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REVIEW: City Tuesday

Having been affectionately refering to it as ‘Groundhog Day with bombs‘ for the past year-plus, City Tuesday (80 MSP) marks one of my more anticipated Uprising releases. Its originality doesn’t peak at the black & white art and stickmen, opting for story and gameplay elements that venture past the indie comfort zone.

As the man in the red shirt, you’re out to stop a terrorist group that’s bent on bombing heavily-populated areas throughout the city, hidden behind or within simple to moderate puzzle situations. That group, called the Black Fang, is never given any backstory or reason for its ‘some men just want to watch the world burn’ attitude. Though for a lawless sort, they do have a lot of rules to abide by (over a hundred, at least).

That same lack of context applies to you, the supposed protagonist. Forget how you caught wind of the plot and insist on stopping it yourself, why are you reliving the same day and able to fast-forward it, the same few minutes, Bill Murray / Jake Gyllenhaal-style? And as an added gift (time-travel and immortality not enough?) you can read the minds of those around you, gleaning personality quirks and personal details that factor into the puzzles and give insight into the daily schedules (also of importance) of the populace. The bombs you’ve disarmed during a day stay so on subsequent runs, and failure (sometimes the only way to advance) or not, you’re as good as new each time, not a scratch on you, not a dent in the fender.

Using the frozen-in-time Vignelli Station as a sort of hub level, you can branch out to a further three areas. The world map is slickly-represented as a series of subway stops. Ridding each ‘line’ of its explosives extends a bridge at Vignelli Station by one length, getting you closer to reaching the ‘big bomb’ and clearing up the surrounding mystery. After the tutorial level in the museum, followed by a slightly longer level that also eases you into the flow of the game and the concepts of its puzzles, you’re given the promise of a huge city to explore (well, medium-sized), and set out to disarm the rest of the bombs.

You see, kids, before Blu-ray and streaming video…

This final section of the game is much larger and diverse than the previous two primers. It open its petals slowly to reveal a layered puzzle with interesting routes you’ll need to learn and follow to achieve your goals. It’s fun and necessary, watching for the patterns and observing the events from different angles, even seeing the intersecting paths of some of the bombs and knowing you’ll be following up that lead the next (same) day. Given the terrorists’ actions and your bizarre circumstances, you’re intrigued and getting settled in for a deeper adventure. Yet after a few more mind-reads and defusings, it just ends without explanation, in an odd and anti-climatic fashion to boot.

Truth be told, I was expecting a lot more from it after the long run-up to its release, but City Tuesday earns its dollar price tag despite the short playtime (certainly under a half-hour for most players) and pedestrian use of its unique premise and art, but just barely. A sequel is teased, or is seemed to, in the denouement. Here’s to hoping for an extended story that builds on the bedrock of this city and trusts its players with a little more responsibility and ingenuity.

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