If it’s true imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Grubby Games must be praising the developers at Last Day of Work (LDW), the folks behind the Virtual Villagers series, because Grubby’s My Tribe is virtually the same game but with a few extra features.

Now before Virtual Villagers fans slam this clone, keep in mind the casual game genre evolves with baby steps rather than giant leaps, with minor innovations offered by subsequent titles, such as a hidden object game or match-3 puzzler that adds a little something extra to the one that came before it (example: are Zuma and Luxor so different?). That said, it’s difficult to give My Tribe — a fun and polished game that offers a lot of bang for your buck — a score higher than a “B” grade because it lacks innovation.

As the story goes, a group of shipwrecked people land on a beautiful uncharted island following a storm and your small tribe must turn this land into their home by constructing buildings, hunting for food, research new technologies and exploring the premises to find helpful goodies that wash up on the shore.

Players can choose from one of many different island layouts, each offering a slightly different experience. Once you select your desired home you’ll use your mouse to have your tribespersons plant flowers, collect resources like food, wood and rock (just likereal-time strategy games such as Age of Empires and Warcraft), use magic stardust and moon dust to speed up building, and construct a science station to create important items in a handful of categories: agriculture, technology, arts and construction – by spending points to unlock the progress.

You can also dabble in mixology by fusing an element, liquid and catalyst to create a potion used to better your tribe, buildings or sea offerings (some effects are purely decorative, though). More than 40 potions are available to keep things fresh. Note:  Virtual Villagers 3 added “alchemy,” which operates on a similar basis as potions, but Grubby Games says it was unaware the developers at LDW were adding this feature.

You must also procreate to increase your population — but don’t worry, it’s as tasteful as dragging and dropping a male character onto a female one, and then they proceed to a hut and out crawls a baby. The physical traits of the offspring are split between both parents, and you can assign preferred skill priorities to the new member (as you can with existing ones) to have him or her specialize in something.

You can also design unique clothing for your tribe (and rename them if you don’t like their given names); earn more than two-dozen trophies for performing well; solve some mysteries on the island usually pertaining to objects you’ll find over time; and travel to all-new islands to explore, build and expand (see below).

The game will seriously feel like déjà vu to those who spent time with any of the Virtual Villagers games: they look similar, offer a comparable user-interface and even sound the same (allegedly using the same actors and music from SomaTome; the music is similar but not exactly the same but many of the voices and even dialogue appear to be identical). As with Virtual Villagers, My Tribe also carries on after you turn off your PC, so some of the events on the deserted island will continue to play out and will require your attention when you log back on.

Along with the resource collecting and star- and moon dust power-ups, My Tribe differs from Virtual Villagers in a few respects: you can choose from literally billions of islands, each with a different layout and different set of three mysteries to discover; people have related “thoughts” to the task they’re performing; the graphics are better, animation is smoother and includes added detail such as emotions on people’s faces and, per above, offers more customizability to your clothing options.

OK, so here’s the deal: If you’ve read any of the forums you’ll see both sides of the argument – whether Grubby Games “ripped off” LDW’s Virtual Villagers with My Tribe or were they merely influenced by it and created an island sim in the same vein? Gamezebo will also let its readers become judge and jury while debating back and forth, but there’s little argument it’s virtually the same game (real-time play, tech trees, breeding, collecting, tribespersons instead of villagers) but with a few extras, mentioned above. We really liked My Tribe, yes, but if you’ve played Virtual Villagers then there’s not much more here for you – download and play to see for yourself.