With more than 97 million active players, Zynga's CityVille Facebook game is even more of a phenomenon than its predecessor FarmVille. And without a lost cow in sight. A new CityVilleapp aims to give competitive players a helping hand in growing their cities faster than friends'.
It's called CityVille Helper, it's free to download, and it's entirely unofficial -- Zynga had nothing to do with it. Saying it's for cheats is a bit harsh, too: the focus here is more on useful tips and alerts to turn your sleepy village into a packed metropolis.
Features include notifications when your crops are ready, to ensure you can harvest them before they're spoiled. There's also advice on which CityVille buildings help you level up quickest, and which crops and buildings will yield the most gold coins.
You can also find out how long till you next level up, and how many days your friends are ahead of or behind you. It's the app equivalent of those strategy guide books that tell you how to play console games, except with the notification aspect tagged on.
CityVille Helper isn't alone on the App Store. CityVille Cheats, CityVille Timer, Cheats for CityVille... there's a whole new sub-category of iPhone apps devoted to the game. Another of Zynga's Facebook games, FrontierVille, even has an unofficial iPhone app that will log in and collect bonuses for you when you're not playing.
At some point, Zynga will surely launch a proper iPhone CityVille game, with notifications built in -- taking away one of the reasons to use an app like CityVille Helper.
But with hundreds of millions of people playing social games on Facebook and striving to outdo their friends, we sense there will always be an audience for these unofficial helper apps. And, indeed, other media: have you seen the FarmVille for Dummies book?