A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that CastleVille is a medieval/fantasy-themed simulation game played on the Facebook social network. The game is free to play, but players will not be able to advance very far unless they have a sizeable network of Facebook friends who are also playing the game, or they're prepared to spend real-world money to speed up certain quests. The lure to spend money and add strangers on Facebook is a constant temptation, and the game can also be quite addicting.
What's it about?
Zynga's CASTLEVILLE puts a medieval spin on the same basic formula seen in FrontierVille and many of the company's other social sims. Players build a thriving kingdom by clearing land, gathering resources, and constructing buildings (like guard towers, peasant's cottages, and workshops) to expand the castle. Castle expansion allows players to explore more of the kingdom, claim additional pieces of land, and meet characters who offer the player new quests. Cooperation with Facebook friends is essential, since visiting each other's kingdoms and exchanging free gifts is the only way to complete certain quests, and many buildings can't be finished until you've recruited a certain number of friends to "staff" them. Alternately, players can pay real money to skip these requirements.
Is it any good?
CastleVille is a robust sim that gives players lots of different things to do and plenty of room to expand -- and it looks great too. However, ultimately players will have to make the same old choice: do they pay real cash to continue playing, or watch the game slowly grind to a halt as the requirements for completing buildings and quests make more and more demands on the player's time and Facebook friends. CastleVille can be spammy too, unless you manually disable the game's ability to automatically post updates to friends' walls.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the challenges of trying to play social games without a large circle of friends who are also playing. Why do you think game developers want players to recruit all of their friends into the game too?
In what ways does CastleVille try to entice players to spend more time in the game? (i.e. timed missions, badges that reward days of consecutive play, crops that wither if not tended in time). Families can talk about how to best manage video game playing time limits.
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