Appearances can certainly be deceiving. When you first fire up Chillingo's Pixel People, you'll be forgiven for writing it off as a clone of one of NimbleBit's pixel-perfect creations, but while the art style certainly feels familiar, this is a very, very different game that also manages to bring something new - gasp - to the empire-building genre.
The core components of the world-building genre are certainly there. You need to set new building projects in motion, wait a little while for them to complete, introduce new citizens to the world, and just generally do as efficient a job as possible of keeping the money rolling in so that you can continue your endless program of expansion.
But there's an endless fascination to be hand from the people you bring into this pixellated world. Like NimbleBit's finest creations, you're trying to fit the right people to the right job, but there's a different element of strategy required here, and it's one built from some of the most enjoyable exploration of a mobile game's mechanics we've seen in some time.
Assuming you have enough housing to hold them, new visitors arrive in your world as mere clones - blank-slates for your expansion plans. In order to create new citizens, you need to splice up their genes, and you do this by combining two different genetic strands from two different categories. Under Administration, you might have a town Mayor or an Assistant for example. What do you get when you combine them with an Engineer or a Mechanic from the Technical category? Well, finding out half's the fun and we're promised there are around 150 different ones waiting to be discovered within the game.
What will be familiar to fans of this genre are the assorted currencies that are required if you're to make further progress. A currency called Utopium is the rarest and most valuable commodity, used to speed up building construction and cloning times significantly, while you slowly accrue the gold you need for building new facilities from your current industrial backbone. It goes without saying that you can buy more Utopium from the cash store, but if you're used to resisting these sorts of temptations, we don't think you'll have any problem getting a long way in Pixel People.
We wouldn't want to finish our review without making a special mention of the artwork in the game. As the title suggests, this is a heavily pixellated world but it's also a gorgeous and crisp one at the same time, with some extraordinary fine details in the animations of both the world and its inhabitants. The music, which veers from chilled out ambient noodlings to cheesy, lounge bar organ orchestra is infectious too, and adds a wonderful background to the game.
We thought we'd probably had just about enough of these sorts of games after last year's glut, but we think even the most jaded mobile gamer will fall in love with this pristine pixellated micro-sim. It's got charm in spades, depth of play and an awful lot of content to keep your fingers busy for a long time to come. As long as you don't mind the waiting game that inevitably accompanies these sorts of expansion-orientated titles, not to mention a rather steep learning curve to citizen creation, you've got one of the best examples of the genre to look forward to.
Review code provided by Chillingo
What's Hot:A wonderful citizen creation system is combined with fantastic art and music, not to mention a pretty generous progression system.
What's Not: It can be a little fiddly selecting the building you want.