“The Stanford campus looks great, but sadly, Cutetown has nothing much else going for it.”Free
Ever wanted to build your very own San Francisco skyscraper? Cutetown aims to give you just that opportunity by allowing you to model a real building in the city and recreate it using 3D building blocks on the iPad. You can then upload it and add it to buildings created by other users, so that the map of the city is filled with 3D Cutetown buildings.
To give you an idea of what the finished city is supposed to look like, the app includes a very impressive true-to-life model of the Stanford University campus. Looking at that, it’s easy to see what kind of inspiration the developer got when devising a name for the app.
Sadly, that map of Stanford is the highlight of Cutetown. Sure, trying to create your own building starts well enough. The tutorial – in which you re-create an existing model – is easy to follow, if laborious; windows, doors, and balconies need to be added one at a time across a whole floor, and then replicated one column at a time. That, though, is as much fun as there is to be had. You’ll need to create an account before you can do anything else, though there’s no apparent reason and no explanation.
As soon as you try and re-create a real building, you run into Cutetown’s limitations. The first of those is that you’re limited to an area of about a dozen blocks square just to the north of the city’s Mission District, and so can’t re-create some of the city’s most iconic buildings. The second is that choosing a building involves inspecting the city using Google’s satellite maps inside the app. But as soon as you’ve chosen which building to create, you’re taken to a fuzzy, three-quarter close-up that bears little relation to the image you have just seen. Your first task is to mark the four corners of the building, but as it’s – at best – a three-quarter view shot from high above the building, identifying the fourth corner is tricky.
Once you’re on the building screen, there’s another limitation: you can only build up ten storeys. So much for that skyscraper, huh?
The top corner of the screen is reserved for a Google satellite close-up of the building of which you’re working on, and which you can enlarge if necessary. You then set about the job of adding a roof, doors, windows, and balconies. You can even paint the walls or add a satellite dish, or pull your fingernails out one by one, if you’d prefer.
Did we mention Cutetown is slow? Don’t expect the oily fluidity of Google’s Maps app when you zoom in and out; it seemed to take an age to re-draw the screen each time, even on the new iPad. And the interface for building is so unintuitive we almost wept for joy when we were able to perform the simplest of tasks.
We might be able to forgive Cutetown all of these failings, particularly because it’s currently free, and its developer has given it a version number that suggests its very much still in development, if we could see a purpose to the app. It’s not a game in the vein of, say, Minecraft, because there are no incentives and no rewards. It’s not a useful tool of any kind. And it’s not entertainment; it feels far too much like hard work for that. What it almost feels like is it’s a giant wheeze to get users to generate thousands of 3D buildings for a map that Cutetown Ltd can then use somewhere else. We hope that’s not the case.