iPhone Life magazine

Review: Reiner Knizia's City Of Secrets Skyline HD

One of the things I like about a Reiner Knizia game is that you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s always in a good way.  Sure several of the games might feel like board games (especially since the source of many of them are), but the actual contents of each game is unique and often thought provoking.  City Of Secrets Skyline HD is no exception to the rule.  I will admit that one of my motivations for wanting to try the game was its tie-in to the upcoming City Of Secrets 2, but by itself the game is a simple yet challenging strategy game that certainly doesn’t feel like any other Reiner Knizia game I’ve played on my iOS devices.

Almost There
 

Despite its name and association, you really don’t need to know anything about the City Of Secrets saga in order to enjoy this game.  Your task is simple – construct a city block such that certain criteria are met regarding how many buildings can be seen from certain vantage points.  In other words, build the perfect skyline.  For those that feel the need to label everything as “this type of game” I’m not really sure what to tell you, as the closest thing I could think to describe Skyline as is a twisted variant of Sudoku.

Each level is comprised of a square grid of tiles.  Certain rows will have numbers to the left or right, and some columns will have numbers on the top or bottom.  These represent the number of buildings you’d be able to see if you were standing at that location.  The playing pieces are the buildings themselves, and you have one of each size for each row.  Where this plays like Sudoku is that no row or column can contain two of the same size building.  There are also parks which have no height, but might often require the visibility of a certain number of buildings in all directions from its vantage point, which will be designated with a number on top of the park itself.  These special parks will be placed for you and cannot be moved.

Lots Of Parks
 

To place a building you tap it from the supply on the left side of the screen and then tap the grid space where you want it to go.  If that space is already populated the former building will be added back to your inventory.  You can also double tap a building on the grid to put it back into inventory without swapping it.  If you need a better viewpoint you can drag outside of the grid to rotate it, and when you have an aerial view of the grid it will display the height of each building numerically above it.  Once all buildings have been placed, each skyline target number that has been successfully reached will turn green and the incomplete ones will turn red.  You can move on to the next level once you’ve filled out the entire grid correctly, and each group of levels is unlocked when the previous one has been completed.

My main gripe is with the need to unlock the level sets by completing the previous one, at least when it comes to the tutorials.  The real problem might just be that they need to have less tutorial levels, because they were quite honestly easy and a bit boring.  The game quickly escalates in interesting once you get to the second level pack, however, so just hang in there.  The other issue I had was the relative ease of doing the wrong thing.  Sometimes I’d want to rotate and end up erroneously placing buildings, and other times I couldn’t double tap fast enough and ended up swapping buildings instead of just getting rid of the one that was currently on the grid.  Nothing detrimental, really, but it can get frustrating sometimes.

Tilt-A-City
 

Skyline is nothing spectacular visually, but it does look good.  The interface is clean and perfectly intuitive, and you can always rotate the board in such a way that you can see everything you need to see.  There are really no special effects, but then the game doesn’t actually need any.  The sound effects are sufficient but don’t really add much to the game other than keeping it from being silent.  The music is actually quite good and does a great job of provoking the feeling that you’re on an adventure, even though you’re just playing a puzzle game.

I had one game kind of like this back when my PocketPC did all my gaming “work”, but I don’t think I played it much, and I’ve never run across anything quite like it on my iOS devices either.  It provides a wonderful balance between simple game play and challenging levels, and it should eventually give even relatively skilled puzzle players a run for their money.  You just have to be willing to tough it out through the somewhat lackluster tutorial levels.

Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link

This game was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 5.0.1.

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.