Playfish’s Hotel City Opens Doors to the Facebook Gaming Public

Hotel City LogoEarlier in the week, we caught wind of Playfish’s coming title, Hotel City. At the time, the game was not actually available — just the beta stages, with little really known. However, we just got access. Here’s our review.

The game turns out to be very similar to our assumptions from a few days ago. Players are presented with a vertical cut-away of a budding hotel. Using a 2D interface, users are able to add new rooms of varying size to the overall structure, decorate them, and hire friends, as they attempt to build a growing hotel business. Obviously, there is a lot more to Hotel City than these generalities, and frankly, each element contains a fair amount of depth; affecting various parts of the game.

With any business-oriented title, income is always the most important. As expected, money is earned by having guests stay for a period of time within one of your guest rooms. Like any hotel, the amount earned is directly dependant on the size of the room being occupied. So, should a guest stay in, for example, the smallest “Budget Room,” they’ll pay one coin upon leaving. If they stay in the larger “Small Room,” they will pay three coins. Curiously, guests will stay in larger rooms for longer, so while they pay more money to stay in them, you go through more customers, faster, with smaller ones.

Hotel CityThis actually makes for an interesting player choice that goes beyond larger rooms simply taking up more physical space. Does one try to use many small rooms and rely on high numbers of guests? Or do players attempt to go with quality over quantity? Either business model is viable, which is nice, but likely, most players will choose to build a fair number of the larger rooms due to the greater screen real estate available for decorations.

Like an older hotel game, Chinese title, Happy Hotel, décor is for more than just visual expression. In Happy Hotel, decorating a room leads to a higher cost of renting it for guests. However, in Hotel City, the level of quality your room is at directly affects the star rating your overall hotel receives (just like in real life).

Each room has an experience bar of sorts. As players add new items such as wallpaper, shelves, lamps, and so on, the bar fills up. As you completely fill up these bars, the star rating of the entire hotel gradually increases. Since hotels are only rated from one to five stars, the leveling of this rating appears to be invisible most of the time. Likely, the increase in star rating is exponential, and will require many fully decorated rooms to earn the maximum star rating. Currently, we are stuck at three.

Star RatingAs one might expect, the rating is directly linked to the number of guests that come to visit your hotel, so earning a high one is prudent. Unfortunately, building a hotel is a most expensive endeavor, and you only earn money from patrons so quickly. Thankfully, there are a few ways to increase profits.

Hiring your friends is the most effective long-term method to save on cash. However, in order to hire a friend, they must currently play Hotel City – a surprising change from Restaurant City which did not require them to. Luckily, if you don’t have friends who play as well, the game hires temporary staff computer players to work for a fee. It’s not a tremendous amount, but you must specify just how long they will work and pay all their wages in advance. Once the shift ends (which you can set to be anywhere from two to 48 hours), the hotel will close and a new shift will have to be started.

Another curious means of earning some extra money is by actually poking sleeping guests. You can only do it once per guest; try not to think about how weird that actually is. Nonetheless, sometimes nothing will happen; other times, they will get up, pay, and leave early; and other times, they will leave you a couple hundred coins.

Apparently, the game will also allow for the virtual currency Playfish Cash in addition to the ability to sell back items you bought. Unfortunately, as the game has just gone live and is in early beta, the virtual currency is currently unused and the sell back feature unavailable.

Commercial RoomsNow, in regards to the elements that are active, one of the best ones has to be the attempt to satisfy the customers. As each guest comes into the hotel, they will tell you what they want, and as the player increases in level (done passively as guests visit your hotel), they will demand more and more niceties. Some will ask for more décor, others will want a gym, and still others may want a night club or bar. These rooms are usually quite large, but will offer areas for multiple guests to enter and pay for.

Beyond the social element of hiring friends, players are also able to keep track of each other’s progress via the standard leaderboard system. As you’d expect, these can also be used to visit your friend’s hotels and earn a little bit of extra cash, daily, by clicking on a money bag that happens to by lying around. Granted, this doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, and doesn’t really seem justified, but extra income is still extra income.

Overall, the game play complaints for Hotel City are currently minor, with the only significant one being the awkward scrolling the player has to do to see more of where they can place buildings. Beyond this, most of the characters feel very robotic in their movements and the staff does absolutely nothing except stand there. Moreover, the general art style seems a bit too cartoony. While prior Playfish games have incorporated a cartoon style, Hotel City seems almost like something from a bad Saturday morning cartoon. You will either love it or hate it.

More HotelsOf course, most of these complaints are merely early beta issues, and many of them will likely see new iterations and fixes later down the line. In fact, the only legitimate disappointment, beyond the overlaying visual style, lies in the 2D interface. The isometric views and aesthetic value in games like Restaurant City was phenomenal, and while 2D works for something like Pet Society, when the users has a building filled with dozens of tiny rooms, it just starts to feel a bit… cluttered.

Visual complaints aside, Hotel City still makes for a fun experience. Furthermore, with its concept of having multiple rooms, many players will probably rejoice in the ability to more easily create a variety of styles to suit their tastes. Granted, there are minor issues here and there, but knowing Playfish, these will be hashed out sooner rather than later. That said, if you’re looking to feed your inner interior decorator, than this is an app you should check out… err… check in….