I found out about Tile Cities the way I find out about almost all PC gems – from the wonderful Sin Vega on RPS. I have been playing it on and off for the past week, slowly getting drawn in. Now the inevitable has happened and I go to bed and see those city blocks turning and clicking into place in the grainy midnight air above me. I have become one with the city of tiles.
This is a minimalist city builder that is truly lovely to play with. Rotate the pieces you’re given, find homes for them, and then work out how to connect the next pieces that come along, how to make the most of their strange angles and how to eradicate any difficult gaps. It’s a game that makes you fret endlessly over negative space.
Slowly, though, it becomes clear that there is more going on. For one thing, play long enough just placing pieces and joining up edges, and you’ll soon find yourself dropped into a game over screen. No matter. Tile Cities is one of my very favourite things – a game that you learn to play properly by playing it wrong, placing things, watching the UI do strange stuff, listening for sounds of discord as you progress, and slowly getting a sense of what the game wants.
Spoiler: what Tile Cities wants is harmony. Each tile you place builds the city’s needs for the things that tile does not have. These things are tracked, as colours, at the bottom of the screen. So each new district you build actually brings the city closer to its conclusion, unless you can place tiles with buildings of specific colours where they are most needed, to share their colours, as it were, with the tiles around them, and reduce the city’s overall needs.
I love this: growth creating demand, demand for what a city does not have enough of. So the ideal city is diverse and intermingled, and is riddled with parks, too, as parks bring down overall need for reasons that probably do not need to be explained. Anybody who’s lived in a city knows the power of a bit of greenery.
There is more, though. Tile Cities is the work of a Ukrainian developer, Yevhen8, who had to flee his home “with not much more than a cat and a laptop.” All proceeds “will be spent on doing some good in Ukraine.” Tile Cities is truly beautiful, and given the circumstances of its creation, it’s miraculous too.