Nokia Modern Mayor is innovative in its freemium giving - but fiddly and tedious

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Oh dear, oh dear. You can almost visualise the product planning meeting at Nokia: "Let's commission another 'green' title, a game that emphasises ecological factors while still being fun to play. And let's add a charity twist, we'll make it a freemium game but offer 80% of all proceeds to charity". Sounds good, right? Except that the commissioned end result, from generic game studio Kuuasema, is disappointingly implemented in terms of text clarity, over complicated, ultimately soul-less and not that 'fun' at all. 

From the Windows Phone Store description:

This city is in trouble. Pollution is choking the air and trash piles up on the streets, beaches are filled with sludge and trees haven’t bloomed in years. It’s up to you to save the city! 

In Nokia Modern Mayor, you are the head of a dying town with a mission to turn it once again into a thriving, green metropolis. With Townhall Laura, the snappy city publicist guiding your way, you can recreate the city of dreams.

BUILD THE CITY. Nokia Modern Mayor allows you to plan and build: construct roads, apartment blocks, towering offices, malls, and restaurants; and brighten up the world by planting nice airy forests.

THE NATURE RESPONDS TO YOUR CHOICES. The cleaner the town, the greener the fields. Oceans turn blue once again and beaches are reopened, all thanks to you!

MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Modern Mayor isn’t just a game. It’s a chance for gamers to change the world in reality. In-app purchases go towards charities you select, each making the world a little better and healthier.

PLEASE NOTE. While Nokia Modern Mayor is free to play, some game items can be purchased with real world money. 

It's a simulation game, think Sim City but scaled down a bit and with less going on. The best way to review Nokia Modern Mayor is to walk you through the set-up and gameplay:

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

Right from the opening screen, the central problem becomes apparent. What looked wonderfully crisp and clear on the game designer's 26" monitor is almost unreadable on a 4.5" phone display. I genuinely thought my eyes had gone....

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

One nice touch is that your Nokia account login details are used to sync your game progress across multiple devices - more games should do this!

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

Getting going in the game and starting to renovate bits of the town. The core metrics, the ideas, the interface are all here. But it's all so tiny and fiddly - a deadly combination when the game mechanic itself is so complex. Most renovation and building takes time - you can wait it all out in real time or pay with in-game currency to speed things up.

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

Let's get that polluting power plant out in the country somewhere - where rural campaigners will block it, err.. I mean no, that's fine in this fictional world....

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

The town is now doing nicely and much greener! On a 10" screen, the graphics would seem a real treat....

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

If town admin, such as collecting taxes sounds a bit boring, that's because.... it is. And you currently have to collect taxes manually. Hang on, aren't you playing this game to get away from the mundanities of life?

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

The in game currency (badges) is topped up using a freemium model, naturally. £100 for a single IAP though? Gulp. For the gazillionth time, there needs to be a cap on in-game purchases, if only to stop a slip of the finger or a teenager hitting your wallet harder than you wanted...

Screenshot, Modern Mayor

Oh dear, yet more tiny writing that's almost impossible to read. This time explaining how the charity freemium scheme works...

The whole point of higher resolution displays on smartphones is that graphics and text can be sharper - NOT SMALLER. Graphics and icons aren't such an issue (though some of the icons here could be bigger) - but the game designer made a huge, a massive error when he or she decided to go with the font sizes here. Has there really been no play testing at all? Surely real world users would have picked this up when playing on actual handsets at an early stage?

Look, it feels churlish to be bashing what is at heart a slight clumsy attempt to give something back to the planet and to charity - but there are ultimately many better ways to give directly to both causes, ways that don't involve wasted time and chronic eye strain.

You can download Nokia Modern Mayor here in the Store if you want to try it for yourself. Comments welcome - am I wrong in my assessment?

PS. There's also an official Nokia promo video - which is, I contend, more accessible and fun than the game itself(!)

Source / Credit: Windows Phone Store