Build a brighter tomorrow...on Facebook

I'm an armchair fan of SimCity, the flagship title of Maxis, an EA subsidiary. I've played it a fair bit, and would by no means call myself an expert, so it was with trepidation that I visited SimCity Social. Released in June 2012, its made a little bit of a stir at 3.8 million monthly users, but nothing that would make me think that its a completely new experience for Facebook gamers. Its nowhere near The Sims Social at 10.3 million monthly users...perhaps people are more social that we think, and would rather deal with their virtual playthings one on one...I'll delve into that psychological minefield in the near future, but until then, ahead with the SimCity Social review. It's the same set up as SimCity, as anyone would expect. Build a city, building by building, then look after it. That's the basic gist of it, but the aim is to have a happy city, and like any city, you have to deal with your fair share of problems. Within the first five minutes of game play, and alien ship crashes within the vicinity your glimmer of a little town. You must investigate the crash site by building a team of scientists out of your many Facebook friends. Instantly, this game becomes a challenge for anyone that doesn't have more than five friends who want to play the game with them. If, like me, you are surrounded with busy people who don't care if you're reviewing a game and need help to gain access to all of its features, you're stuck. As a social aspect, this is fantastic—its how social games should work—and it doesn't end there. Your fire department must have a fire-chief to work. Where do you find a fire-chief? Click 'Friends'..." city's burning...little Timmy keeps playing with matches." You are given a variety of tasks to complete from your town planning advisor, the lovely Kristy Brown—upgrade a factory, visit a mate's city, build a university—which are optional, but it will take you a long time to gain any experience points and advance levels if you choose to ignore her. Experience points come in the form of stars, which you are given with nearly every small task. A small task can be anything from waving to a neighbour to collecting 'Simoleons' from businesses. Each level replenishes your energy bar—a vital 'currency' that depletes once every time you perform a task. So already, that's 3 in-game currencies, and I haven't even mentioned building materials or the coveted diamonds yet. Simoleons are easy to keep hold of in the beginning stages, as with building materials, but as soon as they start to deplete, you have to either wait for 12 minutes or so while your businesses relieve your citizens of their cash, or spend a few diamonds to get some per usual, I would not recommend this. It's £63.48 for 900 diamonds; 3 of those gets you 2000 Simoleons. 1000 Simoleons gets you a pitiful diner, that barely pays for itself in one hour. Just be patient. Ask friends for diamonds if you really need them. Yes, there are special bonuses you can buy with diamonds, that are offered as a 'limited time' reward, but to be fair, you should just save them up for something really good. It may take you a few years though, as you get one diamond with each level, and I advanced 4 levels in about an hour. Energy is a bit of an annoyance. Like I said, you spend energy once at a time with each task, so when it comes to clearing the many trees that surround your fledgling city, you're going to be spent out before you can even begin expanding. Energy does replenish every few minutes or so, but it's a lot of time spent waiting around. And there's no undo button: I cleared a tree with an accidental click and lost my last energy point. I had to wait before I could collect from a business. It seems a bit silly that you have to spend energy points on everything you do. An example to illustrate this frustrating and time-consuming feature: you've levelled up, your 20 or so energy points are replenished, you spend 10 of those collecting vital currency from businesses—a pretty mundane, yet integral part of the game. See? It's not all bad, though. It's a game for the casual Facebook user. Or the casual gamer who doesn't think logging in every hour to check on their city constitutes to all know who you are. It's a game that should be played in short spurts. In an hour, your energy will have been completely replenished. Then the city is yours to upgrade or destroy, however you're feeling. And if some friend is annoying you, you can visit their city and create a little havoc, getting bits of currency and special can do nice things too, and I would suggest you probably don't go and ruin your fire chief's city, because they may just hand in their resignation. Then what are you going to do when a now teenage little Timmy falls in with a bad crowd?