Giant Bomb Review

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Game Dev Story Review

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  • IPHN

It runs out of steam before it finds some semblance of a conclusion, but this twee, oddly knowing take of the game development process can be curiously engrossing and hard to put down.

 Even the damn title font is cute!
Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story is a peculiar little treat for the iPhone, the type of which, when I consider it, I’m a little surprised we don’t see more of. As the name pretty plainly states, this pocket-sized tycoon game puts you in control of the destiny of your own game development company. It’s somehow the most fully realized insider look into the games business as we’ve seen in a game, despite being on the iPhone, and being pretty overtly cutesy about the whole thing. It’s a game that seems to have found particular resonance within the game development community, something that, at least to me, would seem tantamount to watching your character in The Sims play The Sims. I suppose this speaks to the ways in which Game Dev Story crudely, yet somehow accurately depicts the game development process, or perhaps the streamlining irons out the messy creases that can make the real thing so damn hard. Maybe it’s just thinly veiled narcissism. Regardless, the low-impact strategy and the simple charm of “playing developer” kept my attention for much longer than just about anything else I’ve encountered on the iPhone. 

 He's heating up!
As much as Game Dev Story leaves out of the game development process, it covers an admirable amount of ground, and does a pretty good job of laying out the simple, rhythmic flow of the game. I could go into painstaking detail of all the little mechanics tucked in here, of which there are truly legion, but the basics of the business boil down to hiring a staff, choosing the platform, genre, and theme of your game, choosing which employee you’ll have focus on the initial pitch, the graphics, and the sound, doing some debugging and then pushing it out the door, seeing how the critics and the game-buying public take to the game, maybe spend a little money on advertising, and then rinsing, and repeating. Each and every one of these little factors, plus dozens of other, smaller decisions you have to make, can determine the success of each title. It’s fun to experiment and mix and match weird genres and themes--like, say, a historical golf game--and then seeing how successful the results are, but the game obfuscates so much of the math behind each little step that it can, at times, be tough to really min-max the process.
 
While you manage all the little details, including, but not limited to, the training of your employees; whether you choose to attend the annual games industry convention GAMEDEX and how much you want to spend on a booth; whether you want to take a break between dev cycles to take on a quick, potentially lucrative contract job; all the way down to the freaking seating chart for your employees, you also have to keep the big picture in mind, since running out of capital in the middle of the dev cycle will cause that game to be canceled, and cranking out cheap, quick, low-quality games will prevent you from ever winning any awards, or developing any games good enough to warrant a sequel, never mind getting your company to the point where you have the know-how, and the cash, to develop your own console.

 I hope you like menus and graphs!
Though it adheres to a pretty strict arc for each game you develop, the game is constantly introducing new genres and themes to play with, new consoles to consider developing for, and bigger offices to make space for more employees. The action in Game Dev Story ultimately boils down to two simple acts: selecting various menu items, and watching various meters fill up. That’s really it! The only real objective in the whole thing is to just make the best durned games you can muster. The game “stops” at the 20-year marker to tally your accomplishments, but you can still keep playing after that, should your heart desire. Personally, by the time I hit  the big two-oh, I had pretty thoroughly burned out on Game Dev Story. For one, those twenty years represented a lot of hours with the game, though the mobile nature of the iPhone and the ability to play in short bursts makes it hard for me to peg an exact play time. The real issue, though, is that I just ran out of new, interesting ways to expand my company at a certain point, and was kind of grinding out games year-in, year-out. When Game Dev Story works, it’s because of the constant carrot-on-a-stick of incremental expansion, and all the busywork can make it hypnotic. I just reached a point where it ran out of carrots.
 
The boxy, pixel-art-style visuals that more than a little recall Habbo Hotel establish the cutesy tone of Game Dev Story, though it’s also jam-packed with characters, consoles, and competing developers and games with names that wink towards real-world games business and pop culture in general. The constantly looping music in Game Dev Story can get pretty shrill after a while, though there’s an option to mute it that I’m very grateful for, and over time I developed a certain Pavlovian response the rest of the game’s cheery little chimes.
 
The menu-based interface is clunky as hell, and the odd letterboxed look of the visuals betrays the fact that Game Dev Story was somewhat hastily ported from another mobile platform. But the quick, turn-based pacing still makes this a pretty terrific fit for the iPhone.
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Edited by Dany

I bought this soon after Ryan talked about it on the bombcast and it is really a fun and very clever game. Their are a lot od different variables to keep account of but rarely do you feel stressed out over everything thats going on. 
 
Good to see a review of a iphone game, and a good one at that. 
 
Also, one thing that gets me everytime is when they get on fire, Im just so giddy but when those fires because of bugs, i am just so sad!

Posted by Undeadpool

"  It’s fun to experiment and mix and match weird genres and themes--like, say, a historical golf game--and then seeing how successful the results are, but the game obfuscates so much of the math behind each little step that it can, at times, be tough to really min-max the process." 
I read this as a ringing endorsement. I hate when people reduce a fun, clever, charming game into a series of math problems (Persona 4 anyone?).

Posted by Glak

Great game, Glakin' is kicking it with the Playstatus

Posted by Scratch

Wait what? iPhone game reviews. Huh. 
 Awesome game btw.

Posted by InfamousBIG

Twee?

Posted by Landon

I had this exact game in my head not a year ago. Everything from genre combining to create better sales to reviewers putting your game into a hall of fame.
When Ryan started talking about this I got really ticked because it was my idea.  Oh well, I guess, if anything, it shows that my other ideas could be really cool.

Posted by volcboy84

In the first 15 minutes or so I thought this game was going to seriously beat my ass, but eventually I got the hang of it! Great game.

Posted by MisterMouse

cool! I might pick this up! it sounds like a lot of fun

Posted by j_meyer_13

I think this is actually the first game to make me want an iPhone... which, considering how much I dislike the iPhone, is saying a lot...

Posted by Afroman269
@RiotBananas said:
" @MysteriousBob said:
" iPhones are for assholes. Why review a game for assholes? "
Because thousands of people are assholes. "
And chances are that guy has an iPhone because he sounds like a big asshole.  
 
Anyways, I fucking love this game. There's a lot of potential for a sequel. 
Posted by drakesfortune

I probably got a good 10 to 15 hours out of this game, and the first 10 was interesting and entertaining.  It really does lack some depth as you get toward the end of the game though.  It's a nice start.  I'd definitely pick up another game like this if they put a bit more time and budget into it and make it a little deeper.

Posted by zombie2011

Just bought this game, should be fun for while as i spend Thanksgiving with my fiances family.

Posted by joebootoo

This game is surprisingly addictive.  Have played through the 20 year cycle many times already.

Posted by rmanthorp

Haha! Great review for a great game!

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