Bigger than a Bodega, More Miniscule than a Mall, My Shops Personalizes Facebook Sims

The rate of new simulation releases on Facebook shows no signs of slowing. Instead, the genre seems to be metastasizing into every possible niche: malls, resorts, hospitals, bakeries and a dozen commercial activities are all possible. Rather than pigeonhole you into a single theme, Pretty Simpl’s new title My Shops lets you choose the type of shops you’d like to manage.

My Shops begins with the fast and furious experience of running a bakery. Each shop has a pyramid of pre-assigned customers. In the case of the bakery, you start with four whimsically-named Nice People whose every baking desire you must satisfy by keeping up to eight different types of goods in stock and ensuring the building meets the “Beauty” standards of the more finicky shoppers.

Goods are kept in stock by sending delivery trucks out. The more expensive the item, the longer it takes. Successively larger trucks can be built by asking friends to send parts or by purchasing the items with Cash, My Shop’s micro-currency. Having the item in stock will earn coins, the in-game currency used to purchase further stock or upgrades to the building to increase its size or Beauty.

Increasing the Beauty of a particular shop (including a cake shop, pet store, clothing store, and candy shop, plus five as-yet-unannounced slots) is where My Shops truly shines — and where it also begins its uphill climb towards drudgery.

Each shop has a level associated with its size, with expansions of width or height unlocked by ever-increasing expenditures of Coin. This allows the shop to carry more goods and gives the player the ability to modify the exterior of the building to reach different Beauty goals.

There are a dizzying array of options to expand, starting with the shape of the building. Three components have set placements: roofs, building shape, and doors (so that the hefty customer Chuck Morris can get in) but you can have two roofs and five doors. Free placement makes for an architect’s playground (or nightmare) with 15-45 choices in outside decorations, wall decorations, windows, signs, doors, and wall materials.

Themes exists for each type of shop and once purchased can be used on other shops – who says a cupcake isn’t an appropriate wall decoration for the pet store? There are also themes within the options – Japanese, haunted, igloo, Hawaiian – to build your shop just so.

But with Beauty a requirement for new customers and the function of beauty based upon the amount spent, not any combination of theme, it quickly becomes expensive to make your customers happy. The player learns very quickly that no bonuses are given for using a particular theme, and only the simple outlay of coin (and particularly real cash) that will satisfy the next customer. This detracts from any true ability to be creative with the store fronts.

Your social network has no real bearing on success or failure, except possibly to speed up the arduous process of leveling to buy the next shop for a prodigious outlay of coin. Experience levels are based upon the Love your visitors have for your shops, which you click them to receive. But this is based on a timer, so the best one can hope for is to visit every two hours, order more goods if necessary and click 18-25 customers.

Once every 24 hours, you can also click a friend to earn 500 coins and some love. Beyond this, there’s no direct social interaction — no working in the shop, earning the friend additional experience, nothing. Friends can gift, and this is the only way — other than cash — to purchase upgrades for delivery trucks. But friends interact so little that the discussion boards are rife with links to trade truck parts.

Other than the ability to customize your shop into an abomination of loveliness, My Shops does have one of the best UIs I’ve come across in a Facebook title. It is clean, friendly and fast. Not only is it easy to get to the information needed, but there are multiple pathways, most achieved with one click. And as should be required in any half-way decent economic simulation, there are graphs comparing sales on the street, by shop, by week and by month. Again, these are all user-friendly and easily accessible.

But despite its great design, from the tutorial onward, My Shops is balanced in such a manner that it is difficult to earn the very large sums of coin needed to advance in any reasonable time frame. One must either buy more coin or grind all day, hoping never to make a mistake, miss a delivery time, or upset a customer. If this balance is fixed, My Shops do quite well, with a level of personalization and accessibility unique to Facebook.