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Children of the Nile

Suddenly management games are sexy. Dressed to impress in glorious 3D, this Eygptian beauty is making us fall in love all over again. Especially as our latest squeeze feels like a reunion with an old flame. Developer Tilted Mill is built from the ashes of the Impression Games team, and Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile inevitably doffs its dusty pith helmet to their seminal empire-builder, Pharaoh. What's more, the move to 3D accommodation has retained the solid foundations that made the original game so compelling.

CoN (unfortunate acronym there) resists the temptation to hide behind its impressive aesthetics, and packs the micro-management complexity required to maintain an iron grip over your people and conduct trade, expansion and military affairs. Admittedly it's this showy 3D business that's initially most seductive. The camera controls enable you to swoop down among the sandal wearers, zooming in to watch your noble avatar carried through the streets, surrounded by your scurrying, subservient population. You look divine while the masses busily construct your empire around your sand-filled ears.

Royal tours will be limited to a few paddy fields without some initial graft on your part, though. The lifeblood of your civilisation are the peasants that supply the farmers to exploit the mud plains of the Nile. They need food and housing to spark the population explosion that will expand your Pharaoh-verse. A big bang, if you will. Later these breeding peasants will provide the shopkeepers and bakers that grease the economic wheels. Responsibility for expansion then switches from the masses to the educated nobility.

Constructing noble townhouses will attract a better class of citizen to your city. Priests are the first and possibly most important elite profession you'll call on. Recruited from the offspring of your nobles, they use their healing hands to balm your sick, take care of your god-bothering city folk and crucially educate ankle biters into fully fledged graduates - the envoys, scribes and military leaders of tomorrow.

Once the home front is settled, it's time to turn your royal gaze to foreign policy. The World View mode enables you to make contact with nearby cities and establish trade routes. First take their money, then take their land. Soon they will kneel. In the meantime, zoom back to your city to spread a little happiness by erecting temples and shrines to the gods, while keeping a watchful eye on your own body clock. Snuff it before you've had the chance to construct a suitable tomb and you'll bring shame on your family. Reserving a spot for that pyramid is paramount.

You also need to sprinkle your city with guards to keep the odd vagrant in line, set up scribes to ensure that taxes are rolling in and begin to think about forming an army to expand your borders and crush raids from nearby raiders. In fact the micro-management tasks rack up like storeys of an improbable tower, but things never begin to topple. Children of the Nile plays at a gentle pace that's wonderfully reminiscent of the Tilted team's past glories. After all what's the use of building a glorious empire if you can't take time to put up your slippered feet and enjoy it?

Children of the Nile is due for release on 4 February for PC

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