If we could harness the energy of all the screen taps of all the players of Pixel People, we’d have enough power to light up the planet for the rest of our lives. This is a game that can turn normal people into screen-tapping addicts, always waiting for their next fix. It’s a beautiful, rich, tremendously appealing game that even skeptics of the freemium model ought to try.
At the start of the game, you learn that some disaster has exploded planet Earth and wiped out all of humanity with it. Your job in Pixel People is to clone a new society from scratch and give them a city to live in. The game seamlessly melds together two different genres: the element-combining puzzle (like Doodle God) and the city building sim (like FarmVille or many other freemium games out there). The result is something special.
To populate your city, you have to splice together clones. Clones are identified by their professions, and by combining two compatible clones, you create a new clone with a new job. For instance, if you splice together a sheriff and a landscaper, you wind up with a park ranger. If you combine an architect with an artist, you get an interior designer. It can be a lot of fun to see which jobs you can create by combining vastly different occupations.
Each time you create a new job, the building that goes along with the job is also unlocked. So once you make a cheerleader, you can build a stadium. New buildings can be placed wherever you want, so as you progress, you shape the look and feel of your town. In addition to buildings, you can make things like parks, roadways, and extraterrestrial trees like Jupiter junipers and Plutonian pines.
All of your buildings then generate coins for you. When the game gets going, your town looks like a fireworks display of spinning coins and numbers, with your available money growing every second.
But like all good things, your income slows to a crawl if you don’t give the game your attention. Soon lightning bolt icons appear on your buildings, and they stop producing currency until you tap them again. The trees you plant also generate currency, and you have to tap it to collect. Hearts appear on your clones’ homes, and when you touch them, they gradually fill up a meter that gives you a random gift when it’s full.
It all amounts to a whole lot of mindless tapping that can eat up hours of your time if you have nothing else to do, or if you’re putting off doing something actually productive. You’ll want to keep earning coins, because it costs lots of money to expand your land– something you need to do to keep creating new jobs. At its worst, the game can seem like a beast that feeds on your attention.
That said, there’s a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction to be found here. Unlike some freemium games, there’s a little bit of strategy behind earning coins. If your city has a bank, then you’re rewarded for having buildings that are fully staffed with clones of certain professions. Finding a balance between earning and spending the two kinds of currencies lets you keep expanding your city without spending a dime of real money.
Even when you hit the freemium wall that slows down your progress– which happened to us after a few days of frequent playing– you can still find things to do. You can tap away at the icons as you watch TV, or move all the buildings around until you have the best layout you can imagine.
And yes, the game mostly amounts to a whole lot of tapping on the screen. But splicing together new jobs and creating a beautiful city is a whole lot of fun. Even if you’re not normally interested in freemium games, we think you should give Pixel People a shot.