When I joined the world of Android phones in late 2011, the first thing I did was get my hands on Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story. I’d read and heard a great many good things about this little, casual gaming gem and my love for ‘business’ simulations left me with no choice: I was immediately hooked.
For weeks at work I would have a game running with my phone placed in the protective wall of my arms and keyboard, creating my own little gaming empire, whilst ensuring another large corporation (which I previously worked for, mind), with it’s hand firmly in the gaming pie, ran smoothly.
So when I became aware of Greenheart Games’ Game Dev Tycoon, I had to give it a go, regardless of how derivative it was. And believe me, it is highly derivative.
From the very basic start-up screen, to the playful character design and isometric viewpoint, the game takes a lot of it’s ‘inspiration’ from Game Dev Story. It apes a lot of the best things about the Android game, often without bettering them, and misses out on the main aspect that made it so appealing: it’s charm.
With their original Android game, Kairosoft returned us to a time when sims were fun, playful and even cutesy, whilst managing to retain a degree of realism that made the game worth playing. Titles such as Theme Hospital, Theme Park, the Sims, all retain a sense of reality, whilst managing to be charming and fun-filled – the perfect combination for casual addiction.
With Greenheart Games’ gaming industry sim however, this is one of the big ingredients that could’ve made the game infinitely more enjoyable and was sadly missing.
That’s not to say this wasn’t a good experience though. I get a real kick out of simulations, particularly those that allow me to build an ’empire’, whether that be in terms of medieval, fantasy, galactic or business – I just like to feel as if I’m conquering the world, via one medium or another. So in that respect, if you’re like me, you’ll get a fair bit of enjoyment out of the game.
Once you’ve selected to begin a new game, you will be asked to choice an ‘avatar’, which is basically what you – the owner – will look like as you sit at your desk throughout the game, overseeing your gaming company develop from a desk in your garage, to a modern office space with all the tri-screen PC’s and ground-breaking equipment you can imagine.
With your company name selected, you’re thrust into the world of games development, presumably set in the early-mid 80’s.
All the usual names are here and easily recognisable, from the starting platforms of Govodore and PC, through to MBox One and Playsystem 4 and the sheer amount of genres, game types and topics is quite staggering, adding depth and replayability to what should be a fairly limited type of game.
Around mid-way through the option begin to open up, once you get your own studio and begin to have your games published by big corporations and external companies, and you’ll find that what, at first, felt like quite a limited experience becomes much broader in scope and size.
My first full play through ended in misery, with my company going bust a couple of years after buying our first office and not being able to make a game series that would really sell. At times, it really does feel as if the methods you have to follow to have a really great game are hit and miss, with frustration really beginning to set in after producing you’re 34th game, only to see it get great review scores and sell poorly. There must be some kind of algorithms going on in the background that make these things make sense, but prepare to feel frustration as these things feel very much out of your hands early on.
But, as I mentioned, as you progress and open up a greater array of options, staff and marketing choice you will find that you become the master of your own destiny. Just trying to find the right member of your team to handle sound or engine on a particular game becomes a very important choice and you have to ensure you don’t push them too hard.
Once I reached the end of my second play through, I had achieved legendary status in the games industry and was presented with an award at the end of the 30 year period the game runs for. With close to $200 million in the bank, a team of 6 in our own little, plush office and a back-catalogue of 50+ titles over my career, I felt fairly smug at having beaten a little game that is easy to play, but incredibly hard to master.
It may have been ‘inspired’ by Game Dev Story, but falls short of the level of addictiveness that that title achieved. Where the latter opted for fun and quirky, Game Dev Tycoon tries to come down in the mid-point between fun and serious, without ever really fully appealing to either side.
It has it’s ups and downs, but for just under £10 on Steam, it’s hard to say it isn’t worth a buy and despite these flaws, I would recommend this to anybody that has a strong desire to take over the games industry one game at a time.