History in the fast lane

Roman Taxi aims to satisfy the gaming itch of folks tapped out of CityVille and other such Facebook favorites, but can this latest offering from Menue (Zombie Mosh) micro manage its way into your heart?

In Roman Taxi, it’s your job to build up your own small piece of the Roman Empire and then shuttle your citizens all around antiquity. The premise is silly yet appealing. Menue has devised an interface for the game most Zynga fans should be easily comfortable with, but in execution, Roman Taxi doesn’t quite rise to the grand stature of its namesake.

Though the central theme revolves around transporting denizens of ancient Rome, Roman Taxi is, for all intents and purposes, a city builder. You’ll need to clear woodlands, build homes and businesses, farm crops, and micro manage your growing metropolis. The game does a fair job walking you through the basics, and the presentation is friendly and inviting.

Roman Taxi

Unfortunately, it’s in the details where Roman Taxi falters. Simple design implementation Facebook gamers have grown accustomed to is made unnecessarily tedious in Roman Taxi, and the game chugs due to what seems like poor Flash optimization.

Like CityVille, you’ll require resources and money to feed the fires of progress. However, Roman Taxi breaks resources up into several groups, each of which ties into the production of other components of the game, such as residents, food vendors, and farmland.

In order to view your store of resources, you have to first enter the inventory screen and select a specific resource you want to check on. It’s the same for purchasing new buildings and replenishing crops as well. You’ll also have to deal with a confirmation pop-up each and every time you want to resupply one of your buildings. Instead of quickening the process of bolstering Rome, you’re left mired in menus wondering when the fun begins.

Roman Taxi

Roman Taxi holds your hand just long enough to grasp only the most basic mechanics of gameplay and then leaves you to run your taxi service pretty much on your own. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if there were more interesting elements of the experience to keep you engaged. The balance of gameplay, however, is such that you’ll only be able to get a few things done before you run out of energy and have to leave the game alone for a while.

Lastly, interacting with the game itself just isn’t very much fun. Something as simple as chopping down trees is made difficult by the fact you have to click in a very specific area of the artwork in order to activate it. The animations are laboriously slow, and the art design isn’t particularly attractive or original. Obviously Flash animation is demanding on a PC’s processor, but other games have done a much better job being accessible to a wide range of machines.

In the fast pace of Facebook life, quick-fix gaming is booming. All the more reason casual gamers can be choosey. Roman Taxi offers a quirky premise that’s appealing, but the gameplay is uninspired and executed poorly. If you’re jonesing for something new in the realm of city life, best to check elsewhere, as this cabbie is flat without a spare.