I keep going back to this one genre of games that, in spite of the poor quality I often see on the Play Store, is, perhaps, the most lucrative form of escapism. That is city building.
Some time ago, I declared TheoTown to be, as far as I'm concerned, the ultimate city builder on Android. However, as time passed, the devs introduced microtransactions, which killed it for me. It appeared that I had nothing left to do than retread the scenarios in Suburbia, and although I adore that game, I prefer playing it in real life than on a tablet screen. But lo and behold, Pocket City appears to be all that I wanted TheoTown to be, and with none of the inconveniences.
Pocket city doesn't go too far from the classic city builder formula, in fact, as long as you've played any of the titles mentioned above, you can even skip the tutorial. The element that makes Pocket City more worthy of being called a game than TheoTown is the population happiness metric. This metric is affected by many factors, all of which you can address in some way.
Depending on how you distributed building space among housing, commerce, and industry, as your town grows, traffic congestion will build up to reflect increased commuting rate and shopping behavior. For that, you must plan for building highways as alternate routes, as well as establish bus stations and even sky rails to relieve the traffic mayhem that will eventually occur. Stacked parking buildings can also offer a quick fix.
Industrial pollution is also an essential factor to happiness. Of course, even if having houses next to industry minimizes traffic, the bad air will put a big dent into the quality of life. The solution to this is to give reasonable space between the two, but you can also plant trees around the industry to counterbalance it. In this respect, you can build parks and other recreational facilities to improve the life of your citizens. In time you will have to include hospitals, firehouses, and police departments to maintain the stability of your growing city.
Your city finances are influenced by three tax columns, which affect the three areas of development, sales for the commercial sector, income tax on industry wages, and property tax. You can mess around with these and see how they affect the income and population growth.
However, you won't just juggle these three zones forever. As you progress in the standard game, you will be able to exploit the natural resources around you. As long as you build just generic industry buildings, you will have to import the goods that your population requires. However, with farms, steel mills, and lumber mills, you can decrease the imports, and even begin exporting, boosting your income.
To make city life a little less dull, you can trigger various events, such as street parties, car races, and more. In classic SimCity fashion, you can also unleash tornadoes, great thunderstorms, and volcanoes. Despite the visual apocalypse effects, these phenomena are less damaging than you might think. You only need to press a button to rebuild everything precisely as it was before, and you also get part of the reconstruction cost in the form of aid relief funds. These vary depending on the difficulty you've chosen at the beginning of the game. The game difficulty also influences how well everything goes concerning your input. You'll find that on a harder difficulty, you might need to take different approaches to the same problems.
Pocket City is a joy to play. All of the game mechanics are in place and work without the inbalances that usually plague freemium games. Pocket City comes in two flavors. You can either spend a couple of bucks and get the full premium experience, or try it for free. I highly recommend getting the free version first, if nothing else, at least to check whether your hardware can handle it. Although it is in 2D, there are many little animations, and this can slow down a lower end system when your city become reasonably big.