A very wise and insightful writer by the name of Milan Kundera once noted that “The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.
With this thought in mind I approached System 3’s reboot of the 90’s classic Constructor with some degree of apprehension. Like many of you, I had vague memories of Constructor when it was first released back in 1997. At the time Tony Blair was British Prime Minister, Bill Clinton was on the verge of not having sex with that woman and ‘internet’ was something you got at the hairdressers. If memory serves, Constructor garnered some degree of critical acclaim for its eclectic tongue in cheek humour, its obsessive dedication to micro-management and, oh yes, it had Boycie from Only Fools and Horses providing a fantastic voice over. But that was twenty years ago. A lot has changed since then. And Constructor has received a revamp of sorts to reflect these changes.
The premise behind the game is, however, as it was back in ’97; you’re cast in the role of a property developer and it’s your job to construct a variety of buildings, populate them with tenants and grow your bank balance. To do this you’ll have to appease said tenants, work with pencil pushing councillors and deal with rival developers in any way you deem fit.
Although construction is the name of the game, System 3 have laboured hard to ensure that Constructor stands out from similar city building games by being fun. And, in many respects they have achieved this goal. The game is populated with quirky and memorable characters such as the Undesirables who range from hippies to psychos and thieves. If you’re of an unscrupulous bent, you’ll find that unleashing the Undesirables onto your competition can quickly help you gain an upper hand in your quest for global domination.
Despite this leaning towards the ‘fun’ end of the gaming spectrum, Constructor is nonetheless a tough game to master. The opening tutorial level is something of an eye opener as it is incredibly in depth and detailed. There’s tonnes of information, short cuts and menu options to remember and, after a short while, you’ll come to the conclusion that the only way you’ll grasp this game is by playing it. Matters are made trickier by using a game controller for an interface that was clearly designed for a PC.
With this tough learning curve Constructor can be unforgiving and unpredictable. The game is relentless in throwing problems after problems at you and, quite often, you’ll find yourself gasping for air as you haven’t had time to breath. At least three times we unexpectedly failed a game because we hadn’t met one of the council’s demands in time or our buildings were over run by a plague of cockroaches that we just couldn’t get rid of (spoiler alert: to deal with the cockroaches, you need to upgrade all of your bathrooms and employ people to squash them. Who would have figured?). Fun? Sometimes. Difficult? Oh, yes. In the world of Constructor, the only easy day is yesterday.
Graphically, Constructor has been given a new coat of paint which means the game looks fine on a next gen console. The cartoon style graphics and brash colour scheme fits in well with the tongue in cheek humour and the buildings are sufficiently different to make it easier to tell exactly what you’re looking at and what it does.
There are several game modes on offer including a designer mode in which you create your own playground and a ‘missions’ mode. At time of review this mode hadn’t been finished and the multiplayer mode had yet to be populated with gamers.
Overall Constructor is a fun game that can, however, prove taxing for most players. The amount of detail you have to absorb, the demanding control system and the steep learning curve could put many gamers off. But if you persevere with it, there is fun to be had. For anyone looking for an alternative to the more serious city builders such as Sim City and Aven Colony, Constructor is worth giving a try. It’s not as polished as we’d like and its far from perfect. But its fun and challenging and sometimes that’s all we want from a good game.
7 out of 10
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