iPad App Review: Tiny Death Star

(Available in the iTunes App Store for iPhone & iPad. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Price: Free)

The Summer of 2011 proved to be quite an exciting time for me when it came to finding games for my iPad2. While the promise of being able to play TellTale Games’ video game sequel to the Back to the Future Trilogy was one reason for the gadget’s purchase, I was not finding a lot of games to fill up my new toy with.

It was during one afternoon when I began a search for a game that could take me back to the vertical-building of Maxis’ SimTower game, that I came across Nimblebit’s 8-bit ode to structural conquest: Tiny Tower.

While it was no SimTower, the concept had soon captured my attention (and much of my free time). The simplicity of building a skyscraper into the heavens with all manner of businesses and residences, proved not just a hit with me, but also with many others. Apple even called it the 2011 iPhone Game of the Year.

Since the runaway success of Tiny Tower, Nimblebit expanded the adventures of their tiny “bitizens” into the sky (Pocket Planes), and in a trans-continental fashion (the recently-released Pocket Trains). However, a fourth game has now appeared, in which the humble company has found itself partnered with two of the biggest names imaginable: Disney, and Lucasarts. The three have combined forces to bring Nimblebits’ bitizens into a galaxy far, far away. The world, of Tiny Death Star.

Returning to the world of vertical construction, the game puts you in the service of The Galactic Empire, helping The Emperor and Darth Vader construct The Death Star. Just like in Tiny Tower, you will be put in charge of bringing businesses and residences to this project. It may seem a little odd that the Emperor would see his “technological terror” as a way to bring outsiders onto a weapon of this size, but don’t worry: there’s a method to his madness.

You see, while businesses and residences can be built vertically up from the main floor…the Empire is also building down into the super-structure, with all sorts of familiar rooms for their own agenda. So in a sense, the Empire is profiting off of the commercialism above, that will help it construct a weapon of ultimate doom.

Face it: it’s sheer genius!!

We’ve already seen the success the Star Wars franchise has had being combined with the Angry Birds series, so it is fun to see a little love given to something you have to create (which, will/may/possibly be destroyed by The Rebel Alliance?).

The game gives various businesses based on not just the films, but the Expanded Universe as well. Though some can be a little questionable. For example: you can construct a Mon Cala Aquarium…yet there’s a restaurant called Mon Cala Seafood.

Unlike Tiny Tower with its uniformity to its bitizens, Tiny Death Star encompasses all sorts of alien species and characters from across the Star Wars universe. You’ll see Rodians, Ewoks, Gungans, and many more. Even main characters from the films will sometimes appear. For example, take this image above, where Boba Fett has stopped in to have some Neimoidian cuisine.

There are various business levels to uncover, and I’m sure each of us has several that we’re eager to see. While the restaurant levels include such hotspots as The Cantina, the most fun levels for me appear to be under the stores labelled as Recreation. This is where you’ll find the likes of The Rancor Pit, Dark Side Cave, not to mention a Holonet Cineplex, with three very familiar, pixelated posters on display.

The design fun even extends to the various residence levels. One that I rather enjoyed was the Coruscant Apartments, where you can see the planet’s neverending traffic lanes moving outside the window. In fact, that is a plus this game has over the likes of Tiny Tower: every other floor has a small animated scenario in it!

Given everything I’ve said so far, it sounds like this game should be a home run: it plays to my love of “building” games, and my fandom of Star Wars. However, there is a Dark Side to this ray of sunshine.

– Notable among them, is the accumulation of Imperial Bux. Though it is free to start and play much of the game, there are times when Imperial Bux will be “a necessary evil.” The other Nimblebit games give players plenty of opportunities to accumulate Bux, which can help you purchase characters, faster elevators, and more. One of the more recent additions to the Tiny Tower game, was being able to watch short video ads and be awarded with extra bux, which Tiny Death Star does not give as an option. I was a big fan of Tiny Tower‘s methods of not forcing me to buy things, which in turn, made me want to put down some money and make some purchases. As it stands now, Death Star has made me keep the wallet latched shut.

– Some of the button configurations on the main screen are a little odd in their placement. As I have an older iPad model, my left thumb is not able to properly operate the elevator buttons easily. If you have one of the more recent iPad’s with the skinner sides, I could see this issue being ok. There is also the rather ‘glaring’ tab of the Emperor in the upper left, and the “add a new floor” tab up at the top. It feels that these choices could maybe have been added as pop-out/drop-down choices by finger-swiping. As it is, they ruin what should be a very clean visual aesthetic.

– Given that this is the first release of the game, it is also not without its bugs. I’ve had a few times where the game has crashed on me, and then somehow sped up the game’s processing time, collecting the credits from  2-5 hour period. Not that I wasn’t grateful, but I was expecting a more competent gaming clock. I’ve even had some levels that should take a minute to process certain store stockings, and it miraculously gets me my stock right away!

On a more positive note, one feature the game has, is the ability for guests visiting various floors to “help” regarding restocking. Let’s say I have a person wanting to visit a store on level 12, and there’s 10 minutes left to stock a certain item. Well, if I drop off the customer to that floor, one minute of restocking time goes away!

There is also a Dark Side to this method as well. If one has Imperial floors that extend into the Death Star, you can guide your elevators to these levels, and drop the person off on one of these floors. If the Imperials on these floors are working on a certain project, these “visitors” will take off one minute of build-time. Though just where the visitors go…well, I’m sure The Empire will disavow that any persons disappeared within the confines of The Death Star.

In the end, Tiny Death Star is still in its infancy stages. While I was easily annoyed at the shake-down methods of Universal Movie Tycoon and Jurassic Park Builder, Death Star still has the chance to make updates/changes that can improve the quality of the game.

After playing the game for the past few days, my experiences have allowed me to rate it a B-average. After all, how can one be that upset when one sees the song list for Rebo’s Karaoke, with the most pricey/popular song being, Yub Nub?

As you go on through the game, little scenes will be unlocked, such as this one. Remember that warning Han Solo gave C-3PO about Wookies being sore losers?

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About MWH1980

Growing up in the state of Iowa, one would assume I'd be enamored with pigs and corn. Well, I wasn't. Instead, I grew fascinated by many things that were entertainment-related. Things like movies, animation, toys, books, and many more kept my attention. This blog I hope to use to express myself regarding my varied obsessions. (P.S. There's no Photoshop involved in that Gravatar-I really am holding an Oscar)

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