Megapolis: cool word, or the coolest word?
Casual gaming isn't just fun, it's also educational. Take Megapolis, the cross-platform city builder from Social Quantum. I assumed the developers made up that word just because it sounded cool. Turns out it's actually a legitimate alternate form of megalopolis, which is exactly what you could learn to build by playing on Facebook, iOS or Android. Just be prepared for a definite feeling of deja vu if you do.
Of course even if you're thinking big, you have to start small. Like other games in its genre, Megapolis starts you off with a relatively modest plot of land to use as your city-building canvas. If you've ever dabbled in social or mobile gaming, you've run across the core gameplay concepts before. Residential structures are among the first things you'll construct, as they increase your city's population with a click or a tap every time they're ready.
Businesses like restaurants, gas stations and movie theaters join amenities like basketball courts in the Infrastructure category. Many can be tapped for tax revenue on a regular basis, and all of them increase the population cap. Decorations also bump up the maximum number of citizens, while Production buildings make stuff – unfortunately, not stuff you can use constructing other things.
Resource structures deserve their own special mention. These are things such as water towers and wind turbines, which produce water and power respectively. Every building has water and power needs which have to add up to less than the total amount you are currently producing. More advanced systems can be built to help out, but they require parts you need to get from friends or by spending Megabucks, the game's premium currency.
Every collection action pays off in experience points, and in a refreshing change from the norm (or a reversion back to the glory days of FarmVille, depending on how you look at it), there's nothing stopping you from doing as many things as you want in one session. Time and coins are your primary constraints, as fancier buildings cost more and take longer to finish. Quests that display on the left side of the screen can help you advance faster. In fact the rewards for quests are so great compared to your normal actions that they will definitely guide your play for at least the first 10 levels. That puts the sandbox aspect of the game off until later out of necessity.
Leveling up makes more buildings available to you unless you just can't wait and want to pay Megabucks to unlock them. Land expansions can only be purchased with Megabucks, which do accumulate slowly as you level. Friends can be added to the bottom of the screen, and you can help out in their cities and exchange gifts with them daily. You'll pick up a few AI friends as well, and they send useful items to your inbox without expecting anything in return.
None of these things are remotely groundbreaking, but Megapolis does have a killer feature that makes up for a lack of originality in other areas. That would be the cross-platform play, and it is indeed simple to swap between building on Facebook and the iOS or android device of your choice. You can actually have two separate games going on mobile, one that syncs with Facebook and another hosted on Social Quantum's own network.
Both ways to play have their own advantages. A touchscreen makes it easier to zoom in and out and slide the whole city around. Playing on Facebook is better for tasks like rotating and placing buildings. Cities look lively on either platform, with the streets full of cars and plenty of little people happily going about their business. And by that I mean small representations of people, not people with dwarfism.
Ultimately though, those virtual citizens aren't doing much you haven't seen before. That's clearly not bothering many casual gamers, because Megapolis is adding players at a furious pace. Maybe it's a sign that city builders will never go out of style, and being a solid game available any way you want to play is enough. If you download it expecting to be contented instead of wowed, your head is probably in the right place.
- True cross-platform city builder that allows players to switch between Facebook, iOS and Android. No energy resource, so time is the main constraint. Well animated in a pleasant graphical style.
- So, so similar to games that have come before. Reward system pretty much forces people to complete quests instead of just building what they want. Production buildings don't make anything useful.