Nov 20, 2013

[Games] Star Wars: Tiny Death Star (Android)


I never got into the Tiny Tower crazy when it swept across mobile platforms and became quite the popular time suck. But recently NimbleBit worked with Disney Mobile to launch a re-skin of the game called Star Wars: Tiny Death Star. So yeah, a blatant retooling of an existing game with a Star Wars theme was enough to get me curious enough to download the app.

I initially downloaded the app while they were still offering free credits for all new users. However version 1.1.1 suffered a number of bugs including how the app would pretty much randomize your level progress at times when you restart the app. Updating to 1.1.2 corrected this issue but also forced you to start again from zero without the bonus credits.

So yeah, that slightly soured my first forray into the game. But oddly enough, I'm still playing.


Star Wars: Tiny Death Star could be termed as a business-ish simulation game that reminds me a lot of the classic game SimTower (which really felt more like SimElevator). Like Tiny Tower before it, your basic goal is to create a Death Star (instead of a tower) with various Galactic Bitizens.

To provide some framework for the game, you'll receive various missions from the Emperor in terms of what he wants you to do next in the Death Star. Instructions can include building a specific type of level or just exploring other aspects of the game like the Albums or the Store.

There are a variety of levels similar to Tiny Tower. Residential levels are where your bitizens will live and each level can accommodate 5 more residents for your Death Star. Then there are a variety of commercial levels that provide different products and services including Food, Retail, Recreation and Service. Each commercial floor can accommodate up to 3 employees, each whom is responsible for selling a particular product.

What makes Tiny Death Star distinct is the addition of Imperial levels to the mix. Each Imperial level can create special "item" including Rebel Secrets or Security Droids. These are important for fulfilling missions provided by Darth Vader with the promise of more credits as rewards for a job well done.

Keeping with the Star Wars theme, each level makes reference to different parts of the Star Wars universe. Don't expect to recognize everything though given just how much content there is in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Thus you have Food levels like the Mos Espa Cafe that sells Blue Milk and Retail levels like Watto's Wares that of course sells Hyperdrives.

You also attract a wide variety of Bitizens that correspond to various races in the Star Wars universe. These include generic representatives of the races such as Ewoks and Jawas or named characters from the movies like Princess Leia or the bounty hunter hunter Boba Fett. If you don't want to wait for their random appearances, you can unlock them outright using Imperial Bux, which is the in-app currency that you can purchase for real money.

Commercial levels earn you credits. Completing missions or paying real world cash gets you Imperial Bux. And Bux are naturally helpful in terms of speeding up construction, unlocking level types, or unlocking characters. Earning them through missions is pretty slow-going so try not to become too dependent on them. Thus the game will need increasing amounts of patience as you need to gather more and more money to create new levels, which in turn require more and more time to complete construction.

The game also provides for VIPs that can help speed up production, upgrade floors or even move levels entirely. They too can be purchased or you can just wait for them to appear randomly.

And that's the game in a nutshell - a lot of repetitive clicking and waiting. While businesses will continue to sell wares even when the app isn't running, you will run out of inventory and those can only be purchased based on user intervention. Each item will take a varying amount of time to build, something that can be reduced using a worker with a higher skill level for that floor type or by using Bux.

The joy of the game is in the Star Wars feel to things that should carry you a decent way along. Over time, the repetitive nature of the game will start to drag on you, especially as the credits requirements for new levels seems to increase almost exponentially as you progress. And since each level can only earn 1, 2 and 3 credits for each of the products that they sell, the Bitizens' potential for income is pretty limited unless you invest a lot of time in the game. The only direct way for you to earn more money is by ferrying passengers in the elevator yourself, something that can only truly increase if you invest Bux in buying faster elevators with increasing credit multipliers.

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star is great for Star Wars fans and Tiny Tower fans for the most part. It's nothing amazingly new and it's still a game that requires you to the same thing over and over and over again. Some may like that and some may not. For now that gives the game a decent rating of 3 out of 5, although admittedly I scored it as a 2 on the Google Play Store because of the initial rollout snafu.

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