When it comes to form, Facebook games sure have come a long way since Mafia Wars, but function is another story. JollyWood, Tecmo Koei's first serious outing on the platform, is a prime example of just that. Tecmo Singapore has crafted one fine-looking social game, animated introductions and all, but you'll see that JollyWood is just like the rest after even a few minutes of play. This isn't to say the game is poorly-made, we've just seen it far too many times before. (And unfortunately, we'll likely see it again.)
Fans of games like Hotel City will instantly recognize JollyWood and likely gravitate to it. And luckily for them, Tecmo has created the most polished and well-animated property management social game out there. It's too bad that this sub genre is stale. You'll begin your somewhat static adventure in a birch tree--after selecting your avatar, of course. (Though, the avatar doesn't appear to have much purpose.)
The game's tutorial will teach you how to place and build wooden platforms, connectors like ladders and bridges, and facilities such as libraries, arcades and food marts for your fellow animals to enjoy. Building these things costs Leaves, the in-game currency, and require Goods to function. The Goods come from sending worker bees on trips of varying length and yield, while each successful visit will eventually lead to more Tree Points, which are required to level up and unlock new items. This system creates a finely-tuned, if terribly familiar ecosystem.
Like all social games these days, a series of quests will guide you along in your daily routine, holding your hand into the next big item or feature. Completing these quests will result in extra Tree Points, Leaves and sometimes even Zest. This statistic isn't far off from Happiness in CityVille or other management games, which governs how many patrons visit your tree and how much they tip when leaving. However, to keep Zest levels high, you'll need to return to the game and play often. You can already see how the game hooks you--though the amount of actions you can perform at a time is limited by the all-too familiar Energy system.
Later on in JollyWood, you will embark on Expeditions, or missions that require friends to gather large amounts of Goods. More trees will become available over time, though we can't imagine those areas being much different. But don't be mistaken: JollyWood is one of the most adorable, beautifully-animated Facebook games we've seen this year. Not to mention that, when you've unlocked all the goofy connectors and facilities, just looking at all the animals frolicking through your tree is a treat. Regardless of its charms, this is the same old property management Facebook game wearing a designer suit.
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