Game review: Tiny Tower Vegas.

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Released in 2011, Tiny Tower (App Store / Google Play) combined pretty pixel graphics with a Sim Tower Lite theme that favoured frequent short bursts of play and epitomized the perfect mobile gaming experience. The title charmed gamers and critics alike, chalking unanimously high review scores, winning Apple’s Game of the Year, and catapulting developer Nimblebit into the upper levels *smirk* of the nascent mobile gaming industry.

Plus, thanks to a constant stream of updates, clones popping up all over the app stores (you know you got a winning formula when Zynga makes a blatant copy of your game), and a semi-sequel set in a galaxy far far away, Tiny Tower has enjoyed remarkable longevity. Still, people (and by people, I mean me) clamoured for a true sequel. Last week, Nimblebit finally delivered.

Was it worth the wait, though? Does Tiny Tower Vegas (App Store / Google Play) more closely follow the amazing original or the buggy, IAP-bloated semi-disaster that was Tiny Death Star (App Store / Google Play)? Just like in a real casino, I guess, you win some, you lose some.

Wins

In many ways, TTV apes the original. The Gotta’ Catch Build Em’ All flavour so integral to the series is still present, as are the inexplicably gorgeous sprites. In fact, the game looks even better now, though subtly so, with a more glittery, Vegas-befitting palette and insanely smooth elevator animations.

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The gam also borrowed some features from TDS. Missions are back, usually in the form of people or item searches, and award chips (much better than the pittance of coins in TDS). Another returning feature is where delivered bitizens reduce the stocking/building time of the floor you’ve sent them to.

Plus, TTV gets rid of the lengthy initial load (and blather about earnings) from TDS, going back to the almost-instant start-up of the original.

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Of course, TTV brings a whole slew of new gameplay, most notably casino game floors. Starting a game uses at least one of the above-mentioned chips (although players get a free go at each game daily), a new currency that comes by much less frequently than coins or bux but still at a comfortable enough clip.

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Other new features like cross-platform syncing, and the ability to customize (somewhat) your own tower’s roof, lobby and lifts are small but delightful. Be careful about the syncing, though. I’ve had a friend lose a couple hours of gameplay when the game synced the wrong save. In good news for Android users, the game doesn’t have that annoying Mobage account, always-online requirement anymore!

Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold (excuse the obvious, cheesy analogy – this is Vegas, after all), and TTV does have its share of problems.

Losses

Nimblebit has inexplicably removed the ability to choose the type of floors to be built next, which totally deindividualises each floor. They’ve also brought back the much-criticised (by me) mechanic from TDS where bitizens cannot be un-employed but can only be transferred to another floor, an odd decision considering this was a feature they eventually removed from TDS. Also, employing bitizens now cost money!

Nitpicks aside, I have one major beef with TTV. Perhaps as a nod to inflation (???), everything in the game now costs a lot more than they used to. Floors cost hundreds of thousands even at the low levels and upgrades and timer-rushes now gobble up several hundred of bux at a go.

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While the game has consequently made accruing large amounts of bux much easier (with wins at the casino games giving up to thousands of bux at a go), the same cannot be said of the coins that make up the basic currency.

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As can be seen from the screenshots, floors in TTV cost significantly higher than floors in previous games. The cash flow coming in remains the same, though. As such, it takes way longer to build new floors even at the lowest levels, which makes for a much less compelling reason to constantly check back in, casino games or not. After all, this is still a game about increasing your tower, at its core.

It could be argued, of course, that this is just to push more in-app purchases but one of the best things about Nimblebit games has always been about how un-pushy they are with IAP. I’ve never felt like I had to buy IAP just to progress and even though saving up for floors the old-fashioned way is still doable, it’s far slower than in the older games.

The biggest consolation is that all of the problems I brought up are all fixable through software updates. The biggest problem? They’re technically not bugs, or even problems to anyone else, it seems. None of the reviews I’ve read have been any less than fully effusive, with some even mentioning the fair-handed way that Nimblebit has approached IAP in this game (?!?).

How was your experience, sir?

At the end of the day, the negatives don’t detract too much from the fact that this is still a Nimblebit pedigree – a high quality game that scores well by almost any yardstick. TTV looks great, plays well and the casino games are deceptively addictive. It’s Nimblebit’s most polished game to date and, despite being more evolutionary than revolutionary, will entertain almost anyone.

The only detractors are nitpickers like me who remember the good ol’ days (of ’11, apparently) where it didn’t take a full day of pretty-consistent playing just to build one new floor at level 10. The game is still enchanting, no doubt, but the glacial pace for new floors means that it’ll lose its glitzy lustre much faster than its predecessors did.

Overall, Tiny Tower Vegas is still a title that I would recommend to almost anyone looking for a good, free mobile gaming fix. I just wouldn’t do it as unreservedly as the original.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars one ace short of a royal flush

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