The saying that you’ll go blind if you masturbate too much can be proven false by my well-sighted friend Harry. However, Tiny Tower will make you wish it was true (because it’s a more enjoyable way of going blind than stabbing yourself in the eye). Then maybe you could stop playing the damn thing.
I put TT on my phone 3 weeks ago, fully expecting to get bored of it in a couple of days because I knew it was free-to-play, and everyone knows FTP is the soul destroying succubus whore of the gaming world.An astute player would immediately see that this is somewhat of a pixel-art rehash of Sim Tower, the best elevator simulation game ever made. You can get SimTower for the iPad here, renamed Yoot Tower after the game’s creator.
PLAYING WITH YOURSELF
There are already many, in-depth and excellent reviews of Tiny Tower. If you’ve already read one, fell free to skip this section.
You start out building a residential floor, then a shop type of your choosing (Food, Service, Recreation, Retail, Creative) where you can put your residents to work and each shop sells 3 items worth 1, 2 and 3 coins each. Every Bitizen that moves into your building has varying skills (ranging from 0 – 9) to fit with the different categories of shops and their skill level affects their happiness in the job. Bitizens also have dream jobs which, if they are given, will reward you with Bitbux as well as double your restocking amount for each item in a shop.
The elevator that you begin with is desperately slow (Much as if it were being hoisted by a series of pulleys, ropes, and the strength of some POORS -who found themselves without jobs or places to live in Tiny City due to the recent economic collapse, and being thousands upon thousands of Bitbux in debt because of their non-vocational Bitdegree, had no choice but to take a miserable Bitjob at the newly opened Tiny Tower to Bitfeed them….Bitselves(?).
Naturally you can upgrade the lift with some Bitbux. And you’ll use Bitbux for rushing re-stocking of shops, level construction, as well as buying costumes for Bitizens. Bux can also be traded for coins, although to be honest coinage falls like mana from heaven so I can’t see how anyone would ever trade Bux for coins.
You’ll get Bitbux randomly when you take a Bitizen to their chosen floor in the lift, and you sometimes get them when you’ve fully stocked a shop. You get some every time you give a Bitizen their dream job and you get 1 every time you build a new floor There are also missions which reward 3 – 5 Bitbux on completion. A colleague of mine, who’s probably a lying liar face, claims to have had a pop-up message saying 3 Bitbux had been found under a couch cushion.
So far, so acceptable.
WELL AREN’T YOU SPECIAL?
What really makes Tiny Tower stand out is the small touches. My favourite aspect is actually the Bitbook, something that a lot of players and reviewers seem to have written off. It’s true that it serves no purpose to gameplay, but I love giving it a peruse on occaision and I love reading posts like “When the moon hits your eye that is one pixel wide, it’s amore.”, “People can be so two dimensional sometimes.” or “Sometimes I wish I had more resolution.”The Bitizens are randomly generated so their names, looks, and skills are all pretty unique.
Each Bitizen has a birthday (and apparently you get a Bitbux whenever someone’s birthday comes up, but I have yet to have that happen to me.) Bitzens are damn cute, with their beady eyes and their mouths that snap open and shut as if they’re shouting OM NOM NOM as they walk around. Sometimes they are outlandish in style – white guy with neon green bandana tied around his head and his bright blue goatee? Yes, please! There’s the option of changing the clothing of a Bitizen for free OR you can dial it up with costumes, which can be bought for the cost of a few Bux per person or if you get lucky some costumed fools will move into your tower (these are equally random, I once had a black guy with a blonde beard in a green fairy dress holding a sparkling wand. I would have loved to go that party…) It’s surprising how excited you can feel when the guy dressed as a Viking moves in and gets put to work at the smoothie shop. You end up wondering why the guy in the ninja outfit is going to the travel agency or what’s wrong with the Burger joint when someone in a hazmat suit arrives.
In addition to the general amusement of the Bitizens in the tower, some more directed game play is available in the form of side missions located in-game and through Game Center. The in-game missions require you to have a set of shops, such as a bowling alley and a pub, so that you can produce a certain amount of two products -in this example Single Games and Root Beer. These missions also have tongue in cheek titles such as “Save the World” for stocking Bikes and Bean Salad or “New Years 2012”, which requires Cocktails and Cardio Workouts (yes in Tiny Tower you can ‘stock’ activities). The Game Center achievements have similarly amusing names but require fully stocking a pair of stores. My favourite is “Fish Taco”, where you fully stock an Aquarium and a Mexican Food joint.
I’ve read a couple of reviews highly critical of TT, apparently written by people who have never played any simulation or strategy games, the kind where you initiate production of Product X and have to -shock, horror – wait for it to finish. One dummy ended up spending about 5 dollars in the first 30 minutes of the game because he couldn’t wait 10 minutes for his crap to load. What’s especially remarkable about this situation is that you can play TT without ever spending a penny.“Hang on!,” you gurgle with your blubbery lips. “That’s the premise of ALL free-to-play games.” And then you make that “durh” noise that jerks always make when they think they’ve said something smart. Yeah. You’re just like my coworker Dave who gets all worked up and interrupts people halfway through a sentence when he thinks he’s going to disagree. Well the difference, Dave Clone, is that you can actually play TT without spending any money.
There aren’t elements of the game that can only be accessed by ponying up dough. Nor does the game become impossibly difficult (in-app currency wise) after an hour of play. In the three weeks I’ve been playing this game I’ve gotten to 51 levels, upgraded to the next-to-last lift, upgraded all my shops to level 4 or 5, bought a few costumes, and still have some Bux left over. Plus coins are rolling in faster than real world money slithers to an investment bankers offshore, tax-dodging bank account.
One complaint I do have about the in app purchases for Tiny Tower is that they don’t seem to have great value for money. It’s 69p to buy 10 Bitbux, an amount the player could easily earn in 5 or 10 minutes anyway. A slightly higher number of Bux, maybe 50, would seem more likely to result in purchases, especially impulse buys.
“What the fudge.” you ask. “How does Nimblebit make any money when they don’t charge you to play their dumb game then?” It’s math, Simples. A game that is actually completely, 100% playable without spending money spreads like wildfire in our modern world where nobody thinks anything is worth anything (Unless it’s their personal anything. And then “OMG! How dare you spill a drop of coffee on my £13 Primark jeans!!!). Because so many, many, maaaaaannny people play this game, Nimblebit only needs a small percentage of players to spend money to make an absolute fortune. An estimate of over $3 million in the game’s first year, for example. Why didn’t YOU think of this game? Don’t you feel like a shmuck? I’ve played a few FTP games where the barrier get set high and early the game. And I bet the developers of those games would sell their children for Nimblebits success with Tiny Tower.
Tiny Tower is an excellent game. It’s fun, addictive, but still light. It’s full of small humorous touches and, pardon my French, it’s fuckin’ cute. It’s a great game for casual gamers.
Tiny Tower is also a great guide to game developers look at how to use Free to Play or IAP in a successful, make-it-rain way. Definitely be inspired by Nimblebit’s game, but try not to rip it off completely.