Tiny Tower for the iOS is the first FarmVille-style game I’ve ever seen the point in playing, and even now I’m debating its merits as a “game” versus an “addictive as crap timesink.” What I do know is that there’s a lot of excellent points that elevates this title above the stupider elements of FarmVille, and it’s charmed me enough that I’ve played it for quite a few days now.
Utilizing the iPhone screen perfectly, Tiny Tower lets you create a skyrise one floor at a time. Floors can either hold apartments (that can house up to five “Bitizens”) or one of five types of stores (with over 80 stores and services in all). Apartments house the workers that work the stores, stores sell goods to make money, money lets you build more. Special currency — Tower Bux — let you upgrade your elevator (which is important to earning more money and bux), speed up restocking, and do a number of other convenient things. The game’s pretty good at letting you earn Bux for free, although there’s the option to pay real money for it too.
That’s the basics, although there’s considerably more than that. Floors can be repainted, Bitizens remodeled, VIPs ferried to specific destinations to give you a huge boost, and a “Where’s Waldo” game occasionally appears and tasks you with finding a specific Bitizen in exchange for a Bux.
Tiny Tower’s become insanely popular in the week or so since its release, and I can see why. It’s less intrusive than FarmVille (for example, your restocking efforts never degrade, so you don’t HAVE to get back until you’re ready) and it nurtures that building part of us that likes to make bigger and better dollhouses. But the real star of the show is the truly awesome pixel art — each floor (and Bitizen) is charmingly rendered in an old-school pixelated format, but it’s still clear enough so that you can make out all sorts of details.
I do appreciate that there’s some element of strategy and gaming here, although the game does lack specific goals — it’s just “build as high as you want, whatever.” There’s no reward for having a 50-story skyscraper over a 5-story one, unless you consider the reveal of new types of floors a reward (to the game’s credit, it never repeats floors on you if it can help it). There’s almost always something to do when you do log in, so you’re not just sitting around waiting for timers to count down, either.
However, in my few days of playing it, I’ve come up with a wish list of how this game could be made way, way better, including:
- Having the Bitizens DO something other than just mill about. They don’t talk, or interact with the environment or each other. The in-app “BitBook” is a nice touch, but it’s not something you see from the main screen.
- Have the store and apartments animated. It’d be really neat to see coffee being brewed or someone taking a nap on a sofa.
- Be able to customize and upgrade floors beyond just random repainting
- Be able to specifically outfit Bitizens instead of just hitting a randomizer
- Be able to unclick VIPs in elevators so that you can wait to use them instead of being forced to use them right then and there
Anyway, big thumbs-up to this title — it’s on my iPhone to stay, and for a free game, I’m pleased that it doesn’t really push its microtransactions on me.