Party Place (iOS) review

Party Place is a new iOS release from Zynga. It appears to be an attempt to reuse the characters from the company’s flagging Facebook game The Ville in a different style of game — this time one which doesn’t bear quite so much of a resemblance to The Sims, though the focus is still on interpersonal relationships.

There is no real “goal” as such in Party Place, much like Zynga’s other titles — the aim is simply to become as popular and rich as possible. This is achieved in a couple of different ways — purchasing new items with which to outfit the player’s house, and causing “drama” at parties.

After the player has designed their character — who may be given a custom name, age and city of residence — they are then thrown into an initial tutorial to introduce them to the game’s main mechanics, starting with partying and drama. In order to cause drama, the player must spend their “mojo” (energy) points on friendly, mean or romantic interactions with other party attendees to build up the relevant relationship types. Once they have built up relationships with one or more of the other party attendees, the player may use their somewhat sinister social manipulation skills to drag attendees on to each other (or onto the player’s avatar) and cause a special interaction based on the two respective relationship types. The player is then rewarded with soft currency. One mark of progress through the game is how many different types of “drama” the player has caused, with the interface tracking the various different combinations of relationships and the interactions they can trigger.

Between parties, the player can remodel their house by purchasing furniture and other items, and restore their “mojo.” Unlike a conventional energy system, mojo does not automatically restore over time — instead, the player must make use of items in their house that restore it in various quantities. These are all thematically appropriate — for example, sleeping, watching television or eating snacks from the fridge all help restore mojo. Mojo-restoring items all have a “cooldown” before they can be used again, effectively throttling play after the player has run out of mojo and made use of all their items. Again unlike a conventional energy system, though, the player may, finances permitting, purchase large quantities of mojo-restoring objects to ensure that they can always refresh themselves if they manage their cooldowns effectively.

There’s a strong focus on social play in Party Place. Attendees at other parties are drawn from the player base, and as well as interacting with them “in character,” it’s possible to add them as “community neighbors” — though there is a limit on how many others the player may add like this. It’s also possible to connect with Facebook to find friends — somewhat disconcertingly, this seems to replace your character name with your real name from your Facebook profile, even after stating clearly on the character creation screen that you should not use your real name. It’s not made clear to the player whether their real name is shown to other players who are not their Facebook friends.

Once friends have been added — three “fake friends” are given to the player initially — the player may then visit their parties at any time in an attempt to “mingle” with other guests and add them to their neighbors. There’s also a chat facility, allowing users to send messages to each other, providing a degree of real-time interaction not normally seen in social games like this. Somewhat confusingly, it is also possible to “chat” with the “fake friends” provided upon starting the game, though sadly there are no Boyfriend Maker-style automatic responses from “Paige,” “Nate” and “Party Steve.”

Party Place is off to a reasonable start — the focus on social interactions and “drama” is amusing, but exactly what you’re supposed to do at any one point in the game is somewhat ill-defined, despite a quest system giving recommended objectives. It ends up feeling a bit aimless, with the player simply grinding relationships during parties in an attempt to collect as many different types of “drama” as possible — there’s no real sense of depth or meaning to the social interactions, leaving the whole experience feeling a bit empty, particularly if the player doesn’t have any Facebook or community friends playing regularly. It’s one to watch, for sure, but far from being an essential download just yet.

As a new release, Party Place is not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

Wait

Interesting idea, but needs a significant amount of fleshing out to become a “must-play” title.

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