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Motion Fever? Bad. Cities In Motion Fever? Good.

I might as well face facts, I'm a boring middle-aged man who loves boring middle-aged man games.

In grade school, I might have been fascinated by catching Pokemon or grinding for phat loot in a virtual environment, but I just couldn't get into Pokemon Y, and I can no longer ignore how much MMORPGs resemble a skinner's box (but it would help if more developers tried to differentiate the two).

So, what kind of games do I find myself interested now?  Simulations, mostly, whether they be about driving semi trucks or building trading empires in space.  Not boring middle-aged man enough for you?  How about building public transport systems for major metropolitan areas?

So anyway, I just spent a solid 24 hours of the past 4 days playing Cities In Motion 2, and loving every damn minute of it.
The foundation of this game is a fairly impressive technical achievement: simulating the cities themselves.  On a properly contoured 3D terrain, the developers have painted quite a few roads of various kinds - two or three lane roads, expressways, one-way streets, and so on - and around this the game dynamically grew a bunch of buildings.  Simple two-lane roads are likely to attract residential areas, but larger roads will spawn skyscrapers and office complexes.

Actually, you can build whatever roads you like whenever you can afford it, so you've apparently more executive power than the president in this game.  But, remember: your job is to build public transport networks.  Consequently, roads are the veins of evil through which flows the devil's own minions: cars!  Your job in Cities In Motion 2 is not truly done until cars are so obsolete that the only people who still drive them must do so at the cost of revealing themselves as the backwards, misshapen beasts that they are.

I find this simulator a rather gloriously realized example of the genre.  The view pans smoothly and freely with a simple click and drag and scrolling the mouse wheel zooms in and out with all the grace and elegance of a Supreme Commander game, but with more interesting things to see.  Scroll out all the way, you'll see a planes-eye view of a major land-mass.  Scroll in all the way, and you'll see a picturesque slice of life scene as imagined by Norman Rockwell if he was an NVIDIA graphics card and had a thing for low resolution textures.  Here is a game engine that screams, "Quality Engineering" in so many ways that any car company that dared to use that term in their commercials should be shamed so profoundly that it's a wonder public transportation is not already universal.
The first time I created a financially successful transit system, I took a screenshot
of it.  Yes, I was just that proud; there's simply no helping me.
At the start of each scenario I've played so far, Cities In Motion 2 dropped me into a sprawling map with 100,000 units of money, a overreaching goal (such as increasing public transportation coverage) and five tools to build my people transporting empire:
  • Buses - They use existing streets, so all you need to do is put down the stops and define the routes, and away they go.  Of course, given that they're gas-guzzling, smoke-spewing abominations, if you resort to building buses then you're no public transport mongol: you're a monster.
  • Trolleys - You've got stops and routes?  Good, now just build some trolley wires that go where you need them to go, and you can have a vehicle that accomplishes everything a bus does while using clean electric energy instead.  Mmm, smell that air!  As an added bonus, the overall trolley carrying capacity is larger than the average bus.
  • Tram - Trams are like trolleys but run on tracks and carry more people and generally sound a lot cooler.  "Tram," what an awesome name, no wonder these bad boys can actually go up on the medians of large roads, essentially having a lane to themselves.  They're just that cool!
  • Waterbus - Have you ever thought to yourself, "Would that there was means to transverse water, it may actually prove a boon to transpiration instead of an impediment?"  Of course not!  No man would dare tempt Poseidon's wrath, and that's why boats have never been invented and never will be!  But, gentlemen, what if I were to tell you that I have found a means for a bus to transverse water, not unlike a motorized piece of driftwood?  Behold: the waterbus!
  • Metro - "What is this madness with trolleys and trams and waterbuses?" you bluster with pompous purity, "Why, when I was a boy, we would take the train to work or nothing.  Uphill, both ways."  Fine, here's a train, you old windbag.  They're massively expensive and awkward to build because they don't run on roads and their tracks must curve about gradually, but they carry the most people and are faster and more reliable than anything else. You can even tweak their elevation to make them run above ground (like a monorail) or below (a subway), but that would require thinking in ways inappropriate to land-striding mammals.
Thus equipped with these powerful weapons in your quest for better public transit (and only public transit - this ain't Transport Tycoon) Cities In Motion 2 then provides you with more micro-managerial tasks than man who owns an amoeba ranch:
  • Define the routes your vehicles take.  Can't have your drivers sporting minds of their own, now can you?
  • Set up the time tables for those routes.  The difference between successful departures and a big fat mess basically comes down to what's on the clock.
  • Outline the various fare zones on the map.  One zones!  Two zones!  Three zones!  What if each of these were distinct ticket types with different monetary values?  Oh God, it's like printing money!
  • Choose the price you charge for tickets.  I take it back: tickets are better than money.
  • Decide how much you're going to pay your employees.  This impacts their "happiness" rating and how well they do their job.  Feeling bitter?  Then set their pay to the smallest possible value to make both them and your customers miserable.
  • Take out loans at favorable interest rates.  They take so long to pay back that I consider most of my interest payments the problem for the imaginary person that takes over after the scenario is complete: take that, sucker!
  • Make sure your vehicles have time for routine active maintenance.  As we all know, routine active maintenance is more exciting than sex on a roller coaster, so this game should really come with Brillo pads to clean the immediate vicinity of its players.
  • Set up your various transport lines to feed each other customers.  What customer wouldn't be thrilled to have to pay you multiple times a day?
  • Drive up the overall coverage level of the city to encourage people to leave their cars at home.  Jump into my pockets, ye scurvy plebeian wallets!
  • Better make sure people aren't waiting around too long or it'll be bad for your approval rating.  It's like the little computer people want to be treated with dignity or something.
These are just examples of some of the more common considerations put on the players' shoulders, but an occupied brain is a happy brain, am I wrong?

Is Cities In Motion 2 the perfect game?  No.  Hell, no.  Do you doubt my overly-finicky gamer props so?
  • 24 hours into the game, I've built all five kinds of transport mechanisms and, having seen them all in action, I basically have nothing to look forward to but doing it again and again in more efficient and more profitable configurations.  That's kinda monotonous.  It's also the meat of the game.
  • Why does this game even let me adjust my ticket prices if it's just going to complain when they're too low or too high?  Just automatically adjust them for me, you silly game.  
  • Rarely, I've noticed that my transport network will get backed up to a stop while the vehicle in front largely fails to pick up its passengers, who waffle around doing nothing.  This is a bug, and can only really be avoided by preventing too many vehicles from arriving at the same stop at the same time.  I recommend one vehicle or less.
  • Funny how I only have two or three choices of vehicle for each kind of transport system.  Funny how they seem to be selling a lot of DLC related to unlocking additional vehicles.  Hah.  Ha.  Okay, I'm really not laughing here, there's is a dreadful dearth of vehicular choices in the basic package, and nickle-and-diming us just makes it worse.
Yet, despite little nitpicks like this, Cities in Motion 2 is basically a highly-refined, completely worthy release; it's not particularly buggy, has rock-solid stability, and gives me plenty of think about.  It's really hard to complain about this game... unless maybe you'd rather catch Pokemon or grind for loot.


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