As with property developers in Asian boom countries, so too often with developers of freemium games - scale is everything.
Of course, just as with maximising your rental revenues with the most storeys, when it comes to social games, it makes financial sense to encourage as many players as possible to bug as many of their friends as possible to spend as much money as possible.
The quality of the experience for office drones or gaming grinders isn’t always so enjoyable, however.
Hence, it’s nice to see boutique outfits such as Tiny Tower’s developer NimbleBit less worried about scale and more concerned with innovation: something previously demonstrated with its successful social game Pocket Frogs.Foundational
Tiny Tower is a honed Theme Park-style experience, in which you get to build a tower full of little computer people. For each storey you construct, you have the option to drop in a residential block or amenities such as leisure, culture, food, or retail, all of which generate you cash.
In a neat circular design, it’s your residents who are put to work in the sushi bars, photo studios, casinos, etc. Each of them has a rating out of 9 for each type of task, so you can match them to a shop for total efficiency.
Filling each floor with a maximum of three workers will also gain you a bonus when it’s fully stocked, with the three products each unit sells generating more of the cash required to add another storey and, in turn, more revenue.
Adding variation to tasks such as stocking up each floor with products, you also have to act as bellboy. You manually run the elevator at the behest of shoppers, VIPs, and other buff up characters, or tap on the correct floor to track down one of your tower’s residents when requested - both actions gaining you more loot.The social way
As is the way with freemium games, the in-game currency is split into two types. The soft currency is coins, which are required for building storeys, while the hard currency - Bux - is used to speed up time-dependent tasks such as restocking, storey construction, or customisations. You spend real money on Bux, and can also convert them to coins.
In Tiny Tower, there’s encouragement to interact with your friends on Game Center, comparing your mini skyscrapers and the like. Other options include a stats page where you can see how much your tower is making, a breakdown of your bitizens, how happy they are, and - most amusingly - there’s a fake Facebook, called BitBook, so you can read their vapid updates.
Scraping the sky
Still, for all its charm and evident humour - the 8-bit graphics, audio, and overall presentation are exactly what we’ve come to expect from NimbleBit - this probably isn’t a game you’ll want to play for months.
By the time you’ve got your tower to over 10 storeys high, the tasks become a little too repetitive, and there are no overarching demands other than the constant alerts telling you about restocking, or that there’s a VIP in the elevator, or that one unit has run out of produce to sell.
Obviously, the game's longevity is directly linked to the number of friends you’re playing with, but compared to the dynamism of Pocket Frogs - with its trading and breeding mechanics - Tiny Tower feels after ten hours of play more horizontal than vertical - the Leaning Tower of Pisa rather than the Empire State Building.
For a free-to-play game that doesn’t demand you spend much - even anything - that’s fairly faint criticism, and therefore it comes recommended, just not highly so.