I can’t think of another iOS game that has chewed up as much time or battery life as Tiny Tower, and frankly I have no idea why. This free-to-play title from NimbleBit tasks you with managing a tower by building businesses, staffing them with residents called “bitizens” and maintaining stock levels. It’s simplistic and shallow, pointless and seemingly endless, yet I just can’t stop playing it.
A brief tutorial starts you off with a business floor and a residential floor to house your first bitizens. Each residential floor can hold up to five bitizens and each business can be staffed with three workers. One item can be stocked for each worker you have in a business.
Each item in a business costs progressively more coins and time to stock, but also yields a higher sale price. Successfully stocking a business with all three items will earn you a cash bonus or a Tower Buck. Tower Bux can be used to speed up stocking, to move bitizens into residences or speed up the construction of a new floor. Every floor you build costs both more time and coins than the one before it.
Businesses are placed in five categories: Food, Service, Recreation, Retail and Creative, each with a demand level based on the number of bitizens you have in your tower. Each bitizen has a proficiency rating from 0-9 for each type of business. The higher the rating of your employees, the more of a discount you get on the cost of restocking items. bitizens also have dream jobs and matching them will yield a large stock bonus and earn you a few bux.
You can also earn bux by manually operating your tower’s elevator and receiving tips and you get two coins for each floor your passenger travels. There are several elevator upgrades available, allowing you to move more bitizens per minute or simply save some time as your tower grows.
Occasionally VIPs will arrive at the elevator. These bitizens will increase the customers on a floor, buy out one type of item from a store, move a bitizen into an apartment or knock a few hours off of the construction of a new floor.
Finally, you can earn bux by playing a Where’s Waldo type mini game that simply asks you to locate a bitizen. As your population grows this becomes more tedious and often devolves into simply tapping on each floor until you find who you’re looking for.
Though they’re all the same size, bitizens have unique names and physical traits, which lends to the charm of Tiny Tower. They will even update their “Bitbook” social network statuses with funny quips or how they feel about their assigned job.
Each business and residence is unique as well and the game’s pixel art look manages to pack a ton of detail onto your screen without being cluttered or unusable. There isn’t much to the sound, but there are distinct alerts to tell you when to stock a store, what type of store you’ve tapped on or when someone is waiting for an elevator ride.
You can set the game to notify you when to restock a store when you aren’t playing Tiny Tower. The game world is persistent and your bitizens continue to live and work when you aren’t around, earning you coins. For the sake of real life productivity, I find it best to leave these notifications off. Unfortunately, the game won’t notify you when a business is completely out of stock or closed.
Tiny Tower has Game Center support for achievements and leaderboards and you can also view friends’ tower progress in relation to your own.
Unlike other games of this nature such as FarmVille or Animal Crossing, there is no real penalty to leaving your tower unattended for some time. Shops will simply close when out of stock and your income will stop. You can jump back in and get everything humming again within minutes, even after a day or two away.
Like most free-to-play games, you can gain an advantage or speed up wait times in Tiny Tower by purchasing bux in-game with real world money. However, unlike typical “freemium” games, there isn’t a feeling of needing to pay to win or progress and you can get a lot of enjoyment out of the base package.
I spent $0.99 on a few bux at the very beginning to give me a head start, but have put at least 10-15 hours into the game since then without spending another dime, though you can really only “play” for 5-20 minutes at a time without running out of things to do.
Tiny Tower is a great quick fix game and despite its simplicity manages to create an addictive experience that has had me saying “just one more floor” since I downloaded it. I’ve played it while watching TV, in the bathroom, while playing other games and even while eating. In fact, I should probably check on my tower now.