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Townscaper – a quaint little city builder

Publisher: Raw Fury
Price: $4.99/£4.49
Size: 75.9 MB
Version: 1.01
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Townscaper immerses you in a quiet world of freeform architecture in which you can build to your heart’s content. Impressively it’s made by only one developer, Oskar Stålberg, who describes it as an ‘experimental passion project’. Meaning: curb your expectations of what a city builder usually looks like. This is more of a creativity toy than a game you can win. To that end, there are no goals, no levels, and everything is unlocked from the start.

You start with a blank ocean canvas, and can plop down a little piece of land with a single tap. Tap the same space again, and suddenly you’ve built a house. In this way you can create a floating village in no time at all, building up towers and keeps and cottages. The controls are simple, and Townscaper makes great use of the iPhone’s haptic touch features. Long press and release to remove a segment – you can delete houses, land, or even the midsection of a building to create archways, stilts, or roof terraces.

Best enjoyed with the sound on, every tap elicits a satisfying plop or splash whilst the soothing sound of the sea supplies atmosphere. You can build from a birds-eye view or zoom in so you’re nestled amongst the buildings, which is where the heart of its’ charm lies. Watch as birds fly in and settle on rooftops, bobbing about or having a snooze. The shoreline ebbs and the still water gently distorts the reflected image of the buildings above. As clouds drift by, even the shrubs move gently as if caught by a light breeze. For a simple game, the attention to detail is lovely.

The grid on which you build a town is not uniform, and different tiles make for varied building shapes. You’re in control of the height, position, and color of your builds – but the game’s building algorithm ultimately dictates what these will look like, with the buildings and land shapeshifting with every tap. For example, build a connected ring of houses and the tiles in the middle change from stone walkway to grassy courtyard. 

This makes building feel like a somewhat organic process, adding an element of surprise and intrigue to the creation, but it can feel frustrating and limited at times. 


Opening the menu offers undo/redo buttons and some interesting lighting options. Change the position of the sun to lengthen shadows and give satisfying depth to the neighborhood, or darken the skies to see all the little windows light up as night falls. Or turn off the texturing altogether for an ultra serene, sculptural view of the island. 

The possibilities really are endless in terms of what you can build, but the lack of gamification might cause interest to dwindle pretty quickly. A great tool for creative minds to play with, but it would be nice if there was some more life inhabiting the island – maybe a sweet old man sitting on a bench, or a dog happily running on the beach.

Townscaper is perhaps best enjoyed as a way to wind down at the end of a busy day, or as calming visual stimulation whilst listening to an audiobook or podcast – in fact, that’s a use case the developer had in mind when making the app. If that sounds like the kind of thing you’re after, then Townscaper should be right up your street.