City Story Review

Being mayor means maintaining a delicate ecosystem of commerce, industry, and population. It’s a lesson Facebook gamers have learned all too well over the last few months. Now, for those who want it, the social city-building experience can be carried with you right in your pocket thanks to the latest iPhone game from portable social developer TeamLava.

Those familiar with Social City will already be intimately familiar with the gameplay in City Story. In terms of structure, the game is little more than a cut and paste of what Playdom already offers on Facebook. Gamers will build factories that produce goods and earn money. That money will go to build commercial buildings that will up the population limit, allowing players to build more homes. More people in turn lets you build more factories, starting the cycle all over again.

City Story

Despite how blatantly City Story copies the formula of its inspiration, the game does offer a few differences that help to set it apart from what’s come before. Players won’t need to click on homes or businesses to increase population or do clean-up – the only interaction you really need to have on a regular basis is managing your factories. Shrinking the gameplay like this doesn’t seem like a great idea, but the trade off is players can clean buildings of their neighbours instead to help them earn coins. Considering “neighbour duties” is the one area Social City is a little light, this offers a welcome change for those looking to play with friends.

Social games on the iPhone can be something of a challenge because, unlike Facebook, not everyone you know is on the device. Furthermore, just because they’re on the device doesn’t mean they’re going to be playing City Story. TeamLava addresses this fact by letting you not only visit your neighbors cities, but the cities of other players that you don’t actually know. For those looking to experience the social aspects of the game who might not otherwise have the iPhone-owning friends to engage with, this is a more than welcome feature.

The game offers universal support, meaning it works on both the iPhone and iPad with only one download, but the game doesn’t sync between both devices. If you’ve started a city on your iPhone and want to check on your factories later on with the iPad in your lap, it’s not going to work – you have to start a whole new city on each device. Considering how many social games can sync across devices and platforms, from FarmVille to We Rule, this is an oversight that’s simply inexcusable.

The game also features push notifications, but it seems to be hit and miss with when they decide to work. More often than not, my factories would produce goods and no push notification would be sent to let me know. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get some push notifications, but something like this should be an all-or-nothing proposition.

City Story

The only other real sticking point (asides from a lack of originality) is how few building types are available. City Story offers only 10 house types and 21 businesses. It sounds like a lot, but since these will be unlocked slowly over time it doesn’t provide too much variety in the early levels. Still – this is a nitpick that one can make about the launch of almost any social game. Considering the ongoing support and fresh content TeamLava has provided its previous effort Farm Story, there’s no reason to think that City Story‘s selection of buildings won’t double in the near future.

Presentation is a big strength in City Story, with gorgeously detailed pastel buildings filling your cities streets and a cheerful soundtrack filling your ears. TeamLava have proven themselves quite adept at taking the standard visual cues of their inspirations and improving upon their appearance, and City Story is no exception.

As a free iPhone game, City Story should easily satisfy the needs of gamers looking for a Social City style experience on the go – especially in light of what a disappointing showing the actual Social City had on the device. We would have liked to have seen more buildings and cross-device syncing, but these things may come in time. Even without such additions, City Story provides a perfectly competent Social City clone for the iDevice faithful.