Price: freemium (extra in-game money can be purchased)
Compulsion loop games are not one of my favorite categories. Any title that requires someone to check in and do something at regular intervals feels less like a game and more like a poor lifestyle choice. Yet the genre remains insanely popular among people who forget just how irritating it was to keep a tamagotchi.
Tiny Tower (NimbleBit) is designed in such a way that it can be played by people who like to check on their game every 30 minutes or so, but it doesn’t have to be played that way. This rather clever balance between compulsion loop design and simple simulation gaming is what makes Tiny Tower work.
The game is like a stripped down, pixilated version of the much-missed SimTower. You build a high-rise, one floor at a time, and designate each floor as either residential or work. Tenants are rated for their work skills in food, service, recreation, retail, or creative businesses. After you build each floor and designate it as a business, you assign tenants to a job, preferably in some area of their ability.
Sometimes these are dream jobs for the tenants, while other jobs make them unhappy. Either way, they work where they’re told to and earn the money needed to continue construction and restock and the stores. The Marxists at Popmatters try to read Deep Meaning into this, with lines like "I have become an exploiter of digital-human capital." (There is no more unintentionally hilarious read on the net than game coverage at Popmatters.) Because we all know that 16-bit dude with a frowny-face is dying inside as he quietly hums "The Internationale".
Tony Tower is free to play, but if you want to play faster you can buy more “bux” online. If you don’t get too obsessed with it, Tiny Tower is great fun and can provide a few minutes of daily play as you manage your little building. If you do get obsessed with it, it ceases to become a fun little game and transmorphs into a time sink.