There have been many attempts at gamifying the concept of city construction. Sim Cities zoning rules are the most famous – residential wants to be near Commercial, but not near Industrial, yet all three need each other in close enough proximity to function properly. It’s a holistic view of a complex situation that doesn’t really reflect reality. If I walk from my flat to town, I pass a bunch of shops, a lot of apartments, some businesses, a couple of breweries, and a handful of university and college buildings. This is all on one long road, which shows how cities, especially in the UK, flaunt the idea of zoning.
The charmingly named Buildings Have Feelings Too! is a puzzle game that at the very least mirrors an aesthetic that I am familiar with. The main currency is bricks, and the game’s personified buildings are well aware that the bricks that make them may have once been a factory, or a mill, whilst now they are apartments and greengrocers. Aesthetically this is a beautiful game, half photo collage, half designer board game. Menus and information cards are sharply presented with clean, crisp icons and text, whilst buildings capture middle England perfectly, and are perfectly charming as they cavort around with pareidolic features.
This puzzler is all about locating your various buildings in order to maximise synergies. You need mills and production, as they may eventually turn into distilleries or other production buildings, which will benefit your housing. Housing grows, and demands grow too – so greengrocers do better when they’re next door to fulfilled apartment buildings.
Each building has its own little board game style card full of info: what they need to be happy, what detracts from them, and how they can be upgraded to the next level. Upgrading has the benefit of making them pump out more bonuses, which will also increase the requirements that need to be fulfilled to ensure they are happy.
If buildings are unhappy, they begin to fall into decay, which lumps them with a permanent negative status which can be repaired – for a cost. The core gameplay loop thus involves working out what buildings you need to make, working out how to place your buildings in order to maximise happiness, and complete tasks, which earn you bricks for making more buildings.
Everything gets complicated very quickly, and bricks act as a bit of a resource crush at times. It is entirely possible to accidentally end up in a situation where you can’t build any more buildings because you have upgraded too fast, and working backwards is quite a slow process. Unpicking your mistakes, shifting buildings around… it could be contemplative and meditative if you were able to see the status of everything at a glance, but instead you need to go deep into menus to figure out what a building needs, and how it’s affected by its neighbours.
With this info in your head, you’ll need to trundle a few screens away to check other buildings, maybe shuffle things around a bit. Then you’ll place something in the wrong place during an experiment, and big red circles pop up over your buildings heads, causing you to panic and try to rearrange things under a time limit. Whilst the core puzzle is compelling, a sort of abstract linear worker placement game, I found it very hard to square off the impact of things in real-time against the otherwise leisurely pace, and potential dead ends.