15 October 2011

It's a Small Wonder

Here with another edition of games you hate but love, an update on my current mobile game obsessions -- just in time for your shiny new iPhone 4S's. Two years ago it was Papaya Farm, the gateway drug. Last spring it was We Rule for a few furious months. Then in July we started in on Bakery Story. I was ready to quit my pastry chef career weeks ago but waited until I converted all my ovens and coffee makers into ice cream machines for a grand re-opening. Now I'm going to stop serving my delicious sundaes and let my demanding customers starve. I'm so over (virtual) desserts.

The preference for my play group -- five girls and three guys -- are that games have to be cute and there has to be a social element involved. No actual skill required. Surprisingly, it's not easy to find games that fit the bill despite the deluge in apps that are designed to these specifications.

Most of the zoo type games are no good because raising a few animals to stick in cages is hardly exciting. Dragon Vale was okay for about five seconds because who didn't love How to Train Your Dragon, but it ultimately proved to be too boring. Trying to breed dragons to get a particular species is interesting but I just kept wishing for an iPhone Pokemon.

The only animal game I'd get into has to involve some sort of safari theme where you try to balance the predators versus the prey -- all while preserving plant life, recovering from natural disasters, and avoiding poachers. I want to simulate the circle of life or nothing else. Give me some complexity in animal games already.

Luckily I have found two games worth checking out. The first one is a familiar theme, just Mafia Wars dressed up with graphics and action. While I don't espouse violence in real life, I have no problems mugging, robbing, and committing all manner of crimes to make my name feared across the five boroughs. There is a lot of satisfaction in watching your little avatar punch people out and then steal their money.

You also get to build a neighborhood of your own and so far I have a sparkling basketball court surrounded by a late night pizza joint and a classy abandoned building. Come on through, I've got the safest streets in Crime City because I believe in keeping danger off my stoop.

And since I like to brag, my record in fights versus my "rivals" is 104-4. That's a 0.963 winning percentage and three of those losses were when I wasn't looking and got jumped. The one legitimate loss was on my first day, when I was still wet behind the ears. Since then I've been practically undefeated. I'm pretty sure I was born to intimidate.

The other game is my favorite so far. It's called Tiny Tower and is an 8-bit treatise on life in the modern metropolis. Okay maybe it's not quite that deep. The goal of Tiny Tower is to build a skyscraper filled with happy residents and booming businesses. Each person has a dream job and if you put them in that position, they are like totally appreciative.

As you add floors to your building, you'll create photo studios, golf courses, banks, wood shops, grocery stores, and more delightful places to decorate and staff. Being able to hire, fire, and evict people is a powerful feeling. Also, your "bitizens" get to wear funny costumes and talk about each other in their own version of Facebook.

Download Tiny Tower already, it's megalomaniacal fun and unlike other freemium games, doesn't force you to pay real money to unlock stuff. Then friend me please! Well, after checking out this article, "How Skyscrapers Can Save the City."