Car City let’s you start your own manufacturing empire

You never forget your first car. My father regaled me with tales of his Camaro. My wife’s was a beat-up beige Mercury Topaz. Mine was a Beetle buggy-type, lime green with huge tailpipes, monster truck tires and airplane wings. Car City‘s version of the tale is obviously cooler than my dad’s or my wife’s, but the game surrounding it is a little hit-and-miss.

Taking the popular Facebook car genre and turning it into a freemium iPhone title seems like a no-brainer. Car City lets you design, build and drive your own custom cars while running a manufacturing empire. With tons of cars, paints, parts, stickers and body types to choose from, you can truly make your car and brand your very own.

When you first load up Car City, you’re greeted by Stephanie, your “cute yet professional” secretary. The game definitely tries way too hard to be cute with its sense of humor. She offers to help you “run your business – into the ground! Haha! Just kidding! Here is todays (sic) agenda.” The next screen talks about flux capacitors exploding when they hit 87 miles per hour – again, trying too hard to be funny.

Car City

Once Car City finally lets you play, you’re taken to the garage where you get to build your first car. At first, you can only build a puttering jalopy. As you build your company’s standing, gain experience and earn more money, more cars become available. Once you build the car, you can go to your marketing department to run various campaigns, from flyers in the neighborhood to sponsoring a professional car race. Of course, the better ads open up at higher levels, and they take more real time to wait to complete.

While advertising is a great way to earn experience and money, you can also race your custom cars along one of three courses. By courses, I mean short circuits that you can complete in under 17 seconds. They’re not meant to be great racing tracks like dedicated racing titles, but do offer a fun diversion from the typical minigames you’d normally find in a social game. Still, it would have been nice to have some more robust circuits to race on.

The controls for the racing portion are startlingly good for something that isn’t the main focus, with some of the best accelerometer controls I’ve used in a racing game. It’s nice that Car City doesn’t make earning money and experience quite as painful a chore as a lot of other social games.

The graphics are very nice, particularly the cars themselves. The goofy add-ons look particularly good when you watch the car drive around in a faux-commercial video. The music is also of a great quality too. The tunes aren’t catchy, but aren’t offensive either. Navigating all the menus and options is a breeze, with a simple layout that’s easy to follow.

Car City

Car City also prides itself on not being a particularly short game. Leveling up happens more frequently than other social titles. It’s extremely necessary, though, as you’ll be progressing higher than level 90 if you want to unlock all that Car City has to offer. On the one hand, it’s great to see a game with such a long gameplay tail. On the other hand, some of the new features feel like they take an eternity, such as unlocking more circuits to drive on or trying to unlock the awesome sports car.

It doesn’t help that Car City isn’t really a socially-driven social game. It uses premium currency and certain tasks take time, but you can’t visit a friend’s garage or trade cars. All you can do is see how you’re ranked on a global leaderboard by virtue of a placement number (as in, you’re the 80th best manufacturer in the world kind of thing). Considering the amount of time Car City is asking of you, more social interaction would help alleviate the grind.

However, it’s great to see developers taking the idea of a social game in new directions. Car City has a ton of potential in it, bolstered by some great genre-breaking side games and a fun premise. It’s not perfect, but if you’re at all into cars or racing games, Car City is worth taking for a test drive.