What do you do when you want to make a city-builder style Facebook game in this day and age, just as CityVille 2 is about to be released? First of all, it helps to have an enormous brand as the base. Second, like most big time social game makers you not only have to think big, you have to look big. At the very least, Spooky Cool Labs more than accomplished the latter with The Wizard of Oz on Facebook.
Set in the events after whatever is going to happen in that new flick starring James Franco, The Wizard of Oz social game puts players into the ruby slippers of Dorothy Gale mere minutes after her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. From that moment, it's up to players to lead the Munchkins of Munchkinland as a newly free nation of sorts. Of course, that means there is plenty of rebuilding, resource gathering and redecorating to be done.
It's clever, how hey managed that tried-and-true play loop into The Wizard of Oz, but what's more impressive is the lengths that Spooky Cool Labs took to differentiate The Wizard of Oz on Facebook from the rest. Ultimately, it all boils down to polish. The Wizard of Oz is one of the most gorgeous, immersive city-building games on the network to date. While it couldn't hold a candle to what the current consoles has pulled off visually to date, The Wizard of Oz is a visual treat when stacked up against the competition.
Thanks to a special compass tool that can shift the perspective to be from nearly any angle, this romp through Oz boasts 3D visuals that provide a sense of depth not before seen in the city-builder category on Facebook. And that goes for everything from the environments to the characters. In fact, players can even walk around their version of Munchkinland from a Munchkin's point of view through the aptly-named Munchkin Cam feature.
Frankly, it's a feature that's been exclusive to traditional console and PC games for too long: We want to see more of this interactivity in Facebook games. (To date, we've only seen similar features in Tencent Boston's Robot Rising and Zynga's FarmVille 2.) The 3D also allows for more interesting, if very unlike The Wizard of Oz of 1939, diversions beyond the core loop.
Take Munchkin flinging, for instance (nope, this is not a bug). At any given point, players can click on a Munchkin citizen that is not currently assigned to work in a business or resource gathering building, lift it into the air by dragging and send it careening across the land by letting go. All city-building (and even farm-building) social games owe themselves to the god game genre, but The Wizard of Oz feels more like one than any to date on Facebook.
Here's both the benefit from and problem with that: To its benefit: The Wizard of Oz, if players can look past its saccharine imagery, is likely the next logical step from diversions like CityVille to experiences more like SimCity on Facebook. To its detriment, advancements like these could very well be lost on Spooky Cool Labs's target audience: the 35-to-55-year-old women (and men) that more than likely played their first god-like game with FarmVille. Even the term "god game" is likely to be alien to most of them. (This is even more the case with the various mini games in The Wizard of Oz, which are complete with flashy explosions and not the sort of humor you'd expect from a The Wizard of Oz property.)
If there's one thing working against The Wizard of Oz, it's that, in its focus on delivering more polish and interactivity than the FarmVille and CityVille crowd has ever seen in such a game, it didn't exactly exude the charm and whimsy of The Wizard of Oz that you likely remember from the classic film. (Though throwing in scenes from the original film helps a smidge.) That said, with an adventure that follows Dorothy down the Yellow Brick to Oz and beyond stuffed beside a daily city-building hook in engrossing 3D, The Wizard of Oz on Facebook is must see when it launches soon.
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