As much fun as it would be to claim that We City was built on rock and roll, its foundation is far less exciting.

Constructed from the same blueprint as FarmVille knockoff We Rule, ngmoco's latest freemium effort opts for an urban setting over rural landscapes. It's a solid business move given the success of We Rule, though putting up a metropolitan facade doesn't necessarily imply changes to gameplay.

Based on an early look at We City, there's little to differentiate the gameplay, which in turn could mean more of the same repetitive activity on pavement instead of bare soil.

Urban-rural divide

To put it bluntly, We City appears to be nothing more than a skinned version of We Rule. Castle has been replaced by penthouse, farm supplanted by factory, concrete sidewalk laid over dirt path - the thematic conversion from farm to city is interesting, even if it fails to offer significantdifferences in gameplay.

Instead of farms, factories drive your city's economic engine. Production lines can be set up to churn out various items ranging from action figures and video games to potato chips and boats. A manufacturing time exists for each product - the analogue to a crop's grow time in We Rule - after which your goods roll out for sale with a tap.

Products unfortunately spoil if not shipped within a specified amount of time after manufacturing, repeating the same crop spoilage design flaw so widely panned in We Rule. It's an intentional design element meant to encourage repeated play, but it's so heavy-handed that it has the potential to suffocate gameplay just as it did in its predecessor.

The push for zap

If you find yourself prone to forgetting to check your factories for finished goods you have two options: push notifications or zap. Toggling push notifications will ensure that you're pinged whenever a factory has finished manufacturing goods, at which point you can hop into the game and tap them through for money and experience.

Alternatively, you can spend zap, an in-game currency that speeds up production. Sink a couple of zap into a video game factory, for instance, and the production is sped up so that the games roll out immediately. This avoids spoilage entirely - however, zap is provided in limited supply.

Awarded only in small quantities when levelling up, your biggest source of zap is actually zap packs purchased with real money. In short, We City replicates the We Rule formula by allowing you to spend real money to expedite production.

Network coverage

It's unclear what precisely would motivate you to spend cash on zap to speed up manufacturing. Accumulating wealth and experience within the game allows you to decorate your city and level up, but there aren't regimented objectives or compelling social networking features to encourage the investment.

To the latter point, ngmoco has confirmed that in-game messaging and other advanced features will not be offered. Instead, social networking will be identical to that provided in We Rule. Given the technical troubles that have plagued that game since its launch, it's probably a wise move not incorporating more network features.

But it only furthers the notion that We City is just a skinned clone. ngmoco could very well lure We Rule fans into the city by virtue of its similarity, though I need to see better urban planning before my interest is piqued.