TinyTower: SimTower, iPhone Style

As a child of the 1990s, I look back fondly on the genre of simulation games, like Maxis’ popular series of of Sim games. As a young boy, I got my start with SimTown, but as I matured I played the more complex games like SimCity and SimTower. These games, as well as games like RollerCoaster Tycoon, taught me about financial responsibility, organization and macro-management.

TinyTower is a SimTower-style management simulation game designed for iOS by NimbleBit, LLC. It is simple in execution, but provides many levels of complexity that increase replay value. Let’s talk about it more after the break.

Design

TinyTower is one of the few games that I play on my iPhone that exclusively uses the device’s portrait orientation. The screen is laid out with the elevator (a crucial element of game play, but more on that later) running along the left edge of the screen, and your ever-increasing number of floors taking up the rest.

The lobby.

The lobby.

TinyTower was designed with an 8-bit aesthetic. The object of the game is to simply expand your tower with residences and businesses, and as that happens, your apartments will become inhabited by “Bitizens.” Those Bitizens communicate on a fictional Facebook-like platform called Bitbook, which you can read from the options menu for a good laugh.

Watch as your Bitizens update their Bitbook statuses.

Watch as your Bitizens update their Bitbook statuses.

TinyTower, perhaps more than any other game on my iPhone, facilitates “playing without playing.” The game’s economy continues to function even when you’re not playing the game, so you can continue to make money. This causes the game to be a unique hybrid between those games that you play when you need to waste some time and more involved strategy games. When I have a little bit of time to kill, I play Angry Birds. When I have even less time to kill, I play TinyTower.

Gameplay

When you first start out the game, you’ll be walked through a brief tutorial on building floors and installing business and residences. You only start with a lobby, but the game is sure to get you set up with your first apartment and business before setting you loose to dominate the 8-bit economy.

Currency

Because of its impact on the way you play the game, the first and most important thing to grasp is the currency system. TinyTower has two types of currency: coins and Tower Bux. The coin system is pretty simple, you gain them and spend them in ways you would expect. Businesses earn you coins from selling product, which you then spend on building new floors and restocking your businesses with product.

Tower Bux on the other hand, are bit more unique as a form of currency. Your tower will can be expanded without them, though they can be used to make things a bit more convenient. The primary way to acquire Bux is by helping surprise guests find residents in your tower, but can also be gained by building a new floor, or from an elevator patron who has a small amount of change to tip you.

The main uses for Tower Bux are for “hurrying” a process such as construction or stocking, upgrading your elevator, and purchasing paint for making aesthetic changes to your businesses. As they’re mostly used for convenience and aesthetic purposes, Bux can only be gained while playing, as opposed to coins which can be earned while you’re not.

The Elevator

Bitizens will, like clockwork, enter your building and wait in the elevator for you to deliver them to their altitudinal destination. If their desired floor is an apartment, then congratulations! You have a new resident. Otherwise, you’ll simply deliver customers to business, earning coins at a rate of the floor number they arrive at times two.

Elevator upgrades let you move more people in less time.

Elevator upgrades let you move more people in less time.

As I mentioned above, the elevator can be upgraded using Tower Bux (this takes time, the upgrades are expensive). An upgraded elevator moves Bitizens at a faster rate, which really comes in handy when your tower starts getting tall.

Construction: Residences and Businesses

When you have enough coins, you can tap above the tower to build a new floor. This happens instantly, granting you bonus Tower Bux, but you must install a business or residence before you can use that floor. Installing a business or residence, much like stocking a business, occurs according to a real time clock (often taking several hours). Tower Bux can be used here to “hurry” the process, costing one Bux for every hour remaining on the process.

Tap above the top floor to build a new floor.

Tap above the top floor to build a new floor.

When installing a new floor, you have six options. You can either install a residence, or you can install one of five different types of businesses: creative, service, retail, food or recreation, but keep in mind that you want to keep the balance of business types relatively even, as well as the balance between job positions and residents. It’s also worth mentioning here that the game has several types of VIPs that can visit your tower. Most of them will come into play later, but if a Construction Worker shows up in your elevator, deliver them to a floor that is under the construction to knock 3 hours off of the installation time.

Business Operations

Each business can employ three employees and stock three items, but can only stock as many different items as employees currently working. Like construction, restocking takes time (though, much less than construction) and can be “hurried” with Tower Bux. If a Delivery Man VIP enters the elevator, deliver him to a floor that is currently restocking to knock 3 hours off of the restocking time. As you progress, it may be useful to spend Tower Bux on upgrading the stocking capacity of your business, so they don’t run out of product quite as fast.

Manage employees and product stock from the Business window.

Manage employees and product stock from the Business window.

The last VIPs that have a chance to show up at your tower are the Big Spender (buys out all of one item on the floor you deliver them to), Celebrity (increases business temporarily on the floor you deliver them to), and Real Estate Agent (automatically moves a Bitizen into an empty apartment spot).

The Menu

The Menu contains the aforementioned Bitbook for monitoring your Bitizens happiness, which is a bit creepy. The Bitizens menu gives you a sortable list of your Bitizens, allowing you to see their dream job, where they’re presently employed, and their skill levels in each department.

Menu and Bitizen Roster.

Menu and Bitizen Roster.

There’s also a statistics tab which will inform you of your sales per minute and the demand for any new businesses. Finally, you can visit the bank to exchange extra Tower Bux for coins if you’re short-changed.

Statistics and the Bank.

Statistics and the Bank.

Conclusion

TinyTower is a fun game that’s simple to learn, but has the complexity to make playing satisfying. It take both roles, as a time-waster for when you have a few minutes as well as a game you can sit and play for hours on end. TinyTower supports GameCenter integration, and has a lengthy list of achievements for making play more objective-oriented. The final achievement is to build 100 floors, which is quite a task.

At the time of this writing, my tower is has 20 floors and is inhabited by 32 Bitizens, and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.


Summary

Tower management simulation on your iPhone.

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