Review: Game Dev Story for the iPhone
I seriously can’t stop playing Kariosoft’s newest iPhone experience, Game Dev Story. It has all the ingredients that make up a great iPhone game. You can jump in and out quickly, it has a simple yet fun gameplay system and it has a lot of replayability. It feels kind of dorky to admit, but I’d occasionally find myself thinking about different strategies for the game when I wasn’t playing it. I don’t think I’ve ever been this obsessed with any other iPhone game before. People who are fans of tycoon style games will really appreciate the newest addition to the genre because this is as good as they come.
You play as the manager of a new game studio. In the beginning, you have a secretary, 2 employees and a little bit of money at your disposal to start developing and selling games. Your game studio has room for 4 total employees — so your first decision is who to hire. Each employee can have one of several different job titles. When you first start, you’ll only have access to the basic roles of coder, sound engineer, designer and writer. As you progress, you’ll be able to hire employees with more talented, versatile roles, i.e. better stats. You also have the option to make your current employees better by using some of your resources to train them or level them up. As employees get tired of performing their current roles, you’ll have the option to switch them to a different role so they’re always putting forth their best effort.
Once you have your employees, it’s time to start making games. You have to pick what platform, genre and type of game you want to develop. Certain combinations of genre and type go really well together, and others don’t. Not to give too much away, but a robot shooter is apparently a really popular combination where a ninja puzzle game is considered bizarre (don’t ask me why, it sounded awesome to me). You’re then given a series of points that you allocate to things like polish, cuteness, simplicity, etc. You need to be careful and make sure that these allocations line up with what genre and type of game you’re making or it can hurt your game sales. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to allocate all of your points to cuteness when your team is making a war shooter game. Once you’ve made all your decisions — as long as you have enough budget — you start making your game. If you don’t have enough money, you always have the option to take on short term contract jobs for some quick cash.
The whole game takes place over a 20 year time period. As you play, you’ll get access to new consoles and old consoles will go off the market. The consoles mimic video game history and all have tongue in cheek names like Intrendo IES, Intrendo Super IES and my personal favorite, the Senga Uranus. As these consoles come out, you have to decide if you want to pay for a license to develop on them or not. They tend to be fairly expensive, so you can’t develop for all of them.
You’ll also have the option to move offices a couple times throughout the game. This gives you the ability to have more staff who add more points to the games you develop. After each game is released, you’re given a rating from 4 critics. If their scores are high enough, your game goes in the hall of fame and you then have the option of making a sequel later if you so desire. Once the scores are in, your game goes on sale. That’s when the money starts rolling in — as long as your game is awesome of course.
After you’ve gotten a few games out there, you can decide whether to go to the annual trade show and whether you should hire a celebrity, booth babes, or people in bear costumes in order to attract more attention to your booth. There’s an annual award show that your games get considered for. There’s demographics to consider when making games. Advertising can affect the sales of your games. The list goes on and on with all the decisions you have to make.
I’d say my only complaint about the game is that it doesn’t do a great job explaining all the different nuances of the game. It introduces you to the basics, but you have to do a fair amount of experimenting to really understand the game.
Even with all the depth and moving pieces to this game, it never feels complicated. The game has a nice streamlined interface to it and keeps you engaged constantly. I kind of lied in the opener of this review when I said that you can jump in and out of the game quickly. Oh sure the mechanics are there to do both, and it most certainly is really easy to jump in to the game — but it was that jumping out part that I had so much trouble with.