Exactly 5 years ago one week from now, I received a fourth generation iPod Touch for my sixteenth birthday. Having no PC or PS3, I used this to tide me over on the gaming front, and my gaming / internet life was pretty much focused around this little device for at least a year. The first game I ever downloaded was the freshly released Tiny Tower, a game which has just this week seen a re-release onto iOS and Android in the form of a 5 year anniversary edition.
Tiny Tower is a mobile simulation game, a genre who’s games are, admittedly, more common than dirt nowadays, with absurd in-app purchases to match. Tiny Tower, however, is a lightweight, brilliantly designed rarity within that genre, and their IAP system is beautifully non obtrusive, to the point where I often forget that it exists altogether. This buyable secondary currency is called Bux, and it’s used to buy cosmetic upgrades to your tower and upgrade the amount of stock a floor can hold – thereby limiting the amount of attention it needs from you in order to make money. The game gives you ample opportunity to earn 10 or 20 Bux as you visit your tower through simple minigames that typically involve finding items or people scattered through the tower.
But where are my manners? I’m introducing the currency system before the game itself. In Tiny Tower, you’re prompted to build a residential floor in order to entice 5 “bitizens” to move their pixelated butts in. These bitizens all have stats which determine what kind of work environment they work well in, as well as a dream job – a particular type of floor that they’ll provide additional benefits for when hired. You can then build business floors from 5 different types – Food, Service, Recreation, Retail, and Creative. I typically try to balance out my floors so that I have an equal amount of each business floor, as well as as many residential floors between to own enough bitizens to fully employ all 3 hiring slots for each business floor.
I won’t go into a complete explanation of the game’s mechanics, for its simplicity is found mostly in its tutorial. I’ll just say that the game doesn’t demand too much from you, or spend weeks berating you to play it and slowly make the base gameplay obsolete unless you’ve bought currency. Tiny Tower is, as far as mobile games go, pretty saintly in its innocence, and your micromanagement paradise is only ever a few taps away.
One part of Tiny Tower which I love is its customisability. You can rename and redress your bitizens, and unlock costumes for them (so for example, I have a Barry Allen wearing the superhero outfit in one of my apartments). Each business floor has a plethora of different shops it could possibly open up as, from a cake studio to a cinema to a pharmacy, and so much more. You can move rooms around and paint them any colour, for no cost at all (unlike in the original version where it cost a small amount of Bux each time). You can even rename the floors themselves, so your pharmacy is instead called ‘Drugs ‘N’ Pugs’. (I named that one at 3am, cut me some slack.) All of this, combined with the reactionary and often random ‘bitbook’ which residents of your tower will often use, Nimble Bit have done an excellent job of making your tower feel like a living building.
I don’t really play mobile games nowadays. Even moreso than 2011, the platform has fallen into a distressing state of cash-grabs and copyright infringement. The re-release of Tiny Tower, however, has made my phone feel just a little bit less empty, and for that I’m grateful. If you wish to look up my tower in game and monitor my progress, you may do so by adding me with the friend code 1QMS.