Giant Bomb Review

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Game Dev Story Review

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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 TheTramp

Cool.  Might have to check it out.  Sorry for the sparse comment.  Saw an opportunity for FIRST! and that damn quest...

Posted by RadZombie

great game!

Posted by norton123

Really been contemplating this one. 

Posted by Depressing_Wizard

I'd get this game, but I'm not sure if it'd run on my 1st gen iPod Touch.

Posted by Nizzleworth

Seeing that this review went up made me immediately boot up the game..

Posted by crapneck

none of this for droid yet i don't think

Posted by EVHKwick

I'd love to pick this up, but they'd need to port it to PC.

Posted by JJOR64
@hack745 said:
" I'd love to pick this up, but they'd need to port it to PC. "
Yeah.  They could release the game over Steam and I would buy it.
Posted by KamikazeCaterpillar

I fucking love this game. The only problem I have is the lack of a skip button. While the fan letters are usually pretty funny, everything seems to take a couple seconds to long or involves too many taps of the screen. I know this may seem like a minor complaint, but the amount of time you spend clicking through multiple meaningless screens and waiting for icons to fall adds up really quick.

Posted by JoelTGM

Hah, never would have expected to see a review for this game.  It is great, I love it.  It's extremely addicting.  

Posted by Morden2261

I bought this game a few weeks ago and after having to pry my phone out of my wife's fingers she bought a copy as well.  It's not perfect, as the review notes, but it's great fun and an excellent fit for a mobile game.

Posted by Yanngc33

It is now a known fact that if you want your game to be loved by Ryan, make it cute :D

Posted by BlazeHedgehog

If the developers are reading this, PLEASE PORT THE GAME TO SOME OTHER PLATFORM THAN SMARTPHONES BECAUSE I'D REALLY LIKE TO PLAY IT ONE DAY
 
Like, DSiWare, or shit, even to the PC or something! Make it a Facebook game! I don't know! But I'm not spending like $250+ to play this but I really really really want to.

Edited by Blair

I've got Game Dev Story.  It's fine for what it is.  I had fun trying to outdo myself and bring in tons of sales, until I reached a peak. Fun game but the thrills remain the same.
 
Great review, Ryan. Seems basically spot on.

Posted by TheMartino

Hey, Ann Deroid was working for my company too. Now I'm glad I fired her, conflict of interest.

This game grabbed me by balls and wouldn't let go til I finished my 20 year run. I ended up playing every free minute I had, but like you mentioned around year 10-12 the game stopped introducing new concepts to me. Once you get to the point that the ONLY way to generate more fans is by LUNAR WRITING you've become too big as a company.

The only thing I never did accomplish was win game of the year at that award show & get a perfect rating on one of my games. (Damn that score of 39/40. It will haunt me to this very day.)

Oh, yeah, you all should play this game.

Posted by issun187

Played this one for hours! I totally agree with your review, Ryan. :)
Posted by rndmtask

Cool, an iPhone game review, and one well deserving at that. I played for 7 hours straight the day I bought it and couldn't stop for days.  
 
I think I'm kind of done with it now, even though I have yet to win the Game of the Year award.   
 
Everything Ryan said is true. I hope for a sequel, with a lot more options and choices.

Posted by CraigAA1028

Wow, theres an actual review for this game? Damn. 
 
But yeah, played it probably as much as I've played Fallout. That's both awesome praise for the game, and sad for me

Posted by ThePantheon

JUST bought this a few hours ago after hearing Ryan talk about it on the Bombcast.
 
:)

Posted by Sooty

I don't see the big deal about this game.

Posted by Nekroskop

This game is rad. The best thing about it is that your gameresourcepoints and your genrelevels carry over if you start a new game. You can basically do this for a month. 

Posted by Brackynews
Is this Giant Bomb's first mobile game review? I've forgotten if not.
 
@BlazeHedgehog:  You don't know anybody with an iPod Touch? Dude, they're $150 refurbished. Just get one. ;)
Edited by pubbles

Currently releasing Sim Poncho (don't know what the fuck a Poncho themed game is...) 
 
game is fun. It shouldn't be this entertaining but it is :x  
 
5 million units sold in the first week. Sim Poncho is a hit!

Posted by PerryVandell

Would definitely pick this up if I had an iPhone. Just waiting for it to come out on Verizon... just waiting... :(.

Posted by thebatmobile

I bought this prior to a long train trip where I was supposed to read a book. I played this for 4 hours straight instead. It's fucking addictive.

Posted by Eric_Buck

It's totally worth it compared to other "igames"

Posted by ShaunassNZ

Wow! an iPhone game review. Doesn't Jeff say that iPhone/iPod touch aren't gaming platforms?

