As its name suggests, you are tasked with developing a minor place called Caribou City into a thriving megapolis. This is done through is a mix of Space-Management Game and Match-Three Game approaches: your city is a represented by a 6 x 6 square grid, and you need to place down the randomly offered buildings there. Most of these are houses; some are "pleasant" squares like parks, theatres and schools, which increase the value of neighbouring houses; others are grimy utilities like factories, rubbish dumps and sewage plants, whose presence drives down the value of any nearby home. In the campaign mode however, many of those same "undesirable" squares are also your main means of scoring sufficient income to afford the pleasant squares, thus forcing you to keep a balance of the two.
Moreover, as the city grows, the bottom row moves offscreen as soon as it is completely filled up to a certain point threshold, and replaced with a blank one instead, and you need to be able to do this a set number of times in order to finish the play session. You also get a hefty score multiplier every time a row is filled and disappears, and so the players are encouraged to chain these in order to get a good place on the leaderboards.
Tropes present in this game:
- Combos: You can get chains of score multipliers.
- Deckbuilding Game: Whereas the classic mode hands out cards randomly, the campaign mode uses a deck-building approach, where valuable building squares are added to your deck after you purchase them with the economy points - which, in turn, requires you to keep a number of grimy industry buildings in your city, which drive down the value of any neighbouring buildings.
- Defeat Means Playable: Defeating rival mayors in the campaign mode unlocks them as an option in the "classic" and "duel" modes.
- Industrial Ghetto: Interestingly, it's often in the player's interests to create one - you'll have to have some of the polluting industry buildings anyway, whether it's because you had them randomly dropped in the classic mode, or because you need to generate income with them in the campaign mode. Because any normal house placed near them automatically loses its value, it becomes tempting to just place all of them next to each other, especially since they'll generate more income that way, thus creating one hyper-ugly and polluted corner of the town so that the rest of your citizens could live in clean pleasantvilles and breathe clean air from the parks.
- Justified Tutorial: The opening stages of the campaign mode double as a tutorial, as the new mayor you are playing as is eased into their role.
- Meta Multiplayer: Players compete for scores on the leaderboards.
- RPG Elements: Each of the mayor characters you can play as has their own skill tree.
- Set Bonus: Having four buildings of the same type next to each other forms a block, which creates bonuses. There can be downsides too, as an industrial block gets more efficient at generating income, but also becomes more polluting.
- Scoring Points: The game is built around this, both in order to get a place on the leaderboards, and in order to advance, as the bottom rows will only disappear once you hit a sufficiently high value.
- Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: While the game looks bright and cartoonish, and its construction mechanics are clearly abstract, its economy and property value systems nevertheless force the players to grapple with the reasons why phenomena like urban segregation, gentrification and polluted ghettoes exist in the real world.
- Video-Game Lives: There are "free lives" that can clear rows should you be unable to reach the point threshold normally. Running out of lives while having filled the row with buildings of insufficient value leads to a game over.