Game Reviews


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| PixelMogul
| PixelMogul

"What on Earth is a 'pixel mogul'?" I hear you ask

Good question.

From the screenshots on the App Store page for PixelMogul, it looks like it's a tycoon who owns many buildings and businesses, but the ruthlessness of his or her life of ultra-capitalism is softened a little by the fact that he or she is composed of completely adorable pixel-art.

I'll know for sure after a week with PixelMogul, playing it across seven days to bring you the definitive verdict on this free-to-play management game.

First impressions

I think I've had a good time with PixelMogul so far. It's certainly been pleasant.

You're given a big wedge of cash to go and buy a building in a city constructed of pixels, and from there you can choose to furnish and decorate the various levels, making them into apartments and businesses.

Next, pixel people request to live in your building, and you choose the person or persons you want in each flat. You have to keep them happy, apparently, but I'm yet to find out how.

Then you tap a button to renovate more floors, or buy new buildings, and wait for a timer to count down. Then you exit the game, having not really achieved very much, and with nothing else to do for the time being.

You've probably been playing it for about ten minutes at this point, and only then if you've spent time carefully choosing the décor in each apartment.

But even though my session with it has been brief, it's also been nice. The UI is tactile, with each swipe of the menus accompanied by satisfying clicks and swooshes, and the atmospheric effects from above the city really give the impression that you're looking down on a bustling metropolis.

The art is detailed and colourful in PixelMogul, and there's a sense of relaxation and class to every way you interact with it.

It's like the super-expensive, super-exclusive mobile game that only real moguls might know how to play.

I just hope there's more to do in it in the coming days, because as yet I don't feel like I've got anything of real substance from the time I've invested.

Day 3: Be careful of what you wish for

There's now plenty to do in PixelMogul, though a lot of it comes off as busywork.

Whenever there is an Incident, as the game refers to these little events, a small red notification floats next to the apartment. You then tap on this part of the building, and are informed of a recent change.

Perhaps a resident has moved out and you need to find a new one, it could be that the ceiling has caved in and you need to do repairs, or maybe the internet is playing up and you ought to get it sorted. Whatever the issue, you must spend the cash to get it fixed.

Since the game encourages you to fill every single floor of the building - for extra money and to unlock more robots and pets - if you don't play for a while, these Incidents begin to stack up and you spend most of your time rectifying problems, rather than expanding into new areas of the city.

When the apartment you've invested in isn't falling apart, the task of keeping your tenants happy remains. This usually involves lowering the rent, or renovating the apartment, or buying them a pet, or purchasing a robot.

Much about the numerous activities listed above feels disingenuous when we think of PixelMogul as a pseudo-simulation of the business life of a property owner and developer.

When someone moves into an apartment in the real world, and then says that they want the rent lowered or else they'll move out, a landlord will be pleased to give them the boot because that tenant knew the cost of rent before they began living there. They wouldn't lower the price by 10 percent just to keep them pleased.

And though in reality my current landlord is a top gent, if I asked him to buy me a robot or re-decorate the entire place as soon as I moved my storage boxes in, I'd quite rightly expect him to tell me to take a hike.

The game isn't going for ultra-realistic. I understand that. But with many of the tasks it hardly seems close to reality at all.

Day 7: Managing expectations

"According to rumours, there's such a thing as eternal happiness". That's one of the tips on the loading screen of PixelMogul. If "eternal happiness" exists, it cannot be found in this game.

My tenants never seem to be pleased for very long. They queue up to complain about how they want a better bot, or need to pay less rent, or whatever. When I return to the game I'm only ever confronted with problems I need to rectify, and so the game begins to feel like a chore.

Sometimes the residents fail to communicate what they want from you to make them happy in the first place. One chap who was a bit miffed told me that he was "willing to pay more", but when I raised the price of the rent by a smidge he decided to leave.

Or perhaps I just don't understand these people, and I'm a horrible landlord. It's starting to feel that way at least, as I've begun uniformly decorating every room in each building in the same way, because it's faster to do this than to carefully choose a theme, and the options to customise each space are minimal that it seems reasonable to make decisions on the basis of money alone.

A great deal of the enjoyment in a building game is that you can put your own touch no the world. While the preset designs are attractive enough, I want to be able to decorate each apartment in exactly the way I want, and not conform to someone else's styles.

When I add an extension to the rooftop, I want that to be reflected in the city map, but it isn't. When I move someone in, I want them to have a little life - instead they wander about aimlessly, not interacting with each other.

I wanted to like PixelMogul, as its presentation is superb, and for a free-to-play game it's wonderfully generous with how long you can play and how much of the game is accessible to you.

But there's just not enough of a game here to keep you playing, and much of your time is spent micro-managing hissyfits rather than expanding a real estate empire.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. Click here to learn about our free-to-play review policy.


It's pixelly, and lovely, and good natured, but its cry baby populace and lack of real substance will stop you wanting to come back for more
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.