CityVille 2 on Facebook: This city-builder bites (and barks) back

CityVille 2
CityVille 2

CityVille 2, the sequel to the most popular city-building game on Facebook, released short after one of the most powerful hurricanes seen this side of the Atlantic battered the East Coast early last week. (In fact, the game was briefly delayed because of Sandy's effects on Zynga East in Baltimore, Md.) So, while it might just feel good to build something after witnessing all this destruction, that feeling isn't necessarily topical.

Zynga East has simply made the act of plopping buildings on the ground and building them up (and even supporting them afterward) feel more involved. But what makes building a city in the sequel more dynamic and interesting than in the original CityVille? Shallow as it may be, for one, it's those visuals.
CityVille 2 (excluding Facebook games using Unity) is one of the most gorgeous games on the platform to date. Rendered in full 3D, your city will only grow more lively and bustling from Level 1. Cars bounce along the roads you create, and shoppers dash out the homes that you click toward the businesses that you advertise. And you can watch the action from five different camera angles. There's real stuff going on down there, and you're pulling all the strings.

And that's number two: CityVille 2 makes you feel more involved in the process than most city-building games. For starters, little in your city will actually happen, rather than cars driving and people walking around, until you make it happen. This circumstance forces players into the core, which is to collect coins from businesses, supply those businesses, send residents out to go shopping at said businesses and advertise to make residents shop even faster. Once you set things in motion, your city becomes buzzing with activity.

CityVille 2 screens
CityVille 2 screens

But before you earn the coins or send the citizens shopping, each building or vehicle clicked will trigger a timing mini game that, if played well, will provide more bonuses. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but it creates a rhythm we haven't seen before in such a social game. Even random events like power outages or fires are resolved with the same rhythmic action. Keep this tempo up long enough, and you'll make your citizens happy, sending you into a fever mode of sorts cued by "Ode To Joy" and plenty of fanfare for more bonuses.

Of course, a similar event occurs every time you level up. Perhaps it's a cheap trick, but there's no denial that it doesn't work. Regardless, there's a synergy to the process of running a city in CityVille 2, which, when combined with the feedback it gives for certain accomplishments, makes for a more animated experience than ever before. But the icing on this cake is the story.

CityVille 2 review
CityVille 2 review

Sure, the original had a storyline, but CityVille 2 follows a plot, a narrative that unfolds as you progress centered around a case of arson. While it simply amounts to tasks of "gather 15 planks of wood" to see where the story goes, at least another motivator is there beyond that unbridled drive to progress. (Which, frankly, is rarely enough for this editor.)

If there were one flaw to lob, it's that Zynga has mastered the art of squeezing a buck out of you, or rather thinks it has. Of course, this isn't any different from before, but seemingly more zealous than before. After the first few levels, it's tough to get much of anything done in terms of quests without plenty of friends or some Golden Keys, the game's paid currency. That said, once Zynga begins promoting CityVille 2 more seriously and more folks begin playing, it could be easy to be drawn back in multiple times daily if only to look at your creation in motion.

Of course, features like live chat could turn CityVille 2 into an interactive instant messaging service and perhaps make getting that last item you need that much easier. At the end of the day, which you'll see multiple times in CityVille 2, this city-builder makes an all-too-familiar experience on Facebook feel new by incorporating visuals and play loops more indicative of traditional games in the genre. But frankly, it just feels good to build something again, more so here than it has in a long time.

Click here to play CityVille 2 on Facebook Now >

Are you digging CityVille 2 so far? What do you think of this approach to the tried-and-true city-builder experience on Facebook? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.