Developer: Zynga

Release Date: 12/2/10


        Before I begin with this review, I want to make an important distinction. For those who may not be aware, Zynga does not have a very good reputation among some gaming circles. They’re by and large the most successful game company on social media sites, but they’ve also been the focus of more than a few controversies. Many of their games have been at best “inspired” by other games, and at worst been copied wholesale. After all, their most popular game (until the release of CityVille, anyway) was Farmville, an almost direct copy of Slashkey’s Farm Town, which was itself similar to the Harvest Moon game series. Zynga was even sued over their game Mafia Wars by the makers of the similar Mob Wars and had to settle out-of-court for about $8 million. They have also been accused of creating large amounts of spam for players’ friends, overuse of exclusive in-game currency that costs real money to obtain, and making low-quality games that all have similar rules and mechanics. In short, they’re the sort of company that would be the villain in a James Cameron movie.

        The distinction that I want to make before I actually talk about CityVille is that Zynga’s reputation and the actual quality of the game are two completely separate things. My goal is to review this and all games that I talk about on their individual merits, regardless of the developer’s history. To that end, I’m going to pretend I don’t know who made CityVille. Now that that’s out of the way… hey look, it’s SimCity!


        Actually, I’m not going to make too much fun of the similarity here. They might be based on the same concept, but experimenting with old ideas in new situations isn’t a bad thing. What is a bad thing is the fact that I can’t see the game for all the invites and spam clogging things up.

        In case you can’t guess from the name, CityVille is about building and managing a city from the ground up, adding to your population and income to access bigger and better buildings and decorations. The game itself is pretty fun. There are a good number of buildings to choose from, and designing your city’s layout to make it unique is enjoyable. I’ll even go so far as to call the franchise system - which lets you name your own businesses and set up multiple locations in friends’ cities - a neat and original idea. The art design is decent in a cheerful, puppies-and-kitties-everywhere-and-we’ve-never-heard-of-urban-crime-before kind of way. All-in-all, it’s not a spectacular game, but a pretty good time-waster.

        The main problem with CityVille is that it has so many bad design choices that they completely kill the actual game. For one thing, the energy bar is completely unnecessary. If my businesses have sold all of their products and need supplying, why do I need to wait for a completely arbitrary amount of time before I’m allowed to collect from them? Every time you run out of energy there are no fewer than two pop-up messages suggesting that you buy more. I’ve even run out, closed the pop-ups, used an item to give me a little more, used that up, and gotten the same two pop-ups, not even a minute later! Why can’t I just build stuff and supply businesses and let that be that? Well, actually, there’s a simple answer. (Insert developer here) just loves offering you more energy in exchange for City Cash, the premium currency. You get a single City Dollar for every time you level up, but if you want more you have to give them actual money. That’s like giving someone a penny and forcing them to walk through an electronics store full of things that they can’t buy with just a penny. Sure, save up long enough and you might be able to buy one of the cheaper things, but you don’t stand a chance of getting the good stuff unless you actually pay for it.

        You can also bug your friends for energy, among other things, but that’s even worse. I actually stopped playing for a while simply because I’d gotten 40 requests in the course of a day and didn’t feel like dealing with them. On that note, I should point out that unless you have friends that already play CityVille, don’t even bother starting. I’ve never seen a game that is so absolutely reliant on having active friends in order for you to advance. You need community buildings to expand your population limit, and you need a high population to access better businesses. The problem is you have to “staff” your community buildings with friends in order to get the population bonus. It wouldn’t be so bad if simply having friends automatically populated buildings, but you have to send out requests for each individual one, and they often require 10 people or more.

        This means you can’t just ask a friend to install CityVille for a minute so you can get their bonus; they have to actively play and respond to your requests in order for you to advance. What’s that? You don’t have enough friends who play CityVille to finish your buildings? Not a problem, there’s another way to fill that spot… with enough City Cash. I ran into this situation and actually had to go find a group of random strangers to become Facebook friends with so I could see some of the game’s more advanced content.

        Alright, I’m going to drop the charade and tell you that CityVille is just like every other Zynga game you may or may not have ever played: a decent concept marred by spam and desperate attempts to make you give them money. If you like Zynga games, CityVille is definitely better than most. If not, there’s very little for you to see here.

                                                                Score: 6/10

This has been the Freeware Fanatic, saying that capital “V” in the middle really bugs me. Or maybe it’s just my capital “O”, “C”, and “D”.

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