I don’t know about where you live, but my city is a mess. Potholes dot every major thoroughfare, water costs are twice as high as in neighboring cities, and metered parking downtown is outrageous. I’ve always said that if I were mayor I could turn this place around. And while I may not have had the chance in the real world, Social City is letting me be the mayor I’ve always dreamed of.
Just like a real city, Social City is all about maintaining a delicate balance between jobs, services, and residents. Jobs in Social City are all about manufacturing. You’ll build factories and then issue different contracts to these factories to build new items. You might tell one factory to produce fertilizer, for example, while another bottles cola. Each contract takes a different amount of time to complete and comes with a different financial reward. So while you can make more money off the cola, it’ll also take you twice as long as the fertilizer to produce.
You’ll only be able to build new factories when you reach certain population landmarks, and you can only reach certain population landmarks if your city offers enough in the way of services to entice people to take up residency. This is where the delicate balance of a city comes into play. Your population will be capped based on how many people your ‘leisure’ buildings can support. Leisure buildings can be anything from movie theatres to hospitals – they run the gamut, often falling outside the realm of what one typically might consider leisure. The more leisure buildings you buy, the larger a population you’ll be allowed to have.
But “being allowed” isn’t the same thing as actually having, which brings us to the third element in our metropolitan trifecta – residents. To get people to live in your city you’ll need to build them homes. Bungalows, apartments, condominiums – again, the options provided in Social City cover all the bases. Once you’ve built some homes, people will begin popping up every so many minutes. You’ll need to click on a people icon over the home to add them to your city, at which time the home will then wait for the timer to count down and add more people to your beloved town. You can build as many homes as you can afford, but remember — you’ll only be able to increase the city’s population if you’re under your leisure cap.
It sound surprisingly complicated on paper, but when playing it’s actually a very simple and intuitive structure. More leisure means more people, more people mean more factories, and more factories means more money for leisure. It’s the Social City circle of life.
The presentation in Social City is easily the game’s strongest point. There’s a tremendous amount of detail in each building, and no two structures ever really look alike. There’s a playful, pastel-infused art style that’s almost reminiscent of a children’s show. It’s fun and friendly, and many of the buildings showcase their inhabitants in a comical fashion that never seems out of place. A fast food restaurant has a giant hamburger on the roof. The post office looks like a mailbox-shaped building. These items might sound pretty silly, but they’re always done in a manner so tasteful that it never feels unrealistic.
Many of the properties you’ll purchase come with the tiniest little animations that always manage to impress. Look closely at a certain bungalow and you’ll see someone practicing archery on their front lawn. Build a taco stand and see someone dancing out front in a sombrero. Windmills turn, factory workers load up trucks, kites fly in the park – the level of detail in the presentation here is outstanding. Despite its cartoony nature, Social City manages to feel like a living, breathing city.
For a game with such a high level of polish, we just wish there was more to do. The gameplay never feels old, but there’s no denying that it’s based on repetition. Once you’ve mastered the game’s ecosystem of manufacturing/residential/leisure, all you’ll be doing is visiting your town to keep this balance in check and grow your city. Growing your city remains exciting throughout, but by the time you hit level 15 or so you just start wishing there was something more.
Still, the game is fairly fresh out of the gate – and if there’s one thing that’s constant in the world of Facebook games, it’s change. Social City is a terrific little city simulation that’s well-deserving of its ever-growing popularity. The simple gameplay concepts are accessible to everyone, and the charming design would be endearing to anyone. There may not be a tremendous amount of things to do, but we really enjoyed the gameplay that was offered.