Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost Children (from now on VV2) is the sequel to the well-received Virtual Villagers, which hit the App Store several months ago. The series has reverted to the original developer, Last Day of Work, and the change brings a new art style. The simulation gameplay, however, is as good as ever… provided you’re willing to check in on your game frequently, over long periods of time.
Upon startup, the game explains that two adults went exploring away from their primitive village and ended up on a previously undiscovered side of a desert island, finding a mysterious group of hungry, lost children. What would you do in that situation? Find food and build a fire for them! With the aid of the tutorial tips, you quickly learn how to manage life on a desert island from a ‘˜god perspective’ (hint: don’t expect worship). Villagers wander around the island ‘Looking excitedly at everything’ until you pick them up and drop them onto certain areas to trigger an action. For instance, if you want one of your villagers to fish, you pick them up by holding your finger on them and drag them to the ocean. The controls are thus very simple, and also very intuitive.
VV2 is a real-time game, which means that the villagers’ lives continue even after you get back to your own. This can be a good or bad, depending on your attention span and interest. We think it’s a great feature because the game necessarily lasts much longer than many other games. On the downside though, this feature makes gameplay a bit slow, as you usually just pop in, manage some lives, and then jump out. For people interested in business management and simulation, it’s great, but others might not warm up to it. The only modes of gameplay available are ‘˜play’ or ‘˜start over’–barring the opportunity for running multiple villages at the same time, which is disappointing.
There are five basic actions that your villagers can perform: Farming, Building, Research, Healing, and Parenting. The first three have physical areas designated them (like a workbench for Research), and the last two are people dependent: you drag one villager onto another one who’s sick to heal him or her. Be careful, though. If you drag a man onto a woman, or vice versa, they may just find a place to listen to some smooth jazz. That’s how parenting starts, and if the villagers make a baby, the mother will nurse it until it grows.
The more each villager does their assigned task, the better they get at it. This information is summarized on the Villager Detail screen, which gives you a character’s general information, a very blurry portrait, and an overview of their skills. To the right of their skills is a box you can check to tell them what skill you’d like them to specialize in, and they will promptly carry out your orders indefinitely, unless you drag them to another task. As mentioned before, there are several children on the island, and you the ability to create more. They can start working on the five main tasks when they turn 14, but not before then! You’ll find no endorsement of child labor here… but you can use them to collect special items you happen to spot whilst playing. These items can be anything from mushrooms to butterflies to beetles, each with different benefits.
There are some events which do a good job of breaking up the gameplay, basically involving a situation and a choice between two actions, each with a consequence. Also, the outcome of research is tech points, which go towards making new discoveries in the fields of Farming, Medicine, Exploration, Engineering, Science, and Culture, which all add new factors to the game. Lastly, there are a variety of puzzles and milestones which you to have to figure out on your own (the first one is given by the tutorial). Advice: remember to assign your villagers to tasks that will sustain the village while you’re gone. If you don’t, the consequences could be dire.
In conclusion, Virtual Villagers 2 offers up a similar experience to the first game, albeit with new goals and events. The art isn’t as good, in our opinion, but if you like simulation or management games, you ought to enjoy what this title has to offer.