Concrete Jungle Review

Screenshot of main screen in game Concrete Jungle
Time to think positive

Quick Info
Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
Developer: ColePowered Games
Publisher: ColePowered Games
Release Date: 24 Sep 2015
Time played: 7.4 hours (INCOMPLETE)

Is this a City Builder?

Several years ago, I took a great interest in games developed using various game engines such as GameMaker Studio, Ren'Py and Multimedia Fusion. Concrete Jungle is one such game and started off life as a Multimedia Fusion project. The game has appealing SimCity-like graphics so it definitely caught my eye and it was included as part of 2016's Clickteam Fusion Bundle which included a bunch of Multimedia Fusion games such as Plantera.

While Concrete Jungle at a glance looks like a city builder, it actually has more in common with puzzle or turn-based tactics games, maximising your score in order to progress through the stage. The game rated well on Metacritic with a Metascore of 76 indicating generally favourable reviews. Concrete Jungle rates well on Steam too with a "Very Positive" rating based on 90% of the 300 user reviews being positive. But is this mix of city builder and puzzle game truly a winning formula?

Screenshot of Level Selection screen in Concrete Jungle
Take me down to Caribou City where the cards are mean and the levels are tricky. TAKE. ME. HOOOOME.

No, It's More Like a Card Game

In the campaign, you play the role as a city planner although this isn't the typical city planner role you'd expect in a game like SimCity: this game bears more similarities to Tetris or an endless runner than a city builder. The goal of the game is to get from one side of the map to the other. The map is organised into a grid and you need to meet a points requirement for each row in order to advance. Generally, you achieve this by placing residences and then placing other buildings that increase the value of the residences, such as parks and supermarkets.

The sort of buildings you can place on the grid are determined by chance, drawn from a deck of cards. This means you'll not always receive the cards that you need to progress and sometimes there will be cards that reduce the value of land, such as factory cards. Consequently, the game becomes pretty challenging only a few levels in and I soon found I was unable to achieve the maximum score of three stars.

Now, you're able to customise your deck to a degree to give you a better chance of drawing the "good" (positive value) cards but placing these cards will result in a higher points threshold for clearing each row. Consequently, you'll often need a mix of positive and negative value cards in order to make it through the level (the negative value cards do have a use though, especially on levels where you play competitively against an AI). Later on, you'll even be able to pick different characters that come with their own unique perks although I'm unsure if it has as much of an impact as choosing your deck.

Screenshot of Card Deck selection screen in Concrete Jungle
Part of the challenge is picking the right cards for your deck

The Turn of a Friendly Card

As I continued to play the game, it was becoming less fun and more of a chore. Ensuring you have the right deck could possibly tip the scales in your favour but your fortunes still rely heavily on chance and this becomes more pronounced when playing against an AI player. If you're playing against the AI, there will be situations where you're setting up a plot of land to be of high value and they could just plonk a residence there and steal prime real estate. Or they could just as easily undo what you've done by placing factories next to your residences. Technically, you could do the same to them but it took me several tries before I had a run where the right cards were drawn. When you're playing on your own, luck is against you, but playing against the AI, means the game becomes even trickier, frustratingly so.

What finally broke the camel's back was when I had to complete a level where the deck was chosen for me and it contained a whole bunch of rural development cards (e.g. farmland and farmhouses) and suburban development cards. Unfortunately, these two card types don't really mix in terms of strategy and of course, you never draw the cards you need at the right time. You'll often want more rural cards only to be given suburban cards that are unable to capitalise on the property value raising work you've been doing or vice versa.

After multiple attempts, I had to finally give up on this one, which is a shame as the game has a few things going for it, including its bright, colourful graphics, and a fully voiced and humorous campaign mode. It's also amazing to see what is achievable with Multimedia Fusion, but a highly polished game is not going to be enough to save a game that's simply not fun.

Screenshot of Farmland scenario in Concrete Jungle
Running successful farms is no easy task


Concrete Jungle is a bright and colourful game with a humorous campaign but if you're looking for a city builder, be warned, this is not one of them. While Concrete Jungle may appeal to those who enjoy card-based puzzle games, the high degree of chance involved is most likely off-putting to others, myself included.

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