AdvertCity Review

A cyberpunk-themed tycoon game focused on megacorporation advetising, AdvertCity is unlike anything you've ever played.

AdvertCity on PC

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If there’s one style of game out there that requires a certain mentality to play and enjoy, I’d throw my vote on the tycoon genre. AdvertCity, an indie addition to the mix by VoxelStorm, definitely requires the focus and attention to detail that highlight the genre. Constantly moving, and initially disorienting, AdvertCity is a high-stakes game that tasks players with running a small advertising firm in the world of industrial giants, scraping a living together by drawing the ever-coveted consumer gaze to these monolithic companies.

AdvertCity Game Begin
Each new game starts players a ways out of the procedurally-generated city where they’ll seek to make their fortune.

If you don’t believe me that AdvertCity can take some getting used to, even the short introductory phase opens with a warning stating “An initial period of disorientation is to be expected”. Moving through the world involves essentially free-floating through both the physical city, or “meatspace”, and the digital world of cyberspace. Each game starts off essentially the same; you’ll find your sphere of initial influence, take out a hefty loan from the local bank, and then get cracking on advertising for whatever companies are willing to work with you. As you place ads, you generate revenue, gain influence, and open up access to new forms of advertising within both the physical and digital worlds.

AdvertCity Cyberspace
Cyberspace is a bizarre-looking take on the landscape, with buildings replaced by these glowing pyramids.

I won’t lie: AdvertCity takes more than just a little getting used to. Not only is the navigation and interaction a bit clumsy at first, but as soon as you’ve gathered your first loan debt begins climbing. Players are pitted against this constant drain on their finances as they start scattering their first few advertisements, and only getting in good with some important companies that allow you to generate some high-revenue campaigns can save the sinking ship. It took me quite a few go-throughs ending in abrupt and game-ending bankruptcy to start feeling like I had any chance against the insurmountable cash-suck.

AdvertCity PersonBox
While early ads don’t have much impact on the city, as your technology advances, the effects that your upstart company has become more and more evident.

It’s hard for me to really recommend AdvertCity simply because it is so daunting in its scope and speed, but the underlying mechanics seem fantastic. Watching the ebb and flow of your influence and finances, once you’ve gotten a handle on the constant stream of numbers, can be strangely relaxing. This is augmented by a fantastic jazz-inspired soundtrack that backs your every move. The look and feel really drive home the dark, foreboding future that the cyberpunk genre is built on, and the unyielding difficulty certainly establishes the pressing need for constant action and reaction to succeed. Stopping, even for a moment, means the climbing debt will raise high above your revenues before you have a chance to review the charts spelling out your doom.

AdvertCity Transhumanistic League
If nothing else, the corporations you’re striving for influence with can be interesting.

Ultimately, though, AdvertCity is a game that struggles to keep up with its own clever design. The breakneck pace of play and the unforgiving mechanics create a frantic, difficult experience. I’ve seen plenty of positive player takes on the game’s Steam page, where you can pick the title up for $19.99, but for me that sense of disorientation never really faded completely. For the dedicated tycoon fan that’s looking for a fresh and interesting take, I’d say it’s worth a look, but it’s not really a must-play and I’d certainly pass this one up if you’re not already securely interested in the genre. While it’s nice to see something that’s taking a new angle on the style, I just couldn’t find my way into it well enough to really enjoy it for what it was — and at the end of the day, a game that I’m not able to have fun with isn’t one that I’m going to keep playing until I get it right.

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Chaz Miller
Chaz was Twinfinite's resident indie game reviewer from December 2013 through until May 2017. An indie reviewer extraordinaire, father-type human for two young gamers, and generally a very busy person.