A town populated by cute anthropomorphic animals speaking some unintelligible language while going about their daily routines? What is this, Animal Crossing for iPhone and iPad? Not quite. While Godzilab's Happy Street shares similarities with Nintendo's more fully featured series, this free-to-play social time waster's special elements make it a treat for the casual crowd, regardless of whether they fork over some cash or pay nothing at all.
The name of the game here is aggressive expansion. That's because in Happy Street, the primary goal is to build and then customize your own town, complete with a thriving economy and housing for all those happy-go-lucky critters. The more dough they spend, the more options become available, giving you the choice of boosting the area's appeal with the help of a fruit stand, cheese market and tree house, among other services, though this barely scratches the surface of the game. It's all about making everyone happy, whether this involves giving them birthday presents or some apple juice.
Granted, it's a bit more complex than that. A handful of Happy Street's main characters supply what appears to be an endless stream of missions to complete, and these go far beyond offering someone a snazzy new hat or t-shirt. Most involve acquiring a specific building that produces supplies necessary to reach a goal. For example, one mission asks you to farm wood from the forest. From there, you must erect a workshop that'll fashion said wood into a bucket. Then, you head to the forest to create a water mill, and only then will you be able to fill the bucket with water. Then you have the complete opposite mission that simply tasks you with making a bird poop on people's heads. We kid you not.
By and large, you need gold coins to finish missions, and this is where the whole freemium aspect comes into play. Although gold is easy enough to acquire, the more complex buildings tend to be expensive, leaving you with the decision of putting the game down for a while and letting business 101 take its course (not a bad idea, really), or converting Flooz for more gold.
What's Flooz? Happy Street's unique form of currency that's extremely difficult to amass in large quantities unless you open your wallet. It's of key importance for buying more land (a must if you intend to grow the town) and speeding things up. If, let's say, it'll take an hour for a building to appear, parting with one or more Flooz will make it happen immediately. Granted, you don't need to do this to enjoy the game, but then again, instant gratification is a powerful thing.
As with most freemium titles, the decision to cough up some dough plays a huge factor in how easy it is to advance, and ultimately, whether you can play Happy Street for several minutes or hours a day. On the positive side, there always seems to be something, however miniscule, to do, and the developers don't beat you over the head with in-app purchases.
Now in addition to the single-player component, there's also a social element that gives you the opportunity to add friends (and earn more Flooz) through Facebook and visit their towns. Unfortunately, the game lacks the ability to wander around random people's creations, which is something we'd like to see Godzilab include in a future update.
As for Happy Town's presentation, it's very Animal Crossing like, albeit in 2D. The music's infectious and will get stuck in your head for days, while the characters and environments have a simplistic but effective cartoon style appearance. Interestingly enough, this works for and against the game, largely because we yearn to have conversations with these creatures to better understand their personalities, but no such option exists. Ultimately, it left us wanting more.
At the same time, Happy Street isn't necessarily trying to be Animal Crossing, and considering the low barrier to entry (and the wealth of missions), there's still enough meat on this game's bones to keep us entertained. To that we say, if you're looking for a game to whittle away the hours or need something for the kiddies, this charming title comes highly recommended.
What's Hot: Casual-friendly building sim with a variety of missions, relaxing music, simplistic and cute 2D graphics, mini-games, visiting friends' towns, free-to-play.
What's Not: Waiting for things, not being able to speak with all the animals, limited soundtrack.