tiny tower cover

Oh gosh! Build for your lives, pixels!

Developer NimbleBit

Platform iOS (tested)

Things You Might Like

  • Sweet retro graphics
  • Easy to learn and play
  • Free to download

Things You Might Not Like

  • Grindingly slow gameplay
  • Needless restocking
  • Lack of choice
  • ‘Hidden’ costs

Tiny Tower is nothing fancy, just a simple simulator that relies heavily on its cuteness but lets itself down slowly in many ways.

3 out of 5 floors completed

Errol Stephen Philip Flynn will be a dictator, but not to these pixels, baby…


In a distant kingdom, there lies a tower.  The journey to it is long and arduous, and involves many fights, challenges and quests before you can finally assume control of the land and its denizens.  Tiny Tower isn’t like that.  In the game (a free download from the Application Store) you find yourself ruling over a simple domain; a lobby.  In order to reach the all-important tower aspect of the game you are given a simple, easy tutorial which guides you on your way.

The principle couldn’t be simpler; add a floor, choose who will live and work there and you’re away.  Tenants pay rent and work in your commercial floors at a variety of tasks, whilst paying customers float through and order, helpfully, whatever you’ve got in stock.

Stock is obviously an important issue in this game.  Whichever business you set up, you can employ up to three people.  If you have a full workforce on a floor, you’ll find you can order (at a cost) three different products, all at a different price tier.  Of course, if there is only one little employee struggling away, you can only stock the cheapest item, which sells faster and takes less time to deliver.  This does all bounce along quite nicely, although the cost of restocking and the time it takes does often grate.  What doesn’t make sense is having to manually restock yourself: once stock is ordered, it arrives as a little box icon in the corner of the floor.  You have to tap on it yourself in order for your tiny people to start selling or they’ll just bumble about in the dark for hours, which wastes time and stalls your income.

Income is not exactly forthcoming, eitherMoney accumulates quite slowly, which points to this being a game that you play when you have a few minutes spare, as opposed to spending hours at a time managing your little world.  Currency also comes in two forms: coins and TowerBux.  Coins are used for almost everything; buying stock and adding new floors to the tower, but TowerBux pay for special perks, like speeding up construction or deliveries, and can, when enough are accumulated, be swapped for varying amounts of coins.  You gather these TowerBux through doing little extra tasks; either locating one of your ‘Bitizens’ or guiding people about your building using the lift, when you will occasionally be tipped.  Of course, the more you have the more you can accomplish, and this is where developers NimbleBit make their money – you can buy varying amounts of Bux for increasing amounts of money (if you want 100 of them you can spend £2.99, if you want 1,000, £20.99).

Of course, you don’t have to pay anything if you don’t want to, but the game is quite addictive for something so formulaic (perhaps because it is so simple to grasp the principle of the game itself), and I can see a lot of people throwing money away to progress further faster.  I would call it throwing money away, frankly, as a little patience will get you where you want to go, but gameplay feels like it has been deliberately slowed in order to get you to spend your cash.  Each time you add a floor to your tower, the next floor costs even more, and those costs soon spiral out of control and it takes a good while for the money to build up to afford the next step.  Couple that with the fact that for every other business floor you build you also need a residential floor and you’re looking at a hefty bill.

Building is also a bit of a mystery – in addition to the residential floors there are five different types of commercial floors you can build: ‘creative’, ‘service’, ‘recreational’, ‘retail’, and the simply named ‘food’.  This seems like tons of choice, but within each category are different types of floors, for variety.  Annoyingly, you can’t choose exactly which you want - you choose the umbrella category and then it’s pot luck, and you can get lots of the same thing.  Such a thing is irritating, especially when it comes to keeping your tenants happy.

four levels with people on

Here's a snap of my very own tower. Can you spot the Simon Pegg lookalike in the pub?

If having power over little pixellated folk is your thing, then you’ll love the control you have over your folk here.  When people come into your domain, you choose which jobs they do.  They perform better in certain commercial types, and each one has a dream job, a specific industry in which they will love working.  This will give you faster delivery times and cheaper products, and it will make them very happy indeed.  Of course, you can’t guarantee that they’ll ever find their niche, so you can also evict them and wait for new people to move in.  They won’t ever object or complain or stage a coup, so you can feel free to wear a uniform and grow an interesting moustache.

Therein lies the breaking point of this game – there will be those who want to play it consistently and constantly, who will get frustrated at the drawn-out pace, or those who play for only a few minutes a day and don’t mind the slow progression.  When you’re not restocking or building, there’s also a few extra touches to keep you occupied.  Some are frivolous and do not aid gameplay, like BitBook, a Facebook parody that creates a newsfeed from your residents that can amuse for a while, and others are more useful, like lists that track where your residents are and their happiness, and demands for the different industry types.

Overall, then, we hit the crux of the matter: Tiny Tower is well thought out and cleverly put together, with sugar-coated graphics and an innocent, easygoing playability, but it has no long term value.  After a while the formula is too formulaic, there’s nothing new on the horizon.  If there were such unforeseeable events as people leaving or the tower being damaged then there would be some merit to having to cope with the disaster, but there isn’t.  If you were to play it for the rest of your life, you would achieve a tower that was far less tiny than everybody else’s, but you’d have got there through a numbingly inevitable process of ordering, restocking, hiring ad infinitum.  In truth, it’s a sim that’s just that little bit too simple.


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