Fanglies brings a new type of game to Facebook, a town-building sim reminiscent of console fare like Animal Crossing.

It’s hard to put Playdom’s Fanglies into any of the typical social game pigeonholes. Is it a virtual pet game, a city-builder, maybe a virtual world? Fanglies is hard to classify because it’s something new to Facebook (if not strictly something new), a game based on Nintendo’s complex town-building life-simulation series Animal Crossing. It may also remind you of EA’s MySims franchise, which was also based largely on Animal Crossing. Fanglies is basically about building up a happy community of animal-monster people. There’s a variety of ways to do this, either by building up businesses or engaging in menial labor like catching fish.

Fanglies

Tethering the basic gameplay ideas of Animal Crossing to social game mechanics is a basically interesting idea, though Fanglies doesn’t really explore it in much depth yet. Animal Crossing was basically a large money treadmill, where you bought your way to a bigger town with a larger population. In Fanglies, your progress is tethered very intimately to how many neighbors you can get to play the game with you (or, failing that, how much money you’re willing to spend). Missions may ask you to catch particular types of fish you can’t obtain until upgrading your starting village, for example, something that either requires so many neighbors or costs money. Building certain businesses in town and recruiting certain Fanglies requires either help from friends or real money. Most social games feature hurdles like this, but in Fanglies they feel much higher than usual and seem to crop up much earlier in the game.

Fanglies

There’s quite a decent game to be found in Fanglies if you decide to invest in it anyways, though I’m not sure it’s worth the inevitable cost in real money if you can’t get a lot of friends playing it. Fanglies sports some extremely attractive graphics and packs the game full of little animations and behaviors that are just fun to watch. Your Fanglies will interact with each other as you play the game, arguing or befriending each other as their mood strikes them. Sometimes they’ll wander around your city or your home, critiquing the décor and either smiling or frowning at it. All of these changes of mood are animated charmingly, giving each Fangly a range of expressions and emotions. Best of all, the superb graphics don’t seem to come at the cost of the game running poorly. Fanglies runs like a dream, which lets you watch your little creatures all days long.

Fanglies

Leveling up happens quite quickly and you never feel starved for energy. Play money is a little hard to come by, but you really only use it to buy decorations (sometimes as part of missions). The range of decorations feels a little narrow right now, though that’s sure to improve as the game is updated. What’s less certain is if Fanglies is ever going to put less emphasis on having tons of neighbors or spending real money. Right now that emphasis is obtrusive enough that the game is a little hard to recommend (unless you’ve got lots of friends playing it already, of course).