Animal Land is a new city-building game from the American subsidiary of Japanese developer CyberAgent, whose other social games include Pico World, Tinier Cafe and Magical Saga. While similar in aesthetic to the company’s iOS title Animal Bakery, Animal Land is a Facebook-based game focusing on the larger-scale task of building a community rather than its iOS cousin’s restaurant management gameplay.
Game producer Saori Koizumi describes Animal Land as a “city management game where players must explore land, build houses and shops, and decorate their own city with trees and facilities to attract cute animal residents.” It is similar to established takes on the genre, including such well-worn mechanics as farming, stocking businesses using a finite “supplies” resource and gradually expanding the community’s borders. Players can build a variety of housing, businesses, farms and special structures by placing them on the map and then clicking several times to complete building. Businesses and housing generate income at a regular rate, while farming allows for the production of supplies, allowing the player to create a self-sufficient community.
The animal theme is used to power a “collection” aspect to gameplay. Different houses attract different animals to come and live in the player’s town, with each new animal being recorded in the in-game “Animal Book.” Completing pages of the book offers rewards which can’t be acquired in any other way.
Progression through the game is tied not only to collecting experience points and leveling up, but also to the construction of “community buildings,” which must be staffed with the player’s friends. Successfully building and staffing a community building such as a City Hall allows the player to increase the population limit of their city, thereby allowing them to construct more housing and increase their income further. As Animal Land is an entry into a highly saturated genre, CyberAgent America is likely hoping that this viral promotion mechanic will encourage greater numbers of people to try the game.
Animal Land’s monetization is entirely handled through Facebook Credits, which are integrated directly into the game as its hard currency. Credits can be spent on acquiring additional soft currency; purchasing limited-edition city decorations and instant-growth crops from the in-game store; acquiring Expansion Permits, required to increase the usable area of land; completing quest objectives without having to wait; and restocking energy. Facebook Credits can also be used to staff community buildings with virtual friends, allowing players to continue progression through the game by spending money if they don’t have enough friends playing.
CyberAgent America believes that Animal Land offers an unprecedented level of freedom in the crowded city-building genre. This is achieved in part by the fact that players are free to modify the land mass on which their city is positioned using an “Edit Land” tool. This lets players swap tiles between being either land or sea, allowing for the creation of customized play areas. Converting land to sea does not mean the player will lose the use of that land, either — available buildings are split roughly evenly between land and sea-based structures, so it’s a matter of personal taste — or a desire to complete the game’s many quests — that will determine whether a player wishes to make their community more land or sea-heavy.
“The impact of Animal Land on Facebook will be the huge degree of freedom each user can experience in designing their very own land with their friends,” explains Koizumi. “The quality of illustrations and the degrees of freedom users have is unlike none before.”