Disney City Girl is a life simulation Facebook game from Disney Playdom. It first came out in November, and has been showing up on the Emerging Facebook Games charts recently. It’s also available to play on Playdom’s web portal.
Disney City Girl casts players in the role of a girl who has graduated from college and decides to move to New York in an attempt to make something of her life. There is no option to play as a male character — unsurprising, given the title, but there is very little in the game that is not relevant to both genders. It is therefore somewhat surprising to see Playdom limiting its audience like this — the game is clearly heavily inspired by The Sims, which ably caters to players of both genders and all sexualities rather than limiting itself to the narrow stereotype of the shopping-obsessed girl.
It would not have been too much of a stretch for the game to be called something along the lines of “Disney City Life” and provide the ability for both genders to represent themselves as they saw fit, but sadly it is not to be, it seems. According to the developers, this is because the “paper doll” mechanic of dressing up an avatar is supposedly more popular with female players, and that female avatars get more interesting clothing. While this may well be true, it seems unnecessarily exclusionary and feels like pandering to stereotypes.
The game takes heavy cues from The Sims in its gameplay as well as its theme. The player character has a series of “needs” represented at the top of the screen, and these must be satisfied in order to perform certain actions. Keeping needs high turns the player character “dazzling” — similar to The Sims Social’s Inspired condition — which unlocks additional actions and bonuses. If needs drop too low, the player character will refuse to perform certain actions. The character will also refuse to perform the same action too many times in a row, preventing mindless grinding to a certain degree. Interacting with various items around their apartment rewards the player with experience points, currency and items that often have very little to do with the object that was interacted with. Going to sleep in a bed, for example, frequently rewarded me with a washer; using a computer to play games rewarded inexplicably rewarded me with song lyrics. Certain items also allow the player to improve their skills in areas such as cooking, charisma and music.
The player is guided through the game’s possibilities through a series of quests. This to-do list shows the player how to redecorate their apartment, buy new items, go to work, unlock additional activities at work and go shopping. They also offer regular rewards, which help the player to level up and be able to afford more expensive items.
A key part of Disney City Girl’s gameplay is inspired by the numerous “fashion games” in the mobile and social sectors. Every item of clothing the player character wears has a certain “points” value for various different types of outfit — everyday, active and so on — and certain tasks require that the player be wearing an outfit of a particular type of over a certain number of points. Certain jobs also provide bonuses to their payments if the player is wearing the correct type of outfit. This helps encourage the player to keep spending in-game currency on clothing items as they progress through the game.
Social features in the game are relatively conventional for the most part. Players may visit their friends who are also playing the game and develop their relationship statistic with one another. Having a higher relationship with a friend means that additional actions may be performed in their house, but unlike The Sims Social these interactions are only ever positive in nature — there is none of the comic mischief found in EA’s title.
A “daily look” contest encourages players to show off their best outfits and vote on other players’ creations according to a particular theme. Having a higher relationship value with a particular person means that your vote counts for more if you choose them in this aspect of gameplay, so those who get really into the outfit creation side of things will find it beneficial to make a variety of friends among the player base.
Besides these features, the game regularly requires that players bug their friends for various resource items. One of the most frustrating aspects of The Sims Social — furniture items that had to be “built” by requesting the help of several friends — is present and correct here, and it is still extremely annoying to not be able to use your new fridge because apparently your character is unable to take it out of the box by herself. Several quests also require that friends provide items in order to progress — this is a staple of social gameplay, but it is an increasingly outdated mechanic that is starting to turn off more and more players, particularly those who are hesitant about spamming their friends with requests and notifications.
Disney City Girl is quite heavy on the share spam anyway, as every time the player levels up, improves a skill or completes a quest, they are prompted to share this news on their Timeline. The game does not remember the player’s preference as to whether or not they would like to share anything, either, meaning that every time one of these frequent popups appears, the Share box must be unticked. It’s a small annoyance, but when you have to do it several times in the space of a few minutes, it magnifies the frustration factor considerably.
Ultimately, Disney City Girl is a reasonable quality game, and is certainly presented very well with its polygonal characters and good animation. It feels rather soulless, though, and corners have clearly been cut in quite a few places. Early in the game, the player supposedly throws a party, for example, but there is no visual depiction of other characters in the apartment — just the oddly tragic sight of the player character singing karaoke to herself in an empty room. There’s none of the cheeky humor that characterizes the Sims series, and the characters that do help tell the flimsy story of the game are all broadly-drawn stereotypes rather than interesting people.
In short, there’s potential for a good game here, but it needs a bit of work before it can be realized. Whether or not it will be realized — and how the community as a whole will respond to it — remains to be seen.
Disney City Girl is currently in the 100,000+ MAU tier (rank 2,048) and the 10,000+ DAU tier (rank 1,695). Further information on Facebook’s new tier-and-rank system for application data reporting may be found here, and you can continue to follow the game’s progress withAppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
Already a reasonable-quality Sims-alike, but a somewhat soulless feel and irritating social features prevent this from being a “must-play” right now.