Yes, yes, it’s been out for iOS for at least an age, but with its recent introduction to Android owners, of which there are quite a few more, it’s time to give Tiny Tower a look-over. In part because of its popularity and also because its average hardware spec is maturing, we’re finally starting to see a mini-Renaissance of Android games, most of which are iOS ports, but if you’ve never had an iPhone, hey, who cares right? I’ve been dying for a good strategy game on my phone and Tiny Tower is very much a Zynga-style game (of which we have played several), but like Paradise Island for mobiles, it sheds the social responsibilities of those games while maintaining all of the irritating idiosyncracies and shallow gameplay.
In Tiny Tower, you play a real estate developer… well, no, that sounds far too sophisticated a role for a game like this. Hmmm, let’s see, you’re, uh… well, you’re the guy who babysits the construction of this building that happens to be vertically independent. A tower, I suppose. I mention Zynga titles specifically in relation to this game because you don’t so much play this game as you check into it every so often. It’s a strategy game Tomagotchi, but without much strategy to speak of. Okay, so there’s a little. You purchase new floors which grow pricier as you scale to the sky. On each floor, you can then build a store or office that fits into one of five categories. You’ll also build the apartments that denizens (or bitizens as the game calls them) reside in to work all of these stores. It’s like a freaky vertical mall. These people each have different skill ratings that make them more or less appropriate to work the different stores that you build. If someone takes up residence that doesn’t fit your layout’s needs, or simply lacks skills, can be booted.
The crux of the game involves stocking shelves. Yes. You prepare different kinds of shoes or fancier meals and people consume them (well, the food, not the shoes) which sets up the “babysitter” mechanic in which you simply roll back every few hours to make sure stuff is stocked and ready to go. Many of these actions can be sped up through “Tower Bucks”, which are doled out by the game for doing little tasks or by whipping out a credit card and simply buying more. But when you’re the only person seeing your progress and, ultimately, the fruits of your labor here, why bother? There are some random events that happen upon your tower, but they’ve been pretty tame for the past week that I’ve been playing, the most exciting being VIPs that visit your tower. Send them to a level of your choosing and they’ll instantly run that store’s inventory dry.
It’s the game’s simplicity that lends to its easy revisits. You really only need to play this game in one to five minute bursts, which is both a calling card ideal for mobile gaming and a big disappointment. Why? Because in an era where mobile phones are powerful and responsive enough to produce really good strategy experience, we’re stuck with this style of game that has little lasting appeal and certainly no Civilization-style ‘keep playing until you die’ motivations about it.