Metropolismania 2 Review
If you didn't know, The Sims is the biggest selling video game franchise in history, so of course, it spawned numerous spin-offs. One such spin-off was the PS2's Metropolismania, and while it certainly wasn't a blockbuster, it clearly did well enough to warrant a sequel...hey, like we just indicated, people love their simulation games. Metropolismania 2 dropped in late August, and we check out this Sim-based title where the player - get ready for a shock - attempts to build successful towns and cities. However, this one does present a slightly different twist to the standard and traditional, despite having more than a few drawbacks. The only problem is that there isn't anywhere near enough depth or complexity to cater to the avid sim fans, and it's too slow-moving to appeal to many kids. Therefore, we're left with a lackluster sim experience that feels like a very watered down version of Sim City.
Oddly enough, the graphics remind us of Wii Sports, only with slightly more detailed characters. Those Lego-style players in the aforementioned Nintendo Wii title float above the ground ‘cuz they have no legs, but the humans in Metropolismania 2 have legs...and they still float. Why, we have no idea. But anyway, there isn't anything special about the visuals here, although we could say every environment has a nice, warm feel to it. You always start out with nothing, but even empty areas don't feel like stark, barren landscapes. For example, the first level has you building on Blue Lagoon, which should transform into a quaint little island community before you're done. There's a lot of nice color, but beyond that, there's nothing that can even remotely qualify as excellence in technological achievement. Obviously, though, the graphics are secondary to everything else - especially in a game like this - so even though they're pretty mediocre, they don't doom the game.
The sound is, unfortunately, mostly non-existent. There are a few light soundtracks that will accompany your building, but there is no voice acting and very little in the way of sound effects. Even though we treat this category like the graphics for Metropolismania 2 (it's just not that important), the sound really can't be this boring. Not for any game. It does fit the atmosphere from time to time, and at least the existing tracks are moderately pleasant, but beyond that, there's absolutely nothing to talk about. Indi could've included a lot more, especially when it comes to the building process and sound effects: how's about some simple construction sounds going on in the background when building a house? Or maybe something a little different-sounding when laying down new roads? We don't need voice-acting or anything, but even for major land development projects, we heard next to nothing in the way of effects, and that's just plain silly. For all that work going on, it was an awfully silent and even sterile experience.
But the gameplay saves all, right? All we need is appropriately addictive sim-action, and we're good to go. These games are never about the graphics or the sound, they're about the player having full control over an environment and building a community from the ground up, satisfying both the social and financial needs of the town or city. And basically, that's the goal of Metropolismania 2. You begin with a beautiful little landscape and start the relatively simple process of creating roads and a variety of buildings that will cause your population to rise. This is an easily recognizable format for any fan of the genre, but there are a few fairly obvious differences, although none of them are all that earth-shattering. Yeah, it's cheap, but with all the Sim-based titles out there, and given the sheer diversity and intricacy of those games, there are literally dozens of better options out there. It's fine if you set out to develop an inherently complicated title for a younger audience, but you can't erase too much of that depth. It's kinda required.
But we can start with the good news- there's a more social set of requirements for this admittedly cartoon-y sim game, which means you can't simply focus on the building. While other titles in the genre do ask you to make the inhabitants of your town happy, you normally do that in a removed fashion. In other words, you'll get reports as to how the citizens are faring, what their morale's like, what they might need, etc, etc, etc. But you never actually get down in the civilization you've created to wander around, examining the progress and speaking with the townsfolk. Thankfully, this is the most appealing aspect of Metropolismania 2, because you will be doing exactly that: your character will wander around the town, speaking to the new citizens, becoming acquainted and just checking in on their general well-being. You can purchase things from stores, gossip with the people in their homes, or give ‘em a call with your cell. At first, you will also field calls from your boss, who provides what can be considered a rudimentary tutorial.
E-mail is a major focus of the game, as requests for homes and businesses will flood your inbox throughout the course of your building adventures. Would-be citizens ask for certain homes, entrepreneurs look for a place to put up their restaurants, book stores, and antique shops, and it's up to you to make their dreams come true. But that's where everything ends. For a sim game, your options are extremely limited, and for the most part, all you do is put up what's required. It's very easy to keep the citizens happy once they're there; you don't have to deal with constant threats (major natural disasters, for instance), and if you just pay attention to what the people want, you really can't lose. There isn't much of a challenge to building anything, either, because you don't need to compile and use resources or money, which is borderline sacrilege for any simulation title. We understand Indi and Natsume are gunning for the younger gamer, here, but did it really need to be this simple? Fans of the genre will soon realize they can't do the vast majority of what they can do with something like one of the Sim City installments, and that's gonna annoy them.
There is the possibility that some may actually find this watered down sim process addictive, primarily because everything does tie together quite well. There's a purpose and reason for everything you do, and while you don't have anywhere near enough control over the town, that citizen interaction adds a much-needed dimension to the game. But if you get sucked into this one, either you don't have enough titles in your library, or you're extraordinarily bored. As your civilization grows, you will get that ol' familiar twang of satisfaction because it's something you created, but because you're so limited in the endeavor, that good feeling lacks any real intensity. We did like wandering around our freshly produced metropolis and enjoying the fruits of our labor, but we use that term - "labor" - very loosely. There just isn't enough here to entice any real sim fan, and unless you're between the ages of 8 and 12 with a good deal of patience, there's just no way we can recommend a purchase.
Metropolismania 2 is an often-charming and well put-together simulation, but the severe lack of depth, virtually non-existent technical appeal, exaggerated simplicity of the building process, and generally boring (and even tediously repetitive) structure kills any chance the game may have had. The PS2 has a gigantic library of titles, and while there have been many worthy ones in the latter stages of its lifespan, this game certainly isn't one of them.
10/6/2007 Ben Dutka