Concrete Jungle
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Concrete Jungle offers an interesting mix of genres that all combine to provide a compelling gameplay experience that is also much more challenging than you would think. In the versus modes, city planning turns into a vicious game of sabotage and dirty tricks, while the solo mode requires players to think ahead in order to survive. Multi-player is, unfortunately, local only, but even so, this game will keep players busy for ages.

Gameplay: The game is very addictive and genuinely a joy to play despite sometimes being as hard as nails.

Graphics: When zoomed in, the visuals look fuzzy, but overall, the amount of detail and variety is top-notch.

Sound: Great tunes and some surprisingly good voice acting

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Concrete Jungle

Developer: ColePowered Games | Publisher: ColePowered Games | Release Date: 2015 | Genre: Indie / Strategy / Puzzle | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

City planning games are undeniably addictive if done right, but the steep learning curves and abundance of micro-management in some games tend to deter many players. However, Concrete Jungle takes a whole new approach to the genre by making everything turn-based and incorporating puzzle elements. You still have to grow your city while balancing the placement of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, but in a neat twist, you have to use a deck of cards to do so.

Instead of presenting you with a large tract of empty land, Concrete Jungle focuses on a 6×7 grid. You aim to clear the rows by building up the residential point value. For example, if a row requires four points to clear, then two houses worth two points each or four houses worth a single point each will do the trick. However, most buildings affect their surroundings, so putting a factory next to a house can drop the total value of the row instead of raising it. Every structure in the game only takes up a single spot on the grid, but you still have limited space to build. Some blocks also feature pre-existing structures, making your job even more difficult.

Mastering the basics of Concrete Jungle is straightforward enough, but the game is more complex than it first appears. It is like the developer threw SimCity, Tetris, Magic: The Gathering, and Chess in a blender and then added another dose of addictiveness to the mix just for good measure. Playing the campaign mode, which features a tutorial and plenty of humor, is a must to get the hang of the game. Basically, you construct a deck of cards, which determines which buildings you will have access to during levels. With more than 200 cards, there is plenty of room for strategy, but you don’t have access to everything right off the bat. Instead, you’ll unlock cards as you level up your character, and as an added bonus, you’ll also gain access to new characters along the way. That is if you can beat them, of course. Don’t think it is going to be a walk in the park, though, as the AI in this game is quite formidable!

Some levels are played solo, and your only goal is to reach the point value for each row. Only the first row on the grid disappears when its point value is reached, so it should always be your top priority when playing solo. The row can be forcibly cleared by sacrificing your character’s health, but this can cost you the level if done too much and should only be used as a last resort. When playing against the AI, it is not such a big deal as the row will automatically disappear if there are no more empty spots to build on it. This means that in versus matches, the emphasis shifts from just reaching the point value to gaining a higher point value than your opponent. Doing so rewards you with your own points and whatever points your opponent had in the row.

Although you start with five cards in your “hand” during each round, only the top two can be used. During versus modes, you have to play three cards per turn, which means you have to make each one count. The grid is divided into color-coded zones, so you can only place cards in your zone or neutral ones. To keep things fair, the first row is always neutral, even if it belonged to you or your opponent before it reached the front. Playing against an opponent, be it human or AI, also requires more strategy as you must decide whether you will focus on building up your own zones or disrupt your opponent’s. There is not enough space in this review to describe all the devious tactics that can be employed to mess with your opponents, making things even more addictive.

While each of the eight playable characters in the game uses the same cards, they all have their own unique skill trees. These skills and additional cards for your deck are unlocked during levels by placing cards and earning economic points. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, though, as cards that generate more economic points also come at a higher “cost.” As the “cost” adds up, so does the point value needed to clear each row, which obviously makes things much more challenging on the solo levels.

It all sounds very complicated, but the game is addictive enough that you’ll want to get back in and try a new strategy even after losing repeatedly. In addition to the campaign mode, you can also set up custom competitive or co-op matches against up to four opponents, human or AI. Unfortunately, the multi-player is local only and not online, but it offers tremendous fun if you can round up enough friends. Quick solo matches enable you to practice your skills, and you can also play in “classic” mode, which is like solo but without the deck building, which means you have to rely on luck instead.

Concrete Jungle is a good-looking game with some nicely detailed isometric graphics. There’s plenty of variety when it comes to all the different structures, and the game even features different weather effects as well as neat touches like the little cars zipping about in the streets. You can even zoom in for a better look at the buildings, but things get a little fuzzy up close. Concrete Jungle features a great soundtrack with the likes of Saad Ali, D.P. Kaufman, Xerxes, and Mokhov providing the tunes. Another unexpected highlight is the fully-voiced characters in the campaign mode. The actors did a great job bringing the rather silly characters to life, making playing through the campaign more enjoyable. The controls are intuitive for the most part, and the interface is very straightforward, but it took us a while to discover that the dialogue can be skipped by holding down the arrow button for a second. (Note: this has been made more evident after the 1.0.4 update.) In addition to Steam Achievements, Concrete Jungle also features trading cards and leaderboards.

There is no denying that Concrete Jungle is a very addictive game, and beneath its cute exterior lies plenty of strategic depth. Some of the opponents in the campaign mode, especially on the “extreme” difficulty levels, wiped the floor with us, but there was always one more strategy to try, and this kept us going back for more. Overall, there is very little that can be faulted about Concrete Jungle, and it is a must-have title for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP or newer
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 2.0Ghz or AMD Phenom CPU
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Direct 3D 9 Compatible Graphics
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 250 MB available space
  • OS: Windows 7 or newer
  • Processor: Intel i3 or AMD Phenom II CPU
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Direct 3D 9 Compatible Graphics
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space

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