Japan Life puts an Eastern spin on the CityVille formula

Don’t you just love CityVille Hometown on the iPhone? All that stuff to do, the social interaction, the customization? Apparently, Japan Life loves it too. Not to the point that it’s a rip-off, but there’s a strong resemblance. That doesn’t stop it from being a fun social title, but it does lose points for lack of originality.

The goal of Japan Life is to build a resort town, attract tourists so you can keep building and grow it into the world’s premier destination. As the title implies, Japan Life has a Japanese flair to its design, populating its world with cute anime-style characters and chaired by a talking monkey. Just go with it.

Japan Life thrusts you right away into its world with little fanfare. However, our talking monkey guide is incredibly helpful, showing you exactly how to grow, shop, customize and mold your resort town. Solid tutorials always win big points here in social games. Before long, you’ll be building new shops and hotels, adding new pathways, or helping rocket rogue cows to help with a friend’s milkshake factory (again, just go with it). After working or building, you can tap to collect coins, experience points or building points (which are required for construction). The more you tap and collect consecutively, the better the bonus you’ll receive.

Of course, Japan Life wouldn’t be a social game if you didn’t socialize. You can travel to friends’ villages, or check out others via Facebook Connect. If you’re not quite as socially inclined (or don’t feel like spamming your Facebook feed) you can always opt to visit the game’s computer characters to help them clean or run sales at their shops.

Goals in Japan Life are easily tracked using the in-game organizer, and the whole menu system in general is quite intuitive, despite little text. The graphic interface is really easy to understand and get into. Navigating through various shopping options, including buildings, landscaping and beyond, the minimal text, focusing on graphics, make a much simpler, cleaner system that many other games would do well to learn from.

Japan Life

Japan Life

Speaking of graphics, they’re quite lovely here. Lots of color, vibrant and detailed. The Japanese aesthetic definitely adds a nice touch to the environment. The music, however… That track, ripped straight out of a family sedan/breakfast cereal commercial, will drive you absolutely batty. It’s friendly and upbeat, but sickeningly so. If you hear it once, you’ll understand.

The only real problem with Japan Life is that it doesn’t really add anything to the genre. Sure, there are some tycoon-style elements like running limited-time sales in various shops, and the social elements are really well done – but the game has a certain familiarity to it that holds it back a bit.

Japan Life is a really solid game. It’s well-made, detailed and deep. If you’re looking for something new and fun, you’ll definitely find it here. Those looking for more original experiences may find that Japan Life hasn’t strayed too far from the ol’ Hometown.