CityZen on Facebook struggles to stand outside CityVille's shadow

CityZen in action
Look, Metamoki, we know you felt burned when Zynga took Mob Wars and spun it into Mafia Wars, one of the most successful social games to date. (And rightfully so.) And now they've done it again with CityVille, which released months after CityZen. CityZen is the second and latest game to come from Metamoki, and while it appeared long before CityVille, it cannot be helped but to look at the game from underneath Zynga's shadow. However, CityZen does introduce some interesting features like commute proximity when building homes and businesses, things CityVille would do well to learn from it. Unfortunately, its lack of conveniences and heavy polish that are easily found in CityVille only emphasize the shadow cast.
CityZen building proximity
Aside from the omission of Goods and focus on even distribution of homes and businesses, CityZen doesn't do much else to stand out from its better established ... inspiration. If you've played CityVille, this game will come as second nature. Players must build businesses and homes in conjunction to create a thriving city. However, every business is directly employed by the population that each home provides--a business will generate money automatically after its employees are assigned. Each business covers an area in which, if homes are placed there, employees from those homes will provide a production bonus. This is the most interesting mechanic in CityZen because it adds a thin layer of realism, and it's something Zynga can learn a great deal from. In fact, the company is probably working on an "adaptation" of it as we speak.

Of course, players are governed by Energy and can visit their friends to provide bonuses. You can even build Landmarks inspired by real-life monuments--another feature snagged by CityVille. But instead of requiring players to fill the staff of their buildings with friends, CityZen gives you the option of introducing players into your city through hiring them as managers. This will increase your business's productivity by a whopping 25 percent and score both of you $5 thousand. Yet there is always a catch: If your friend doesn't visit your city every day, they'll be fired immediately. Although it's not as expansive as even the broken Franchise system in CityVille, it is unique and perhaps more user-friendly than constructing buildings in other city-building games.

CityZen upgrading
Despite the few attempts that Metamoki makes to stand CityZen outside of its competitor's shadow, this game can't help but be darkened by it. It's a shame too, because if not for Zynga, CityZen could grow beyond its limitations and become popular. If you're interested in seeing one of CityVille's many "inspirations" on its road to glory, give the game a shot and decide for yourself which is better.

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