The Burbs is a bit too familier for city building fans on Facebook.
The Burbs takes the now incredibly familiar city-building aspects found in other Facebook games (Social City, CityVille, etc.) and does nothing to add any originality to the formula. Specifically, the game is so similar to Social City that I’m surprised Playdom hasn’t spoken out in protest.
The Burbs has a simple premise – you’re given a small (at first) plot of land on which to build a bustling city using a combination of businesses, homes, and community buildings. Homes will periodically produce more population for your town, which must be collected over time, but you’ll only be able to add new citizens to your town so long as you have enough community buildings to keep your citizens happy.
Homes and community buildings of course cost money to build, and you’ll earn more money using your various businesses (coffee shops, office buildings, radio stations, banks, ice cream parlors, and so on). Businesses can be issued “Contracts” that last varying amounts of time, depending on how much you’d like to pay to start the contract relative to how long you’d like to be able to leave the game while your contract is completed. Of course, the longer a contract lasts, the more money (in general) it produces, and likewise, the more coins it will cost to start the Contract in the first place.
Any of this sound familiar? If you’ve played Social City for even a few minutes, it should, as this could be written verbatim in any article about said Playdom game.
As it stands, you’ll start The Burbs with just a Coffee Shop and Radio Station, along with a handful of small homes. You’ll be required to build another home as part of the tutorial, and after you start your contracts in both of your businesses, you’ll likely be on the brink of poverty, as you’ve spent most of your small beginning allowance of coins. The easiest way to earn coins would of course be to issue short contracts at your businesses, but the only contract available at the Radio Station takes 2 days to complete, and the Coffee Shop can’t produce enough money (even in its slowest, 5 minute contract) to really make an impact in your account without spending an hour refreshing the contract over and over in one sitting.
Social games are, at their most basic function, normally about very short gameplay sessions, to take advantage of the multi-tasking nature of users. Being forced to stay with the game for such a long time, even as a starting player, seems like an odd choice. I played the game for two days before even reaching level 3 in the game, if that gives you an indication as to the slow-pace of progress.
Adding insult to injury, the businesses and home items within the game are incredibly expensive relative to the income of a new player. Unless you are a very diligent player, willing to spend tons of time racking up small amounts of coins over a long period of time, your first real town upgrade will likely not come until the two day contract at the Radio Station has completed (which rewards you with 17,000 coins). A small hot dog cart can set you back 4,000 coins, while an equally small home costs more than 5,000. Sure, if you take the time to level up to a point where your town is full of businesses making tons of money everyday, this wouldn’t be an issue, but it does negatively impact the likelihood of most new players to stick with it.
You’ll eventually be able to expand the size of your city, but each expansion requires that you have more and more neighbors on your account. Likewise, as you level up you’ll unlock new businesses and home types, along with community buildings and decorative items (trees, flowers, etc.), just as you’d expect.
For social features, you can send free gifts to your friends that they can use in their own town, or you can simply visit their towns to take a look at how they’ve decided to organize their homes and businesses.
Technically speaking, the game is, again, a dead-ringer for Social City. Each item has a very light animation accompanying it, vans and cars travel around the city streets, and most of the items themselves are visual copies of those you can add to your town in Social City (starter homes have picket fences around them, your first community building is a sports field, and so on). It’s as though developer Jawa gave up on having any original thoughts of their own, aside from the game’s admittedly clever name.
All told, once you get past the initial difficulty of leveling up and the game’s weird pricing issues, there isn’t anything technically wrong with The Burbs, but these two sins are more than enough to negatively impact the game in a way that it unfortunately can’t recover from unless they are changed.