Playdom has launched yet another Facebook title in roughly a week’s time. The game is Fanglies, and unlike the sim-style Pet Resort that was built in tandem with Purina, it takes that genre of sim games and marries them with the somewhat different city-building approach. Oh, and everyone is apparently a vampire.
Well, to be fair, it never specifically states the Fanglies are vampires, but they do have some vampiric fangs. It’s a sim game oriented around building a nice village for a populace of anthropomorphic critters. However, unlike the more impersonal city-builders, these creatures are much more in the face of the user, with each having their own personality of distinct wants and needs. It gives the app a level of personalization that other games simply do not have. At the same time, the current build, while having a number of interesting features, has a number of other elements that seem pointless, or at least falling short of full potential.
Players start out on a small plot of land with their own custom character (Fangly?). Right off the bat, the game becomes interesting as there is more customization to be had beyond just aesthetic clothing. Users can actually build a personality for their avatar by selecting up to three likes and dislikes, but more on that in a bit.
After character creation is complete, the game walks you through basic mechanics. It’s all fairly familiar as players place various houses and decorations to make their virtual space more appealing. All well and good, yes, but in order to earn revenue, the player must construct a number of shops.
Gated by level requirements, this is actually the next major point of interest, as shops construct any number of decorative items for both indoors and out. As per usual, the bigger and more an item sells for, the longer it takes to build, but players do not actually have to sell the finished product. They can actually choose to keep it for their own village, rather than have to buy it. Sadly, there appears to be no way to send these directly as gifts (though one can still send preset gifts).
As was noted, players are also able to decorate the interior of their avatar’s main home – their “den.” So far, it doesn’t appear to do much beyond being fun to decorate, but there is at least one functional item – the stove – that players can utilize.
Every action in the game costs energy, and to replenish it, either time or food (which can be gifted or bought with virtual currency) is required. However, the stove allows players to cook food of their own; more or less the same way that one can plant crops in Zynga’s Treasure Isle. Energy also becomes prudent to keep up, as there are a lot of actions to be had.
As players level up and expand their village, they can add more Fanglies to it, that they can control. Each one has a very distinct personality , and their own set of actions to be performed in order to keep them happy. For example, the first character acquired is crafty old Mr. Coppercoal who enjoys scheming and shaking his fist at the world. Unfortunately, while the game states that these actions “make them happy,” they really only provide experience and a little coin, along with a short animation.
One energy-using aspect that is more tangible, however, is the prospect of collection. Periodically around the village (and den), sparkling motes of water, piles of sand, cracks in the ground, and so on will appear. Using another treasure hunting mechanic, players can use energy to fish, mine, or otherwise search these areas for “treasures.” There aren’t a whole lot to collect at the moment, –fossils, fish, and shells – but when a collection is complete, it can be sold for a small reward. Moreover, each item can be wish listed, so it appears friends can share their treasures amongst themselves.
There is another prospect to keeping the various Fanglies happy as well. Everything the player builds, the Fanglies will either like or dislike, which is shown by a thought bubble when they approach an object. This applies to other Fanglies as well. If their likes and dislikes are too different, they will not like each other either. In truth, this personality feature is fantastic as it dramatically affects how the avatars move about — depressing, energetic, or sinister.
The only downside to the idea of happiness and personality is clear, tangible measurability. There’s no clear way to discern how one’s characters feel overall; only when they immediately approve or disapprove of something. It seems affect their demeanor, as our character began moping about at one point, though it is still unclear as if this was due to environment, lack of attention, other avatars, or personality choices. We don’t want him being all depressing, but we’ve also no clue how to fix it.
Beyond not being able to see how everyone is feeling, there doesn’t really seem to be a point to trying to keep one’s Fanglies happy. There is no real penalty or benefit. It’s a shame, because it feels like the happiness/personality feature falls short of its potential without it. Being able to make meaningful choices in a game is the mark of a great game compared to one that is merely good. Without this inclusion, the Fanglies are still interesting to watch, but it’s more or less like observing fish in an aquarium. It gets old when they’ve approved or disapproved the same tree about 100 times.
On the social end of things, Fanglies is pretty solid. Aside from what has already been noted, players are able to visit each others’ dens and villages to view progress, and help out with the standard “help out” prompt that earns a small bit of coin. Currently, however, this appears to be bugged as players can do this multiple times a day (usually, in other games, it is once per 24 hours). It is also worth mentioning that friends’ avatars can be controlled as well; though not much can be done beyond walking around and looking at objects.
Friends are also needed to construct certain shops and structures (e.g. a dinner) by contributing gifts such as “elbow grease.” In addition to this, they are also needed to expand one’s village and den as well. Unfortunately, this means that if the player can’t get friends to play, they are a bit limited. It’s not a big deal for the den, but if one can’t expand the village, their population of Fanglies remains quite small, and less interesting.
Nevertheless, the complaints to be had with Playdom’s Fanglies are minimal. Really, the only qualms is a missed addition to the very cool personality and happiness feature. If players could have more tangible means of viewing their character’s happiness, along with it’s level being rewarding or penalizing, it would make a fantastic feature even better. Regardless, as a decorative-simulation sort of game, Fanglies certainly stands out with its level of intimacy with the avatars.