App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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After the somewhat disappointing Pocket City, I hesitate whenever I hear a premium city builder is coming to mobile. So, when TheoTown made the jump from Android to iOS, I was admittedly a bit skeptical. Almost instantly I realized I was wrong though. TheoTown is an incredibly detailed game that scratches that Sim City itch so hard it’s possible to overlook some of its very rough edges.
Build it up
TheoTown is cut from the same cloth as Sim City 2000. It’s a city-builder where—at its core—you’re balancing three different kinds of land use (industrial, commercial, and residential) to create a thriving community. Using this system, you can kind of paint in broad strokes for each area of your city without having to worry too much about placing tons of individual structures or buildings.
What you do have to worry about though is supplying these zones effectively. No matter what property type you’re building, each one needs power, water, and road access at the very least. As each zone gets built up, they also create demand for a different kind of zone. If you have a lot of residential zones, for example, those folks would like jobs and/or places to shop, so you need to build commercial and industrial zones to compensate.
If you want your city to thrive in TheoTown, you need to do more than simply provide basic homes and jobs. Maintaining your population’s happiness is a big part of attracting new residents, and keeping people happy involves investing time and money into making improvements across 11 different criteria like transportation, education, and waste disposal.
Working on improving the happiness of your residents is feels like an ever-changing puzzle that’s unique to the city you’ve built, which is really cool. It can also be pretty frustrating at times, though, because TheoTown locks away certain buildings and infrastructure until you’ve hit a certain population level, meaning you can’t always solve problems the way you want until you’ve done a bit of a grind. This was particularly frustrating to me while playing because my city was crying out for better transit options well before I could provide any public transportation solutions of any kind.
Despite some of the odd problems with TheoTown’s happiness system, its menu-driven gameplay and relatively slow pace make it a pretty perfect mobile title. There’s always some new problem to tackle or thing to work toward, and the game gives you so much control over how to shape your city that you’ll almost never run out of things to do.
That said, there are times when TheoTown may try to thwart your progress, and I’m not just talking about the catastrophes you can spawn to wreak havoc on your community. No, I’m talking about bugs, and pretty significant ones. Specifically, there was an instance where I was trying to build a train station in my town that would hard lock the game, leaving me no option but to force quit out of it. This is a pretty huge bummer (especially since this was a bug I could reliably replicate), but it wasn’t enough of a problem to make me give up on playing TheoTown. I just built a smaller station in a different part of the city and continued having a blast with with the game.
The bottom line
In my time with TheoTown I discovered something about myself. I discovered that I’d rather play a buggy city-builder that lets me build things however I want over something that may feel a little sleeker but also way more arbitrary and limiting. If you also appreciate games that maybe reach a little too far beyond their technical limitations, you can get a lot of mileage out of TheoTown, just like I did.