Way back when the original Constructor hit PC in 1997, I was a mere 12 years old and was hooked on it's rather unique combination of city building, realtime strategy and unusually British aesthetics. I'd spend hours trying to find new ways of beating out the speedy, efficient computer controlled rivals and master the fast paced race to better housing and those powerful high level tenants. Constructor was a game that for a brief time stood toe to toe with established building games of the era and stuck two fingers up to them by adding seedy undertones, tongue in cheek humour and overt aggression to the mix. Two years ago, the game returned to try and lure modern audiences and nostalgia goggled fans with a high definition overhaul and console releases, so what does Constructor Plus offer that it's predecessor didn't?
The short answer to that question is more. More buildings, missions, city themes, animations and amusing voice work, but that more comes with a couple of caveats. While there's more to see and hear across the board, the gameplay and interface in Constructor Plus are very much the same as they ever were, for better or worse. Moreover, a choice to mix twenty year old assets with brand new content highlights the age of some aspects of the game while distracting from and taking the shine from the new.
For those unfamiliar with the way Constructor approaches city building, it's more akin to a real time strategy such as Age of Empires or Starcraft than it is a city builder like Cities Skyline or Sim City. You've gangs of workers led by foremen, who build and create resources. Depending on the game mode, there are rivals doing the same. You build housing, starting at tier one of five, choose between residents that are better breeders to provide more workers and tenants or more effective rent payers to fund expansion and begin ascending a technology tree. Building everything from one tier of buildings gives access to a new resource and the next tier as well as unique buildings that you can use to spawn unpleasant individuals such as clowns and thieves to pester and ruin your rival's plans. As it was twenty years ago, so it is today as Constructor Plus changes nothing about that formula at all, only adding variation to the mix.
What is fresh is a selection of tutorial missions to get newbies up to speed, a number of money earning retail buildings and casinos, story missions and the option to slow the gameplay to half speed - a much appreciated option when playing late into the game and battling quick thinking AI enemies. New themes for your cities are available, ranging from fairly mundane forests and ghost infested streets right through to moon bases and colonies on Uranus. They're a welcome dose of freshly made visuals, but in practice they amount to a change of skin for the game rather than anything that changes gameplay.
In keeping with Constructor's re-release, more voice lines have been added to amuse and provide context, spoken with perfect smarmy charm by British comedy actor John Challis, aka Boycie of Only Fools and Horses and more recently as Monty Staines in ITV's Benidorm. The uniquely sardonic and withering British edge to the humour that was a part of Constructor's original appeal is as clear and present as it ever was, thankfully.
That said, some elements of the humour show their age more than others, with some elements such as suspender wearing yobs and tie dye sporting hippies seeming very much a relic of an older generation's stereotyping. Most glaring of all is one particular image used for your parks, it being a reference to the now deceased musician George Michael and an infamous incident the man himself parodied way back in 1998. We've all heard of making a joke too soon, but somehow this feels like the opposite of that.
As a whole, to someone very familiar with what Constructor has done in the past, this pseudo-sequel is going to feel comfortable, perhaps too much so. Old tactics apply and progress for fans isn't going to be a struggle as they try out the handful of new toys and see the new city themes, but aged and unchanged gameplay, visuals and audio aren't going to provoke any forgiving nostalgia in the minds of new players.