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In Dystopika you are the chill landscaper of a vast cyberpunk city, and it is exactly my cup of noodles

Blade stunner

The sun sets in the distance behind a futuristic city with lots of neon signs.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Voids Within

Boil the kettle, we're having cheap ramen. If you liked Townscaper for simple seaside town tinkering, or enjoyed the forest-dwelling demo of Tiny Glade's homely castle creation, you might get a satisfied sigh out of this. Dystopika is a cyberpunk build 'n' chill where you place down skyscrapers, apartment blocks, factories, and imposing ziggurats straight out of Blade Runner. There's no goal, no big number to hit or yammering town mayor to appease. Just some low tempo music, straightforward building controls, and the ability to insert your own cat pictures on the sci-fi billboards.

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It's a "meditative city-sculpting experience" according to designer, Matt Marshall, who made the game partly while travelling for a year across cities in Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. "No goals, no management, just rich, atmospheric moods for contemplation, creativity and wonder," he says. What this means in real terms is that you're being given a toy for gardening a city skyline of the future.

The tools for building are sweet 'n' simple. You plop down buildings, choosing from among some themes. Perhaps you want those neo-pyramids of Omega Corp, or maybe the small blocks of lowtown. You click them into being, rotate them, resize them, and watch as a smattering of other tiny buildings appears magically around them. The automatic growth of a city happening in seconds. Very soon a handful of extra props are unlocked. For me, it all moves towards constructing a pleasing shot for the camera in the game's photo mode. Ah, there we are. Snap.

These no-frills builders evoke the feeling of dressing a set with pre-made props. You're preparing a scene, building up to that perfect frame, that pleasant feeling of satisfaction as you look over everything and think: yes, that's it. You don't have to think too hard about the fine detail of the props you're adding, it's all about composition, broad strokes. In Dystopika, you can get more into the nitty gritty as you go along, adding glowing advertisement billboards, neon lettering, holographic whales and (my personal favourite) little hovercar highways that criss-cross the city high above the smog-coated ground. But largely, it's like those other relax-o-builders, in that it invites you to stay loose and not worry too much. There's no wrong place to build a skyscraper.

A cyberpunk city skyline with lots of cat adverts.
A cyberpunk city skyscraper with many hovercars flying across it.
Night covers everything in a cyberpunk city, with lights glittering in the tall buildings.
A floating advertisement barge shows off its commercials as it floats above a city of the future.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Voids Within

When you feel ready, you can import images from your computer onto the huge billboards of the city, filling your neo-capital with the feline mascots such a metropolis deserves. So far I've only toyed with it for an hour, raising three distinct clusters of buildings at some distance from one another (in the cyberfiction of my own head, they are separate districts). New props, megastructures, camera modes, and mod features are planned for the future, says the creator in a road map on the game's Steam page. But I can safely say it has already given me my six quids worth of focused cyber-flow. Please excuse me, my glasses are steaming up. Must be all the noodling.

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