated it’d get with such requirements, considering that early on, it was already balancing the appeal of buildings on grounds such as being close to a pub, away from a factory, and near a distillery that has whiskey barrels. I’d hate having to do something like build a school, requiring paper, civil servants, and young people, which would need me to create a paper mill, offices, and new housing. All of which would have their own requirements, with the school being used to make something else, none of which could be near a pub, except the housing that would require it. That’s a chain of events that’s miserable to keep up with.
Although it seems possible to play BHF with the mouse and keyboard, this seems to be even less ideal than playing with the controller. The main issue is how troublesome interacting with the game’s UI, menus, and the buildings themselves is, no matter which control scheme you choose. Trying to navigate all of the possible areas of information, such as the ones that pop up when holding down the shoulder buttons, or when talking to a building directly, is cumbersome and unintuitive. So much so that I dare not even try to break down all of the controls, since the main function of them is simply to bring up one versus another. Another simple issue is that buildings are moved around often, but moving them requires precise selection of a small icon. You’ll inadvertently walk past the one you want and have to double-back to try again repeatedly.
Things open up on a grim note, as the building you control observes as an old, derelict building at the docks is being demolished for not keeping up with its own repairs. It transitions away from this quite suddenly, as you’re now in a different area, and in spite of being the newcomer, are going to be helping the current residents deal with their issues. For the little I played, the introduction didn’t connect with what followed, since this part of town had nothing to do with the docks.
Without question, this is the area that will draw people’s attention in the first place, with anthropomorphized buildings walking around. Although there’s a certain charm to this, the downside is that these buildings aren’t as human or detailed as they could be. Meaning that when you build the same buildings throughout the game, they’ll always look the same. There’s some distinguishing aspects that help you tell the nature of a building just from a glance, primarily the banner, but more could have been done to make them distinct. When reusing the same model, there’s no harm in adding in details that’d help the player. Either way, I think the graphics are still one of the game’s better features, even if it won’t change drastically throughout.
I tried looking for a soundtrack of BHF, but wasn’t able to find anything on YouTube. When I intentionally listened to the music, I didn’t notice more than 1 song playing on loop, so if there is more music, I’m not aware of it. It’s a decent enough track, with a mellow tone to it, which seems suitable enough for a game like this. Without more variety though, it wouldn’t be something to leave on in the background, as it’d wear out its welcome. There’s a few sound effects, such as when constructing buildings or acquiring bricks, and they were good enough for the job.
- The game’s design is a great icebreaker, because it looks quite cute and charming. Plus, the buildings conversing with each other is also surprisingly sweet, to an extent.
- Having gotten past the tutorial, I wasn’t sure of the mechanics I was working with in the area immediately afterwards. At one point, a series of buildings couldn’t be moved whatsoever. Then suddenly the smaller ones could be moved around, though I didn’t know why. However, the largest building was still immovable by the time I gave up on the game. Also, I was dealing with buildings in disrepair, but there wasn’t much explanation on this, so I wasn’t sure if they started out that way as a handicap, which would be odd so early on, or if I’d somehow screwed them up.
- What you can build inside the structures doesn’t always fit the design well and makes it look like you’re making a mistake or being inefficient. For instance, the small factory with an overly large chimney, or a tall, skinny office building with a pub or restaurant inside it.
- The game would function much better if you didn’t have an avatar, and simply scrolled back and forth across the screen the way most city management games do.
- Nobody seems to like the controls.
- Try learning the UI and how it works early on, because you’ll be utilizing it repeatedly. Having the system down pat would be essential for making progress long-term.
Unfortunately, BHF is a great example of why you should never design something on the basis of form over function, as the up-close perspective is a large detriment to the functionality of the gameplay. Even if it did work much better, the gameplay isn’t that satisfying for this sort of resource/city management game. Since you can move buildings around, it’s built around this mechanic, so you’ll establish a few buildings and improve upon them, just to shuffle things around to advance another group of buildings, before reorganizing them for the most appeal possible. Instead of having more space and freedom to organize things as you see fit and establish city areas for the long-term, you’re playing a shell game to exploit what the buildings want before dumping them in the corner. If this is a game I had purchased directly through Steam, I’d have refunded it shortly after getting past the tutorial section, as it’s that unenjoyable and clunky. Unless there’s a pretty major overhaul, spare these buildings their feelings, and don’t play the game.