Race 4 My Place review

Race 4 My Place is a new Facebook game from PopRox Entertainment. The game has been delayed several times, but PopRox’s CEO Mike Gramling has been keeping prospective players informed of development progress via its official Facebook Page — something which the community appears to have responded positively to. As of Feb. 4, 2013, the game is now available for all to play.

Race 4 My Place is a citybuilder with a few key differences from the usual format. The big “unique selling point” of the game is that it offers real-world prizes for completing certain in-game achievements, known as “Contracts.” The grand prize among those currently available is the chance to get a mortgage payoff worth up to $200,000, or a cash option of up to $100,000, and this will be awarded at the beginning of June of this year. There are also monthly game console and iPad giveaways, and weekly smaller prizes of gift cards for various establishments. Each of these Contracts requires the player to accept their terms and conditions before they are eligible, and then some specific in-game objectives completed to enter them into the drawing for the relevant prize.

Race 4 My Place’s gameplay is very simplistic. Players place down residential buildings to increase their city’s population, and businesses to produce goods or earn money. All buildings are constructed immediately rather than forcing the player to wait for hours, but each costs a particular amount of energy to construct. Energy is not restored upon leveling up, which consequently means that the player will inevitably run out of it very quickly. However, herein lies another of Race 4 My Place’s subversions of the usual social game format — there are no in-app purchase options.

In any place where other social games would ask for hard currency to perform specific tasks — restoring energy, finishing buildings, acquiring additional soft currency — Race 4 My Place instead relies on video advertisements. Energy can be partially restored by watching an ad, buildings can be staffed by watching an ad, even additional soft currency can be earned by watching an ad. In some cases — staffing buildings and earning currency — requests can be sent to friends instead, but for those who do not know anyone else playing, the game quickly becomes a very ad-heavy experience, with gameplay regularly grinding to a halt for yet another pop-up video advertisement. It’s not a bad idea per se, but the pacing feels completely off, as even early in the game the player spends almost as much — if not more — time staring at advertisements than actually interacting with their city. Not only that, but we encountered a glitch where we couldn’t exit out of the ad window after the video had played more than once. It’s clear that the system has been implemented in this manner to allow everyone to be on a level playing field when it comes to the prize draws rather than favoring those with the deepest pockets, but the ad-heavy nature of the experience as it stands now is likely to put a lot of players off.

The fact that the game itself isn’t really very deep doesn’t help, either. Beneath the allure of the prize draws lies a very conventional citybuilder with rather poor graphics, dreadful character design, repetitive music (which, to its credit, can be switched between four different genres or turned off altogether) and not a lot in the way of personality. The early quests are badly-paced, requiring players to perform far too many repeats of a single task to progress, and there is very little incentive to endure the extremely basic gameplay save for the promise of the generous prizes. The game doesn’t appear to particularly grow in complexity as the player increases in level, either — higher-level buildings simply provide larger amounts of income per hour rather than opening up any new gameplay features, and without the tempting nature of premium buildings, there’s little for players to aim for or want to show off to their friends.