I stock the toy shop for the fourth time and put the game down beside my bed. Minutes later thereís the ping that notifies me that the restocking is complete and so I open my eyes and tell them to start selling. It happens again. The customers flood in, the toy blocks begin to sell out, and the cycle repeats.
I wonder if Iíll ever get any sleep at all, I canít drop off knowing that my toy shop is closed because the stockís run out. Where will my residents get their toy blocks? What if a toy block shortage is my towerís equivalent of a dead dog in a swimming pool? What if that nightmare really is about to begin?
And thatís the experience of the first few hours with Tiny Tower, a free game available on various iOS devices. A game that gets its claws into you quicker than a cat would if your face was covered in nepeta cataria.
Thereís no real goal, itís simply up to the player to add more and more floors to a tower that expands ever upwards. Floors can be either residential or various types of commercial and itís important to balance the two because, even though you get very little income from the residential floors, you need the residents (called bitizens) to work at your shops. Construction takes a few hours in real-time but this can be sped up by using Tower Bux.
Bux is the gameís (inevitable) premium currency, but itís completely optional and, indeed, Bux are available by various other means and for free. A Whereís Wally style mini-game occurs at random intervals and asks you to find a specific bitizen, with a Buck as a reward. Ferrying people up your tower via the elevator also yields Bux now and then. Bux are used to ďhurry upĒ processes, so floors can be built instantly, or shops restocked without any delay and various other things. Thereís no need to hurry up, though, and if you just let the tower grow at its own pace thereís really no need to pay any money into it at all.
Where perhaps the game is best is in a way that could equally be a failing. Thereís no Facebook integration at all and, as far as your friends go, youíre limited to simply viewing their tower. This means thereís no need to play quicker and quicker to compete with your friends so you can share items, you can simply play at your own pace and thereís never pressure to make these in-app purchases to keep up. There are so many apps that offer similar gameplay to Tiny Tower, but so few that make the player feel in charge.
While Bux are optional, the gold coins in the game are not, and this is the currency the game is played with. Youíll never be charged for these, unless you choose to convert some paid-for Bux into them. Gold coins are earned through your bitizens' rent payments, income through shops and from moving passengers through the tower on the elevator. The gold coins are spent on more stock for shops and also on building new floors, which get progressively more expensive the further up the tower you build.
The beauty of the game is in its residents. There may be no Facebook integration but it does include Bitbook, which is Tiny Towerís often hilarious approximation of the social behemoth. Your residents each have their own personalities and their own skills, their own dreams. If you give them a job they enjoy they might post to Bitbook that they love their new job (8 bitizens like this) and conversely, they could speak of how miserable they are when you force them to work in a diner when all they want to do is DJ at a nightclub (3 bitizens like this). Alongside this, there are loads of silly comedy updates that add a ton of personality into the lives of your bitizens and into the game.
Bitizens can be moved between jobs freely, and itís important to put them where they want to be if you can, not just for their own happiness. Each has their own skills and is better working in some types of shops than others. If you manage to put a bitizen in their dream job theyíll be twice as efficient as they would be in another role. There are also bonuses depending on whether you can get every item on a floor stocked at once. There are three products available in each store, and you need one employee for each. The first item will sell for one coin, the second for two and the third for three.
Thereís a lot of management needed to get people where they want and need to be while balancing ordering stock and ordering your bitizens to sell it, but thereís no pressure to do any of it if you donít want to. You can restock toy blocks every ten minutes and stay up half the night in an addicted daze if you like, but if you donít thereís no punishment for not doing it. The only thing youíll miss out on is the income youíd have earned from having the items available to people.
Tiny Tower is a game that youíll get as much out of as you put in, and a game that can fit around any life. If youíve got a minute to spare, check in and stock your shops. If youíre sitting in front of Eastenders you can mindlessly move bitizens around in the elevator earning coins and restocking the shops the second they need it. Itís definitely worth being aware, though, that itís very easy to get involved in your bitizens' lives. You may intend to play for a minute but Jose dreams of a job working the mini golf and how can you live with yourself knowing that heís rotting away in the video store?
And now, if you donít mind, Iíve got a toy shop that needs to be restocked.
- No pressure to be suckered by IAPs
- More charm than a charm convention
- Suits the lifestyle of anyone
- Seconds turn to minutes
- Minutes turn to hours
- Hours turn to insomnia