New York Times review of SimCity Social

Here is evidence that the world is a changed place: the New York Times has a short review of the new SimCity Social game for Facebook.

SimCity Social brings the original city-building video game to Facebook, though fans will be hard-pressed to find any of the depth and complexity of that popular PC series. Players place businesses, factories, houses and various attractions, as their expansionist ambitions are kept in check by an energy meter that slowly refills.

The game allows friends to establish sister cities or rival cities, which enables some entertaining cross-border acts of charity or benign sabotage. SimCity Social is a cute and capable social city builder. It’s also a shameless attempt to capitalize on the success of Zynga’s wildly popular CityVille, slapping a powerful name on a game that could never live up to SimCity’s legacy.

As a long-time SimCity fan, I’m tempted to try out this new version. However, several things will stop me:

1. I don’t want a watered down version. I’d rather use my computer and XBox 360 to play full, more stunning versions of games.

2. I’m not sure even a full-scale social version would add to the gameplay.

3. Does this app bug all of your friends like Farmville and the like? If so, I’m staying far away.

4. It sounds like this version may have become more “gamified” rather than being the free-flowing game I’m used to. Here is another review that explains some of the game:

So it’s technically Facebook, but when you’re playing it, it feels like a place (OR A CITY) of its own. I started playing it last Friday and I can’t stop. I am on Level 17, my population is at healthy 6,000, and is the website I aspire to be managing editor of. There’s something about the colorful utopia that I can not not stop thinking about.

Maybe it’s the constant yearning of completing tasks to get more energy bolts, thus being able build more houses and increase population and, in doing so, unlock the next level and new attractions.

Perhaps it’s the constant praise the game lauds on you for doing something so dumb and pointless, like planting a tree in a high-populated area. The the real world just doesn’t offer that,  unless you send a tree to Israel. (Then you get a fancy certificate back in return.)

And my friends are redeeming themselves there. You find an inner-circle of people that you can trust and rely on—not for moral support, but for land permits, teamwork badges, and Dunkin’ Donut energy bonuses: Jordanville runs on Dunkin’.

SimCity has always had some incentive to grow as you get to build different kinds of things. This often worked like it does for real cities: as a city grow, it can support monuments, cultural attractions, and more complicated transportation options. However, it sounds like this new version takes it to another level.


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