World of Zellians: Kingdom Builder is a simulation and city building game along the lines of My Kingdom for the Princess and Build-a-lot. Set in a moderately whimsical fantasy realm, your job is to repair a broken kingdom by mending roads, setting up farms, and getting each area's economy up and running again. It's a colorful, light-hearted and straightforward game you can jump right into and start enjoying.
The game begins with Zorm, the famous city planner and your new mentor, promising to let you meet the queen if you can patch up a few roads and villages to make the travel easier. Soon you'll find yourself moving around the countryside repairing kingdoms for distressed rulers in all sorts of climates, ranging from green meadows to snowy fields, the desert, and more!
Your goals for each level vary but usually involve constructing a certain number of buildings and raising the population (or your income) to a pre-defined level. Your first task in each stage is to connect the buildings to the road and make sure the road leads to the fountain. Without a connection to those vital lifelines, your city will not function. Roads are free and you can build them anywhere you like, but usually its best to keep buildings on a tight grid, as space quickly becomes a valuable commodity.
The menu at the bottom of the screen contains everything you can build, ranging from "social" structures such as houses to production-based buildings (pig farms and orchards), shops (grocery stores) and more. Each unit has a cost in resources along with a prerequisite or two. You can't have a juice stand without an orchard, for example, and ice cream parlors require both an orchard and a dairy farm. As you move from kingdom to kingdom, the number of buildings you have access to increases.
Dealing with prerequisites is where the bulk of the challenge comes in with World of Zellians. Gold and materials, the only traditional resources you have to worry about, are automatically gathered each turn by buildings from the production and shop tabs. As long as you have a few mills or ranches it's a simple matter of waiting for your cash to build up before you lay down all the buildings you need.
Analysis: It's easy to overlook a game like World of Zellians: Kingdom Builder. Landing in a field scattered with clones, the game doesn't do too much to set itself apart from the pack. Instead of innovating in one area or another, World of Zellians scales back the complexity, offering up its own version of Build-a-lot with cartoonish visuals and a decidedly more casual slant to the gameplay. Instead of worrying about making rent, all you have to do is manage a few building prerequisites and you're good to go.
The game's straightforward nature can either be the its biggest selling point or the number one reason to stay away. World of Zellians doesn't offer much of a challenge, even for the most casual of casual gamers. A tutorial holds your hand for several levels, making sure you do everything just right, and after that there's no real risk of losing. Your resources constantly regenerate, there's no time limit, and you can destroy buildings and recover spent resources. Apart from the occasional natural disaster, very little happens to cause problems in your village.
Gameplay aside, World of Zellians has a remarkably compelling visual presentation. Watch the villagers mill about the town or flowers blossom at the apple orchard. There's a surprising amount of charm and detail lurking in this game. With no pressure to compete, you'll certainly have time to stop and check things out.
If you're looking for a challenging building sim where your choices deeply impact gameplay, stick with Build-a-lot. If you want something a little more casual with a lot of eye candy, World of Zellians is most certainly your game.