Metropolismania: the first social networking game

MetropolismaniaSo Sim City wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  I feel so sorry for all those budding town planners and socialites hoping to get to know their citizens and build the utopian dream.  Where will they go now to fullfil their dreams?

Well dreamers, you’re in luck because the PS2 has just what you’re looking for.  Metropolismania and its sequel were nifty little Japanese budget titles where you are a town planner tasked with the ultimate goal of building a ‘metropolis’ that befits its citizens.  Sound pretty standard so far?  That has Sim City and Cities in Motion written all over it right?  Well in Metropolismania the town planner is a pretty hands-on kind of character.

Let’s pretend you live in a typical Metropolismania city.  You want a school for your adorable cartoon children?  Just let him know when he waltzes into your house unannounced.  Working with stakeholders is a key part of his job and he takes it very seriously.  In fact he spends most of his day calling and visiting his peeps, the ones written in his contacts book, just to make sure they’re okay.  And it is in this little black book, if you will, that he will find someone who happens to know someone in an adjacent town who is an expert at opening schools.  Even better she is looking at moving anyway and would just LOVE to help you grow your town!  How serendipitous!  At its heart and soul Metropolismania is a social networking game disguised as a town building game.  Sure you place houses, public spaces and business.  But you also obsessively visit people, gossip, inquire, and generally build up rapport with folk in the hopes that they will refer you to someone who can solve your problems.  And its this very strange gameplay that makes Metropolismania a strangely addictive experience.

Interacting with your citizens in Metropolismania isn’t complex.  There is no dynamic dialogue system. No measure of moral choice.  It is just a simple questions and answers gig.  But it is the things that come out of these whacky characters that makes it so darn charming.  They will regale you with such detailed descriptions of their lives – the way their wives spend all of their money, the way they love eggplant and how they are just so bloody fashionable.  Often inappropriate, the things that come out of these virtual people’s mouths are akin to something you’d hear from come from a politically incorrect uncle who thinks that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.  But they are so cliche and often so ‘wrong’ that its is almost compulsive.

Metropolismania and its sequel are budget titles that are almost indistinguishable from one another from a gameplay standpoint.  The second certainly looks prettier, sporting a cell-shaded aesthetic over the horrendous 3D models of the first game.  By in large though they are exactly the same game.  I’ll flat out say that they are not good games.  But they are entertaining games that will evoke a strange voyeuristic streak in you that compels you to disentangle the complex social weave that these virtual people have.  Consider it a way more fun and less pointless Facebook where you get to build a town while listening to stupid people complain.  Thats definitely one-up on Facebook.