Concrete Jungle - Steam Review

Concrete Jungle

Quick Glance

Platform: PC

Players: 1-4

Achievements: Yes

Steam Trading Cards: Yes

Controller Support : Yes (though I don't recommend it)

Retail Price: $12.99

High Level Premise: Sim City the Card Game...except better than the actual Sim City Card Game.

Graphics/Style: Characters have a neat sketched style. Otherwise the art is plain, but functional. The animation of cars driving around your city brings a nice bit of energy to the map.

Music/Soundtrack: There's a very light, bouncy song that plays in the background. I kind of forget it's there, but it's pleasant. I found the full voice acting to be a nice touch, and one I didn't expect with all the text on screen anyway.

Story: You are the new city planner for Caribou City. The mayor is a moron. You have to fix his mistakes, fight those that want to ruin your beautiful city, and otherwise make Caribou City the most awesome place ever.

Replay-ability: The difficulty curve is a bit askew in this game. The tutorial lasts for several matches, and they aren't that difficult, and then WHAM! The game gets really tough, and levels can get fairly long. If you're enthralled by the puzzle elements of this game though, you'll be with it for the long haul.

Time Commitment: A typical scenario in the campaign takes about 15-20 minutes. Although after getting through the tutorials, they can expand to about 30 minutes.

Value: There's more than enough game here to justify the price. Unfortunately, a majority of the content is locked (thankfully, no micro-transactions), which means you have to get a fair way into the game before you get to truly have fun with the system.

Favorite Element: Actually building your deck.

Why has no one thought of this before? BRILLIANT!

In recent years, I've played far more board games than I have video games. And even when I'm looking for new video games to play, I often look for games that have elements of board games in them. Concrete Jungle is one of the games that grabbed my interest almost immediately because it was described as a city building game, mixed with a deck-building card game. I like both of those genres, so this should be right up my alley.

The developers call it a deck-building game, and it is...sort of. When I think deck-building game, I think of a game like Dominion. Where you start with a deck of small resources, and build up to grand buildings. Concrete Jungle isn't quite like that, however. It's far more of a puzzle game with card game elements.

Concrete Jungle has two main modes: campaign and custom game. There are several varieties of custom game I'll describe briefly in a bit. The campaign is where I spend for more of my time, and is the mode I'm largely reviewing here.

You start a mission in campaign mode with a pre-selected deck of 12 cards and some scenario you have to complete. The cards are various buildings, each one with different attributes. The basic idea is that you place the buildings onto your map, and they either improve or detract from surrounding spaces. Eventually, youplay houses and collect the points generated by the surrounding buildings. Each column in your grid-based city has a point value assigned to it. If you are able to improve that row to at least the given total, you successfully clear that row from the board. If you are unable to meet the required number, you lose one heart. Lose all three hearts, and you'll have to start the level from scratch.

The Westside is getting a little cramped

As the campaign goes on, you learn all sorts of new tricks. Eventually, you gain the ability to buy and replace cards in your decks. Some of the buildings (such as factories) are extremely bad for your community. Gaining the ability to replace them in your deck is often a huge life saver in later levels of the campaign. Unfortunately, the changes you make to your deck aren't permanent, but this ability to fine-tune your deck is what makes this game (and this genre, for that matter) shine.

As I mentioned in the quick glance, I do find the game takes a gigantic leap in difficulty just as the tutorial winds down. What happens is that you start playing against an AI opponent, battling to have the most points of buildings in each row when they fill. Playing against other characters changes the dynamic of this game drastically. You go from playing a brain-burner puzzle game, to a tactical area control game. I feel like this shift in tone may confuse some players, and may drive more away from the campaign. 

Another quick note about Custom Games: there are three modes available. Solo, where you get to build a deck using any cards you've unlocked, and you just try to get the highest score you can in a 30 row challenge (if you don't like the change I mentioned above, you still have this mode as a safe haven). Vs. is either regular multi-player like the AI challenges in the campaign, or you can play in teams (even 3 vs. 1!). Finally, there is Classic mode where there's no deck building at all, and the game just throws random cards at you. I like the variety of modes they offer, although I'm less of a fan of the Vs. & Classic modes, and prefer the solo puzzle mode and Campaign.

Should I put a factory or a clinic next to the beautiful neighborhood in the lake?

There are a couple aspects of the game itself I am not a fan of. If for some reason you need to replay a level...it forces you to go click through the opening story elements every single time. It seems like an easy fix to just allow skipping once you've seen the story once. I've had a couple of funky saving problems in the game (it never saves my visual settings, and I know it's lost my save file twice). It's frustrating to have to trudge through a long section you've already seen 3-4 times for no good reason. Allow skipping, let me play the game.

 Also, your deck of cards in a level starts out at only 12 cards. There's just not much room to deck build with 12 cards, especially when roughly half have to be houses to score points. I would love just a bit more flexibility in deck construction. You may get the ability to buy more cards during a level, but that's not always guaranteed, and you are a at the mercy of the game as to which cards you get to buy.

Overall, I do quite enjoy Concrete Jungle. It reminds me quite a bit of a recent board game by Days of Wonder called Quadropolis. Which is also a combination city-building puzzle game (with a somewhat similar art style to Concrete Jungle). I would like to see a game that worked a bit more like a Sim City style game with a card driven aspect to it. Maybe a sequel?

Concrete Jungle is a city planning deck-building game. Place buildings using cards in your deck and earn new ones as you progress! A genre-blending game packed with cool ideas that swaps micro-management for a more puzzle-like approach to city planning. Steam Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/400160 Itch.io: http://colepowered.itch.io/concrete-jungle Humble Store: https://www.humblebundle.com/store/p/concretejungle_storefront Trailer featuring the voice of Ben Britton, and music from 'Mokhov'.

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