Posted by dagas

It's gotten good reviews mostly, but EDGE gave it a 6/10 and claimed that it was impossible to fail in the game. You can crank out a Sumo Audio-book game still sell 20m copies. They claimed that the decisions you made had very little to no impact on the actual game sales. Any truth to that?

Posted by takua108

Oh shit! iPhone game reviews! 
 
Now I'm going to have to get a new, functional iPod touch.

Posted by Legend

I knew Ryan would review this!

Posted by Roland_D11

After listening to Ryan raving about it on the bombcast I bought the game on saturday. My saturday was somehow gone after that ;-) . I hit the 20 year mark yesterday, I have won GOTY in the years 10, 12 and 18, build a console in year 18 which sold 20 million units. So addictive. The only thing I couldn't get was the perfect score, 39/40 was the highest. 
 
Now I'm burnt out on it but I know I will start a New Game+ (the manual says your skills in the game genres carry over) and hunt for the perfect 40 :-) .

Online
Posted by MysteriousBob

iPhones are for assholes. Why review a game for assholes?

Posted by SuperSambo
@dagas said:
" It's gotten good reviews mostly, but EDGE gave it a 6/10 and claimed that it was impossible to fail in the game. You can crank out a Sumo Audio-book game still sell 20m copies. They claimed that the decisions you made had very little to no impact on the actual game sales. Any truth to that? "
Yes. I had a Chess game sell 55 million and get a 40/40 and an audio architecture game get 39/40 and sell 59 million.
 
The game is VERY easy, it represents no challenge.
Posted by Jayross

Yeah, iPhone game reviews! More, please!

Posted by Buttmonk3y

Really fun game.

Posted by ZmillA

this game cost what, a dollar? and you couldn't give it 5 stars? 
Hmm the price wasn't even mentioned in the review, a conscious omission eh Davis? If you put the price I think people would realize how pointless this is.
 
Don't think I like this mobile game review stuff. There is a more appropriate way to talk about these games.

Online
Posted by DanielJW
@Depressing_Wizard said:
" I'd get this game, but I'm not sure if it'd run on my 1st gen iPod Touch. "
It will. ^_^
Posted by UberExplodey

I was just playing this earlier as an excuse to not get out of bed. Great game!

Posted by IkariNoTekken
@hack745: @JJOR64: @BlazeHedgehog: It is out on PC, just in Japanese. Whether it will ever get a English translation I'm not too sure, as it is actually given away free.  (Link to download page) 
Also have a look here for a quick guide to what some of the Japanese text means. It's free so maybe just give it a go?
Posted by RiotBananas
@MysteriousBob said:
" iPhones are for assholes. Why review a game for assholes? "
Because thousands of people are assholes.
Posted by Kombat

It's pretty neat to see that you've taken the time to review an iPhone game -- there aren't a whole lot of them out there that are worth the time of any self respecting games hobbyist, much less that of an enthusiast on the professional level. Regardless, Game Dev Story seems about as indicative of the game development process to me as Roller Coaster Tycoon is of actually building, managing, and maintaining an amusement park. Doesn't stop it from being a load of addictive fun though.

Posted by Masonvd

"   of which tere are truly legion"

Posted by SiN13

I live it every day, I don't need to play it too.

Posted by Mickey
@MysteriousBob said:
" iPhones are for assholes. Why review a game for assholes? "
The Giant Bomb crew all have iPhones, you seriously calling them all assholes?
Posted by Rmack
@Brackynews:  Are they really that cheap now? Any problems with refurbished ones? Any info would be appreciated because I've been looking into a new MP3 player for awhile now.
 
@Ryan: I like that you use both definitions of "twee."
Posted by mrsmiley

WOAH... an iPHONE review??? I thought you guys were dead set against iPhone games! I'm stoked about this. If this isn't your first iPhone game review, feel free to correct me.

Posted by NHLmaniac
@ZmillA Well it's actually $4. Comated to most iPhone games it is expensive. You can get 3 or 4 other great games for that price.
Posted by MikkaQ

This got reviewed? Haha wow. This is game is pretty fun, and I catch myself whipping it out at work. No good...

Posted by derenf

Totally agree with the review. Easily the most time I've sunk into an iphone game as well. It made me remember all the fun times I had playing games like Theme Park and Sid Meier's Sim Golf. I wonder why these tycoon games seem to now only exist on the bargain shelves in Walmarts.

Posted by DaemonBlack

Completely agree with the review Ryan. I'm at that point where it has run out of carrots but I still had a ton of fun with it. Definitely worth 4 bones.

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