Wednesday, 10 July 2013

REVIEW - Game Dev Story (Android / iOS)

Games Development 101

Now, let's be honest. All of us gamers have, at some point or another, wished we were making games. Maybe you are a developer – in which case, well done, you lucky bastard – or maybe you just love games and wish you had the ability to make all those wonderful ideas you have swimming around in your head a reality. Well, now you can, and without all that inconvenient hassle, such as having to study and work really hard. Now, even a knuckle-head like you can run his or her own games company and produce wonderful games. All thanks to this excellent mobile game by Kairosoft.

Game Story Dev is a Sim game in which you run a games development company, with the aim of becoming a successful, money making enterprise - just like EA or CAPCOM, but hopefully without all the online passes and overpriced DLC. 

Starting in your first humble office, you must recruit a handful of people by putting out ads. Spending more on advertising will yield better results, and soon you will have a motley crew of games making peeps. The isometric viewpoint and pixellated 16-bit graphics are a treat for the eyes, and have enough charm to make watching someone programming on their computer a joy, rather than the sickening bore it is in reality. 

Once your team is assembled it's time to get to work. First you chose which console you wish to develop a game for. Then you choose  a genre and style, e.g. An Adventure game with a Dungeon setting, or maybe a Sim Dating game, your boffins set to work, hammering away at their computers as little icons pop up like thought bubbles. These icons signify increases in one of the four areas you must work with; fun, creativity, graphics and sound. Research data is also gained from productivity, shown by a blue floppy disk (ah, the good old days), which can be used to level up and train your employees, boosting their stats but also their salary. Once your game is complete and the debugging process has been finished you give it a title and ship it.

Once the videogame press get their pasty hands on it, they will give the game a mark out of ten, and a high enough total score will put your new game into the hall of fame, allowing you to work on a sequel in the future. Advertising is also important, so it pays to chuck money at various promotional gimmicks, which range from a demo release to TV sponsorship. There is an annual game awards ceremony which gives you a chance to win some extra kudos and cold hard currency by seeing off the competition in categories such as 'best design' and best audio'. The main prize is a million bucks, but this has still managed to elude me, despite my entry having gained a perfect 10 across the review board.

As the months zip by, new consoles are launched – complete with a press launch – with humourous names that parody existing consoles – such as the Sonny Playstatus, and the Intendro Whoops – even going as far as to mock failed consoles from the past such as the Virtual Boy. This humour prevails throughout the game and will raise a knowing smile with anyone familiar with their retro gaming machines. Indeed the entire game is such a joy to play, and such a ridiculously addictive experience that you will find it hard to actually stop. With new genres and game styles to choose from as your employee's stats improve, there is always the urge to try new radical combinations and see what sells. You could play it safe with a Sim Town game, or maybe throw the ball out there and create a Wrestling Puzzle game. 

The interface couldn't be simpler, with a simple touch of the screen bringing up the menu, whereby you can choose to develop a new title or perform some contract work for extra cash and research data. You can hire, fire, level up, and train staff, or use special items obtained from a travelling salesman. These items (power-ups, essentially) can give boosts to specific development stats, give staff new job titles, or even get them fired up on energy drinks (Dead Bull) so they don't need to leave the office for luxuries such as sleep. The menu also allows you to check on the sales figures for all your released games. It honestly couldn't be more intuitive, and you will know your way around the menus within minutes.

While incredibly simple to pick up and play, the tricky part is keeping enough cash flow to consistently train and level up your staff so they are capable of creating truly outstanding games. But once you hit your stride you can really go to town, with loads of choices for genres, as well as many new systems to develop for (at the cost of a ludicrous licensing fee). Once you have sufficiently levelled up a staff member in a number of professions, you can turn them into a hardware engineer, and here the fun really starts. Now you can develop your own console and stick it to the main players by creating something truly revolutionary. OK, so its creation is simply a matter of watching the stat bubbles popping off your little characters as they beaver away, but it makes it no less satisfying to have your very own games machine out there.

At the 20 year mark the game comes to a semi-end, with the ability to carry on regardless, producing more games and making ever more money. But the best thing to do is start afresh, with all your staff retaining their upgrades, meaning you can unleash some epic titles right off the bat and put pay to the competition. Game Dev Story is one of the most addictive gaming experiences I have ever played, and that I found it on a mobile phone is a real shock to me. I would regularly start playing late in the evening, then suddenly realise it was 2 am and I was still going. You really have to force yourself to stop – it's like a drug.

At a truly bargainous price of 'next to nothing', you owe it to yourself to get this game. If you don't have a smart phone, then this is the best reason to get one. Fuck the 15 mega-pixel camera, or the ability to use Facebook on the train. This game is the best reason yet to own the most irritating piece of technology devised by man! Get it now, but kiss your social life goodbye.

Title : Game Dev Story

Developer : Kairosoft

Year : 2010

System : Android, iOS