For months I’ve been bunkered down here with my laptop and a shotgun, blasting any zombies that stumble through the door and declining wave after wave of Facebook invitiations. But finally, my guard slipped and I got bit; I’ve started playing Cityville. To set context, of course my true love is online strategy games, but I have to confess I was having an affair with Playdom’s Social City for several months before I grew bored of her. I also dabbled in Farmville, just to see what all the fuss was about. With that said, here are my thoughts on Zynga’s latest offer.
Cityville is the love child between Farmville and a Slot Machine, hopped up on gamma radiation. All over Oliver-Ville buildings are spitting out coins and stars; hearts and lighting bolts are falling from the sky; meters are overflowing. As embarassing as it is for this “hardcore gamer” to admit, it is immensely satisfying to click on shiny things and fill up bars. In that sense the game is very slick and well polished, with a style that probably appeals to a lot of “casual” gamers. Regardless of what you think of the gameplay, Cityville is a slick flash game and Zynga definitely knows how to package something.
Of course the game spreads like a zombie-infection, because it’s designed so that you NEED to get help from your friends in order to progress. Unfortunately, this is still done in a very shallow fashion, with more emphasis on quantity over quality interactions. One of the features I was looking forward to was being able to “Staff” your Community Buildings with your Ctiyville friends. For example, to finish the Police HQ you need to find five friends to work there. I had thought this would be the start of some sort of meaningful gaming relationship, but apparently “working at my Police HQ” just means accepting my initial invitation, and that’s the end of it. I believe I have the same friends working at my Town Hall, Police HQ, and hospital. Lietuenant Joe Mayor, PhD. Further, once I fill all the vacancies, the building is considered “done” and I can no longer see who’se working there. That part of the game is over.
As I’m writing this review, I realize that my carrots are probably withering away. As in Zynga’s previous games, if you don’t click on something soon enough, it dies. I love being punished for NOT playing a game. Is this supposed to teach me responsibility? ‘Features’ like these are all over the game with Zynga’s very aggressive monetization scheme, but they make the game seem more like a commercial than an actual game. The problem becomes that most of what you’re able to buy is the chance to click on more shiney things, and I guess it’s up to each player to decide how much that’s worth.
One thing that Cityville excels at is letting me create and design my own city. In games like Travian and Ikariam, you are only given a couple dozen buildings and a couple dozen slots, which doesn’t really offer much in terms of customization. In Cityville, though, just like Farmville and Social city, you can put the roads wherever you want, put the buildings wherever you want, and decorate with parks, animals, and white picket fences. In that sense it’s a lot like playing with blocks or Leggos. Except that every ten minutes or so you need to drop in a quarter or ask your friends if you can keep playing.
Overall, the game definitely fulfills that need for a creative outlet, and the bells and whistles make it a very enjoyable experience. However, those searching to engage higher brain function or looking for a game that takes proper advantage of Facebook’s social platform will be a little disappointed. At the same time, Cityville, along with other similar casual games, does a brilliant job of reaching people who previously weren’t gamers at all, and maybe this will be the first step on their journey.