With the exception of a couple of poker apps and puzzle games, it's rare I ever play games on my phone: I stick to my PC and Steam Deck for nearly all of my gaming needs. But yesterday I noticed that the city building mobile game Pocket City 2 had launched earlier this month, and I decided to try it out on my iPhone.
All I can say is: Wow. This is an excellent city builder. It's not just that the cities in Pocket City 2 are satisfying to build and that there are lots of little quests and missions thrown in to accomplish milestones like growing the population and managing the budget. And like many city builders it has features like natural disasters and a sandbox mode with infinite money so you can build outside of the campaign mode. You can even build additional cities in the same region, which will boost their economies and let you transfer funds between them, and you can share your cities with friends.
But what makes Pocket City 2 so special and unusual is that there's way more to do than just grow and manage your city: You can also live in it.
The first hint that you're not just a god-like being looking down at the city from above is that you get to design your own mayoral avatar when you start playing. Choose your looks, pick out your clothing, and pop a fancy little top hat on your head.
Then, at any point while playing in city view, you can drag and drop your little mayor onto the city streets, just as if you were going into street view on Google maps. And it's not just to have a look around at street level, which is cool enough as it is: there are tons of things to do in your city while exploring on your own two feet.
There are a few city builders on PC that let you walk around in your own city—Anno 1800, Cities: Skylines (on console, though on PC you'll need a mod), and the upcoming Manor Lords, for instance. But Pocket City 2 takes it to an entirely different level. It basically adds The Sims- or Animal Crossing-style play to the city builder experience, with a little bit of (I'm not kidding) GTA thrown in.
For instance, you can tap any house in your city, and if you have enough money in your bank account you can buy it. You're then free to hang out in your own house, right there in the city you built. You can visit a furniture store in one of your commercial districts, walk inside, buy furniture and accessories, and decorate your home with them.
You can visit lots of other stores, too, either by walking up to them in avatar mode or by tapping them from the city view. If you visit a hardware store, you can buy items like a fishing rod or a hammer, and then go catch fish or repair any sections of road that have fallen into disrepair. (As mayor, you're very hands-on with your city.)
You can also use vehicles (in third or first-person) like cars, motorcycles, helicopters, or even horses, for exploration, racing minigames, and even taxi-style missions. You can build an animal shelter and adopt a pet from it. Walk up to a food stand and buy a meal or a drink, visit a basketball court and shoot hoops, throw block parties and attend them, or buy a glider and drift around your city like you're in Breath of the Wild. When you're done, return to city view and keep building. It's so delightful.
All of these street-level activities are great, and I'd love to see city builders on PC give you more to do in your city than just manage it at a birds-eye view. I realize that city builders on PC are typically more demanding in terms of visuals, so I imagine it'd be much harder for them to shrink you down, let you walk or drive around, go inside all sorts of different buildings, and let you decorate the inside of your house, but in Pocket City 2 all of these features really add so much to the city builder experience.
I hope city builders in the future try to mimic some of this stuff. It's especially impressive that the developer, Codebrew Games, is a one-person development team.
I'm also hopeful Pocket City 2 will come to PC someday—the original isometric Pocket City came to Steam a few years after its mobile launch. In the meantime Pocket City 2 is available for mobile, and here's another welcome twist: it's just $5 with no additional in-game purchases or microtransactions. That's a heck of a deal.