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Build small, tiny, very little cities in The Block, out now

What is this, a town center for ants

The Block reminds me of those mini zen sand gardens, except I don't have to worry about anyone thinking I'm a stressed pretentious business executive when they look at my desk. It bills itself as the world's smallest city builder, on account of your creations stretching across singular tiles that range from a tiddly 3x3 surface area to a mighty 15x15.

It's by developer Paul Schnepf, who made minimalist skateboarding game The Ramp and worked on the lovely yet much more goal-oriented Islanders. The Block is just about making something nice-lookin'. It's out now, and cheap as chips.

You start each city from the middle, and can only place buildings and trees adjacent to tiles you've already popped down. Everything you place is randomly selected, but you're free to skip past anything you don't like. That's a constraint meant to free you from the burden of choice, with each li'l addition naturally growing your creation without overwhelming you with options.

That's it. There are "no goals or challenges", just the satisfaction inherent to making something pretty. Each block explicitly only takes a few minutes to craft, which is where this differs from the likes of Townscaper and Gourdlets. Townscaper is splendid but did have me hung up on making little tweaks to make my inter-building bridge look just right, whereas this doesn't seem fiddly enough to present the same problem. Just plop away then walk away. Neat.

The Block's launching with a 20% off sale on Steam, so you can grab it for £1.70/$2.40/€1.90.

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Matt Cox

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