Tiny Tower Review: FarmVille Goes Up

So you want a game that allows you to build your own little productive empire, like FarmVille? But you’re allergic to fertilizer and banjo music? If you’re looking for a business simulation game with a more urban flavor, NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower can give you that property management rush without having to move to the country.

You’re given your own mixed-use tower to grow and manage. As you build new floors, you’re given a choice of what type of business to put in the space. The computer, however, chooses at random what the specific business will be. Creative businesses include studios and design business. Recreational businesses include sports facilities, as well things like karaoke and amusements. Retail businesses are varied, but always specific, like record shops, or a comic book store. Service businesses include medical offices, and oddball things like travel agencies and fortune tellers. Food businesses mean restaurants and fast food.

You can choose to put an apartment on a floor. These apartments house your bitizens, the workers who staff your businesses. NimbleBit gave the game a lot of character and flavor with the bitizens. Each one is unique, with their own name, appearance, even birthday. They get a rating for how good they are at each store type, plus a dream job where they will improve costs and stock sizes. If you feel like playing dress-up, you can choose random clothes, pre-set outfits, or you can design your own on NimbleBit’s web site. Bitizens even have a Bitbook- they make Facebook-style posts about their jobs, or random thoughts.

Tiny Tower uses two forms of currency to expand your tower. Coins, earned from selling goods and services in your businesses, are used to keep your store shelves full, and to build new floors. Tower Bux, gained from completing quests, finding bitizens, helping customers, and fully stocking a business, are used for upgrades and speeding up processes. You can also purchase Tower Bux with real-world cash, but it’s not the sort of game that makes it impossible to play without spending your dollars.

There’s a variety of actions to keep you busy. Whenever a business runs out of goods, you purchase more goods. However, delivery and restocking takes each business a long time, sometimes upwards of half a day. To keep the game interesting, Tiny Tower has several duties for you to fill. Customers will arrive, and need to be taken to a specific floor via the elevator. The game will sometimes ask you to find a bitizen, for both routine and humorous purposes. There are also VIPs that will randomly show up, that you can use to help out sales on a floor, fill apartments, or speed up stocking or construction. There are quests, but all that’s required for them is to have a certain amount of an item from a certain store.

The game has a long replay value, with new stores being added in each patch. The management does get more and more involved as your tower gets higher and higher. When you get up to fifty-plus businesses, simply restocking at the beginning of the day can take several minutes. Keeping track of what businesses you have, and which bitizens have what dream job, can get so complicated you’ll feel like making a spreadsheet to keep track of it all.

The graphics are simple and pixelated, which fits the genre. It’s mostly bug-free, although the game will hang or crash sometimes when you come out of sleep mode. The sound effects and background music get repetitive and dull fast. Thankfully, you can turn them off, and the game will allow you to listen to your own music while playing. Socially, you can send gifts to other Tiny Tower players, and compare each other’s towers.

Tiny Tower is free for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

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