Review: Block’hood VR
You need a cool head and a steady hand to build a VR city.
Building your own city has long been a source of fascination. Since the days of the original Sim City and its assorted successors, videogame fans have taken joy in carefully constructing a settlement and helping it grow, or sending in Godzilla to smash it to bits. Can Block’hood VR bring that joy to virtual reality (VR)?
Block’hood was originally released in 2D desktop format for PC back in summer 2017. Though the title was well-received, many users complained of some persistent issues.
The goal in Block’hood VR is to build and maintain a city. Unlock many other city-sims, however, you do not build outward, but rather upwards. As a result, you need to consider the needs of your prospective community in order to create an ecosystem that works.
Building houses and green spaces is only the start of your responsibilities. You must also develop a means to creating power, water, jobs and transport. There are an astonishing number of block types available, all of which have a different function, advantage and disadvantage. If you create too much industry, your little colony will collapse in a haze of smog, but too much green space means your town doesn’t have the industry to sustain itself.
It quickly becomes a balancing act, with one wrong block in the wrong place tipping the balance and making it all fall to bits like a city made of Jenga blocks. For a title billed as relaxing, there is very little that is peaceful as you try to respond fast enough to the need of your residents before an unrecoverable cascade begins.
This does bring to light one of the major disadvantages of Block’hood VR – controller jitter. In a title where getting the right block in the right position is vital, the player needs remarkably steady hands in order to get it right.
The graphics have a pleasant retro look and feel, though they are smoothly rendered and convey exactly the right feel, despite the blocky nature. The music is peaceful and soothing, which sometimes feels a bit at odds with the frenetic pace as you advance your budding civilisation.
Challenge mode is more satisfying in many ways, certainly less frustrating. In challenge mode you have a limited number of blocks and a set goal to reach. This feels a bit like playing with Lego blocks in many ways, and results in the same level of enjoyment, despite the aforementioned controller jitter. Having the set blocks saves you from the overwhelming frustration of seeing your heard work go down the drain due to a misplaced building.
Block’hood VR provides quite a bit of entertainment value, and works reasonably well in VR. However, it does lack the depth of hardcore city-building sims such as Cities: Skylines. The challenge mode is great, and makes for a good puzzle game, but the persistent controller issues and lack of ability to micro-manage and get into the guts of your mini city means it feels a little shallow.
In addition, the precarious balancing act of needs and wishes once your city gets to a certain size is tailor-made for causing vast frustration and does have an unfortunate tendency to break the gameplay flow.
Those looking for a causal city-building experience might take satisfaction in it if they can master the late-game balancing, and fans of puzzle games will doubtless enjoy challenge mode. Hardcore city-planners will likely be too frustrated by the lack of depth, but it might be worth a look for them anyway.