Have you ever looked at the state of your neighbourhood and thought “I could do a better job than those dimwits?” Yeah so have I, but now we can! Run That Town is an iOS strategy game with a unique twist – it uses real census data to predict how people will react to your decisions in town planning.
Developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Run That Town aims to raise awareness of how census data can be used to plan for the future. It puts you in control of a town or district in Australia, to build it up as you see fit. For anyone who actually lives in Down Under, you can pop in your post code and take charge of your own area! Pretty nice touch eh?
So what’s the ultimate goal of the game itself? It’s simple – keep everyone else happy so that they don’t chase you out of town! This is done by approving or rejecting building proposals for play areas, prisons pubs and more. Before making a decision, you’ve got to weigh up the pros and cons of each proposal, and take into account public opinion. Throw in different demographics and the cost of building, and you’ve got a fairly detailed little city-building sim going on here.
There’s plenty of depth to Run That Town, mainly due to the range of census data available such as gender, age, marital status and many more! Every region you choose to play in is truly different as per the real world (circa 2011), pushing the player to really think carefully about their next move. It must be noted, however, that often you will find what seems to be a top-notch decision like building a pub and a bar and a casino in a single town, doesn’t always sit well with the locals (especially the elderly – they love a good moan!).
Sometimes the game can be a little contradictory too. I built a school which, for reasons unknown, the locals hated. So I bulldozed it to please them, only for the papers to slate me for ruining local education… make you’re minds up! All being well, though, the choices you make for the town should bring good publicity and positive public opinion. If it does fall too low, be ready for the newspapers to really go for the jugular. You might even trigger a local teen to steal a tram for a spot of joyriding, or a spontaneous mutant gorilla attack – who knows?
In terms of overall presentation, Run That Town has a pleasantly engaging style of 2D graphics and animation. It’s also got some hilariously sarcastic narration from Aussie actor and comedian Shaun Micallef. He often chimes in with words of wisdom and encouragement like “that was terrible” or the ever flippant “with you in charge, what could possibly go wrong?” Hear Shaun in action on the official trailer.
The only real downside presentation wise is the fact that you can’t take a step back and view the whole town as you envisioned it. Every new building you create opens in a separate window, so scrolling through your created city feels more like reading through a deck of cards than seeing a metropolis come to life. In itself, this makes for a slightly detached feeling as most fans of city-sims would like to exert control over where things go and how things look.
That said, it’s incredibly satisfying seeing how your actions pan out in Run That Town; even if you’re not an Aussie (but if you are, jump on in and see if you can improve your town and see what the results are like – Ed)
[review pros=”Good Presentation. Voice overs are humorous. Unique use of real life data.” cons=”Inability to design the town itself. Feels more like a browser experience than an iOS title. Sometimes fails to keep player immersed.” score=75]