Raise The Village — A Virtual One on the iPhone, and A Real One, Too

Social games are no stranger to charities. From floods to the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, developers have successfully contributed money, not just entertainment, to the world. Well, New Charity Era, L3C is looking to emulate such results, and then some, with an entire game for the iPhone dubbed Raise The Village.

Using a combination of farming and city-building elements, Raise The Village takes the familiar and transforms them into a charitable form of game play. From food to soap, players build up an African village, but as they do so, are granted the opportunity to contribute to an actual village in Uganda, Africa, called Kapir Atiira.

If Raise The Village had to be classified as any sort of game, it would most closely resemble a city-builder.. erhm… village-builder. The idea behind it is to grow and build up a simple, yet self-sufficient, African village. Doing so, requires more than just money, however, as players must construct buildings and complete tasks that will bolster not only population but the spirits, minds, and health of the villagers.

This might sound like a lot to manage, but it’s really quite simple. Each building constructed will provide some form of activity or action that will boost one of the noted stats. Each of the three latter aspects (spirit, mind, and health) are represented by a simple progress bar. Of course, since the majority of tasks that do so take a couple hours at their shortest, not choosing wisely tends to led to lengthy waits as there is no clear way to cancel an activity that has already begun.

Many of these activities also require an in-game currency dubbed “VP” to complete. In many cases, there will be a profit to be had (à la farming), but in others, the reward might be something such as population. This is also important, as it appears to be a requirement to boosting one’s title in game, such as becoming a “Villager,” which, when combined with level, acts as the primary gating mechanism behind buying new buildings.

Of course, the real story behind Raise The Village isn’t the core game play, but rather the benefit of it: The charity. Free to play, this iPhone app runs on a virtual currency called Florins. When in game, items that are purchased with Florins are sent to the Ugandan village noted above. Some items come in the form of decorative trees, while others are part of the different village activities.

As noted prior, these activities stem from each specific building in the game and can boost the various stats. However, some are deliveries of actual items that, when purchased, will actually be sent to Uganda. As an example, an easy purchase might be a simple piece of soap. Once done, users will be able to visit their profile and see its delivery status. Furthermore, upon its arrival, they will be able to see new photos of the village itself within a gallery that grows with every contribution.

In fact, this profile is the central aspect of Raise The Village’s social elements. As like other virtual space games, it allows for the inviting of friends to play, as well as leaderboards that show all registered players. Unfortunately, the game isn’t too clear on what one can do with friends, and it’s not possible to visit the villages within the leaderboards either. That said, such things are likely to change as time goes on.

Clarity, frankly, is the biggest complaint to be had with Raise The Village. It is hard to be critical of a game with such a noble cause, but it does have to be said that the app tends to throw all of the game features at the user at once, and never references them again. It’s nothing earth shattering, as the game is not hard to learn at all, but it does leave a few wonderings as to what users can and cannot do. A perfect example, is whether or not photographs received can be shared. We’re assuming yes, as there is a Facebook Connect feature for inviting friends, but it will be some time until our photos come back.

As for any other aspects to Raise The Village worth mention, none of the activities one can perform in-game are mere images with a blurb of text. Each of them give a decent amount of information, with actual photographs, about that activity and its importance in the village. New Charity does try hard to educate the user about life in Uganda, and for many, it will be eye-opening information.

Overall, Raise The Village is a decent game for virtual space lovers, with a noble cause. From a gaming perspective, it isn’t the greatest city-builder on the market – with a handful of kinks and quirks – but it’s the only one, we know of at the moment, dedicated to helping out other human beings. For that alone it should be commended and is more than worth a try. Free to download on the iPhone, it’s an app that makes even one virtual item purchase goes a long way.