I could never get on with Tiny Tower, although plenty of folk clearly did. Give it a Star Wars themed coat of paint, though, and I’m sold.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star Review: On the light side
If you’ve played Tiny Tower to any extent, then you’ve played Star Wars: Tiny Death Star already, more or less.
The thing is, I’d given Tiny Tower a very quick go when it first appeared for iOS, and I found it less than gripping, so I didn’t keep on playing.
I find that’s true for many “Sim” style games, though in my experience (and given my relative tastes), and it probably says terrible things about my inner creativity, because the whole idea of these types of games is that you’re meant to empathise with the individual residents while building up your structures — in Tiny Tower’s case, a Tower.
In Tiny Death Star, you’re building a terribly vertical Death Star, helped along by a gently comedic Emperor and Darth Vader respectively, rendered in the pixel style that’s terribly common in a “trying to be retro” way right now. It works well enough within a Star Wars setting, helped along by suitably 16-bit style interpretations of the classic Star Wars themes.
It also makes it easier for me to like it, partly because I’m a geek, but also because it allows me to quickly make those kinds of empathic connections to the individual bitizens that make up Tiny Death Star’s world.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star uses the usual freemium tactic of slow builds to gently suggest that you use the in-game currency — in this case, bux — to speed up ordering, building and so on.
It’s done fairly gently, however, and there’s no real penalty to simply stopping, going and doing something else (there is, I discovered, a world outside videogames, but don’t tell everyone; some people may not be able to take the shock), then returning to see how much money you’ve made and whether those improvements have been completed or not.
It’s also littered with little Star Wars jokes, cut scenes and characters as you build upwards and unlock new bitizens and levels for them to live and work on. If you’re a heavy duty Star Wars nut, you’ll have a lot of fun with this.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star Review: On the dark side
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star can still be a little bit on the nagging side. From comments around the web, it appears that it offers Bux at a slightly slower level than Tiny Towers did, which means the push to pay real money for Bux is slightly higher.
It’s also horribly addictive; while writing this review, I’ve stopped no less than three times to check back in with my bitizens, watch cut scenes and develop new floors. There are, I think, better uses of my time.
Having said that, it’s also very much built as a casual game, and that means that there are spans where about the only thing you can do in-game is shift the elevator up and down to earn a few coins as tips. I’m as much of an Elevator Action fan as the next person — probably more, actually — but this isn’t entirely engaging gameplay in and of itself.
Hang on… all these people coming in to build a new Death Star. They’d logically be independent contractors, right? This may not end well…
I’m rather terrified that my Tiny Death Star will meet a white-hot fate at some point in the future, although that would stop its freemium ways.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star Review: Pricing
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star is currently only available for iOS and Android in the Australian App Store and Google Play Store respectively, and it’s free.
Bux, the in-game currency aren’t free, however. Pricing starts from 99c for 10 bux all the way up to $109.99 for 5,000 bux. Or in other words, don’t leave an unlocked, purchase-approved device anywhere near kids, or for that matter hopeless Star Wars addicts. You’ll quickly go broke.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star Review: Fat Duck Verdict
I’ve said previously that I’m not totally opposed to Freemium games, as long as the balance is right. Star Wars: Tiny Death Star might seem like it’s very similar to Dungeon Keeper, which I railed against for its freemium-gouging ways.
I’m not going to rail against Star Wars: Tiny Death Star, however. That’s because it gets freemium right.
You can spend money on Bux if you want to, but it’s a matter of patience, not losing battles or heading backwards by simply not playing. You’re not constantly pestered to spend money; it’s simply an option.
The game style suits itself to this kind of casual play, and that’s no accident, because it’s very obviously been built with this model in mind, whereas Dungeon Keeper was very much a retrofit that would have suited an outright purchase/unlock model instead.
Now, I must head back to my Death Star.