We began to notice the growth of city-building applications on Facebook this past winter, including titles like My City Life, Enercities, Tiny Town, Towner, NanoTowns and Social City. But one that has quietly been on our top growing charts is My Town from Broken Bulb Studios.
Not to be confused with the smaller mobile title of the same name from Booyah, My Town has a decent user base of around 3.6 million monthly active users and 663,000 daily active users, according to AppData. Considering how much we enjoyed Broken Bulbs prior title, Ninja Warz, it seemed worth a closer look.
The game starts out like any other social city-builder (well, sort of, but more on that later). Players are granted a fairly sizable starting space to build a town from and then it’s off to build houses, business, shops, and more. Players collect coins every couple of hours each of their structures, which becomes the primary form of income.
Obviously, this would make the game slow at the start, which more often than not becomes a key concern in many slow-burn titles. If you can’t make any significant headway early on, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay interested in a game. Luckily, this is not the case with My Town. The distance between levels is very well spaced out for new players, meaning that just as you are running low on cash, it’s level up time. This, in turn, grants you new buildings to construct, but also a chunk of cash. Couple this with the easy trophies one can earn (in the beginning anyway), and you can make a nice little town right from the get-go.
Another thing that helps is that many tiny decorations, basic streets, and sidewalks are free. A lot of city-builders charge for these, but even if you don’t want decorations, streets are a necessity for any nice looking town, it is obnoxious to have to pay for each chunk of pavement.
Among these mentioned free items, however, is one in particular that raises an interesting flag: Sidewalks. Yes, this is one of the few city builders that lets you build these. However, it’s not the sidewalks that’s interesting. No, it’s that they are tiny squares only a fraction of the size of the overall invisible grid everything is placed on (or perhaps there are just about a million super-tiny grids). My Town actually grants the user the ability to decorate their town with a very distinct level of detail.
Rather than just placing buildings and rotating them, players can, theoretically, build yards, parks, alleyways, and dozens of other nuances that are done automatically in other city games; nuances most of us take for granted. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a double edged sword at the moment, as such décor (streets, sidewalks, etc.) must be painstakingly placed one… tiny… tile… at a time, and it takes forever. It’s really just a usability issue, and not a game play one though. For long strips of road and sidewalk, one expects to be able to click and drag, having the game lay out the long strips for them along that path (like how you build walls in The Sims or roads in SimCity). Instead, it just moves the camera about.
Regardless, the style of the game does make up for this. Once you’ve taken the time to build everything out, your town will feel more unique and meaningful to you than it might in rival titles. Furthermore, with the style representative of something out of The Simpsons, the game is a nice change from all the realistic or anime-looking apps out there.
With that, there is only one more element to mention. Remember that “sort of” similar start up for the game? Well, unlike the others, the game teaches you to play with a very southern, voice-acted old-man mayor sort of guy. This is only the second time we’ve seen this much voice acting, with the first being in Playfish’s Gangster City, and we’re not sure how we feel about it. Certainly, it is a step towards higher levels of polish, but do players really need the instructions read to them? Especially with a simple app. Frankly, it feels like something better utilized for story elements, assuming a game has one.
Nevertheless, this isn’t really a complaint, and other than the current tediousness of building out some of the game’s smaller structures and decorations, My Town is pretty solid. Players have the ability to build things that other city games do automatically, and the art style is a nice change from the average. The game starts up quickly and plays steadily over time, and really the only thing we think it really needs… is some way to combine this with Ninja Warz. Yeah. A city of ninjas. Now that would be awesome.