Who: Developed and Published by NimbleBit (they sure are)
What: Sim Tower condensed
Where: Eight bit world that can only go up.
When: NOW! Free on iTuens
Why: Stacking pixelated stores for little people to NOM NOM through is quite addicting for 53.6 second spurts.
What makes mobile gaming so popular? Easily accessible? Simple to pick up? Relatively cheap? Those are all good reasons, but add addictive gameplay and the ability to play anywhere at anytime and you have Tiny Tower. Tiny Tower can be played in under a minute at a time. If you’re waiting for your lunch order, you could build your own deli floor, staff it, and start gaining money toward your next floor.
You begin the game with a lobby as the first floor, where you go from here is up to you, as long as it’s up. I was amazed by how much the size and aspect ratio of a cell phone screen catered to a game like this. It felt natural to flick up and down between the floors ensuring their employees were busy.
Each floor can be filled with 1 of 6 different business types: Food, Service, Recreational, Retail, Creative, and Residential. A residential floor can house 5 bitizens max. These guys pay rent, and are willing to work anywhere within the tower. This tower is their only world, they know nothing outside of it so I suppose they have little choice. The tower seems to have a wide variety of things to do so it’s pretty all inclusive though I’ve never seen a bathroom. They do seem to hang out off screen to the right from time to time so maybe they take care of that over there.
Each bitizen has their own unique talents ranging from 0-9 in each of the 5 business areas. Placing them in a business that corresponds with their skill will reward you with faster stocking and overall more coin. Placing a full proficient (9 skill) bitizen in an accompanying job will reward you with a tower buck. Tower bux can be used to expedite stocking floors, construction projects, upgrading your elevator, and other things. Bux can also be gained by finding a lost bitizen somewhere in your tower. Misplaced bitizens can be fired and rehired somewhere else, or if you dislike them you can kick them out of the tower all together. Occasionally you will roll a bitizen of all zeros and ones and it won’t feel too bad evicting them, but it’s easy to get attached to these little guys. They come in all sorts of different flavors. The amount of variation in such a limited number of pixels is pretty incredible, and their environments look great. 8 bit graphics will never die.
The floors of this pocket tower are just as varied as their inhabitants. Frozen yogurt, hat shop, comedy club, pharmacy, coffee house, and many more will be constructed at your request. Choosing a business type that’s in high demand, or could be stocked with some very talented unemployed bitizens is a generally a good idea. These floors will take a while to be constructed, which takes longer the higher you go, but once complete they are ready to be staffed with up to 3 bitizens and 3 items or services. Stocking takes some time too, and it depends on the type of business you are running. Making a sandwich takes less time than building hospital for example, and each subsequent item per floor takes a bit longer, but nets a higher profit so it’s best to fully staff and stock every floor.
All this time waiting for things to build and stock items can be part of the fun. Special characters will show up that speed the process up and delivering them to the desired floor via the elevator is a large part of managing your tower. Also, with everything having a countdown, you can schedule your Tiny Tower around your day. Going to bed? Build a new floor or stock something that will take all night then watch it make you money the next day. The app can easily send you push notifications when something needs your attention so I found it fun to set several 15 minute actions at once then just wait till I was pushed a notification. Tiny Tower integrates itself so well into the lulls of your day it’s hard NOT to play.
- Gameplay: 8.4 – The game is very simple to play, but it’s hard to tell if you are playing it well. Most of the enjoyment comes from timing everything perfectly so you can set up as much as possible the next time you load up the game. You feel best when you spend the least amount of time in the actual game because you set everything in motion that you could. The lack of “active” gameplay is made up for in the games ability to fuse with almost every routine during your day. Walking to a meeting, brushing your teeth, cooking a hot pocket, and yes of course making poo.
- Visual: 9.3 – The 8 bit graphics strike a certain chord of nostalgia back to the NES days. It’s fun to see what each floor will bring and NimbleBit adds new and interesting bitizens to the game from time to time. I can’t get over the hilarious “nom nom” animation the bitizens make as they consume items on a floor.
- Sound: 8.5 – Sound is fairly minimal in this game. Most of the sounds come from alerts or UI inputs. This seems like a conscious decision as it can get a little noisy when you have 50 floors.
- Presentation: 9.8 – As I’ve said, the joy of this game lies in small bits of management. Getting in, setting a bunch of timers, and getting out in less then a minute is made possible by the quick loading of the app, and great in game performance. The 8 bit graphics and vertical layout of the world make it possible for you to scroll through a seemingly infinite number of floors. I have 50 floors rendering on a iPhone 3GS and the performance is flawless.
- Integration: 10.0 – I cannot think of a better, more casual way for a game to integrate with your everyday life and I’m sure things have gotten even better since I last played.
- Overall: 9.2 – Between the art style, simple interface, and ability to play for seconds at a time I found Tiny Tower very addictive. The strengths of mobile gaming materialize in Tiny Tower, and no matter how busy you are day to day you downtime that could be filled with this mall like sim. Now if only they could integrate more multiplayer features, like allowing you to zoom into the towers your friends have built. Tiny Tower is the ideal mobile game for the new wave of casual gamers.