*NOTE: This review is for the Android Version of 'Game Dev Story'. There is no difference in gameplay or controls, which is why I have put the review in the iPhone version rather than create a Product Suggestion for an identical product.*
At Christmas I received a tablet for my parents for "educational purposes". Whilst I have indeed been using it for my university studies, I have still looked for some nice time-wasters from the Google Play Store. Among the overlooked gems is 'Game Dev Story', a surprisingly addictive management game from Japanese developers Kairosoft. I have played many games from this developer, all of which are management games in a different field- whether it is running a shopping complex ('Mega Mall Story'), a tourist island with Pokémon-like creatures ('Beastie Bay') or even a Japanese-style inn ('Hot Springs Story'). However 'Game Dev Story' is by far the most popular, and easily the best, of the Kairosoft games.
Well, if it isn't obvious to you from the title, you play the CEO of a new video game developer. Your aim is to create and release video games over different video game systems and make as much money in twenty years of game time. As you earn more money, you can expand your company base, hire better staff and improve the quality of your games, perhaps even nabbing you the crowning achievement of Best Video Game at the end of year awards ceremony...
What I love about this game is amount of control you have into shaping your video games. You first select a console to release your game on. As time passes new video game consoles are released which you must buy licenses to create games for, which mirrors the release of video game systems in real life. So you start off able to make games for the PC only, but then you have access to the likes of "Intendro's" IES, "Senga's" Exodus (get it?) and so forth. Then you choose a genre and type, put points into the direction of the game's development (e.g. be approachable or exclusive, realistic or cute) and then let your staff begin working on the game. Each title has points in Gameplay, Creativity, Graphics and Sound, which your staff members can specialize in boosting up while working on the project. The higher the number of points your game has in each category, the better the quality of the game.
So when you begin the game you will struggle to release good games with your inexperienced staff and the critics (who rate your game out of 10 upon release) will rightly pan them regardless of how much they sell. Thankfully you can improve your staff by levelling them up with Research Data, which is earned whilst your team work. Money can also be earned by working on Contracts, which are short-term projects requested by other companies where your team must achieve scores in categories within the deadline otherwise your company doesn't get paid and loses reputation. Furthermore, a range of genres and types get unlocked to over time, and there is no restrictions regarding which ones you combine. Want to create a Robot Adventure game? Go ahead. A Ninja Action game? Sure! A Shooter Golf game? Sounds bizarre, but you still can do it! Creative matchups could still sell well with good direction. Using the same genres often causes them to level up and give you more points in direction to improve the quality of future game, but be careful you don't make the same types consecutively or you will lose fans and appeal!
I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting in making games with unusual genre matchups and direction changes. Sometimes I did feel that critic scores for my games were random compared to ones of the same type and genre. For instance, my Ninja Adventure game (creatively titled 'Ninja Story') got an average score of 4/10 from the critics but could still sell 600,000 copies, whereas my Shooter Time Travel game ('Bullet Time', another apt title) averaged 7/10 and could still sell the same amount. Whilst critical reception doesn't always account for sales, you need an average 8/10 score from each of them to get your game into the Hall of Fame, which allows you to create a sequel. Yet the sequel game also has to reach the Hall of Fame, otherwise no more games in that series can be created. Whilst being judged on critic scores alone (instead of a combination of that and how well your game sells) is a little annoying, at the same time I liked that the game encouraged me to develop new titles rather than stick to the same series. It offers a chance at making possible different series of games that are all critically acclaimed and sell well- just like a real video game developer I suppose!
As for the controls, they are okay for a touch-screen based game, although sometimes I had trouble selecting things on the menu, but this is easily resolved by pressing the back button.
'Game Dev Story', like all the games by this developer, has 8-bit pixelated graphics. This may put off some potential players especially since the game has been ported from the PC and the poor quality of pixel characters up close can show. This is especially true on my tablet as everything is bigger than it looks in the screenshots and so the quality is worse. Animation is standard, with the best looking bits being the popup boxes whenever something good happens in a game's development or release, but nothing outstanding.
The background music is the same looped over track which only changes when you move office. It is pretty annoying to listen to, especially for hours on end, but it wasn't frustrating to the point where I'd rather mute my tablet. Other sounds are decent and fit the game theme, but the quality does seem average compared to other 8-bit games.
I find with a lot of Management Simulation games that you can play them for hours on end in one go, but then get sick of them and ignore it for months. This is pretty much the case with 'Game Dev Story'; when I first got into it I was hooked for days on end, but constantly releasing games and having them sell millions does get boring after a while, although sometimes I felt the need to see if that game could sell a billion copies and win the 'Game of the Year' award. There are also unlockable characters you can recruit for your company as well as new genres and types through training and levelling up your staff. Although the game technically finishes in year 20 (which takes about 7 hours), there is a New Game Plus option which carries over all that you have unlocked, so potentially there is no limit how much you can keep releasing games.
'Game Dev Story' is great little gem among the thousands of games in the Android and iOS library. It is surprisingly in-depth with its range of genres and consoles reflecting on real video game culture, allowing you to create any kind of video game you want at your fingertips. Whilst the sound and graphics are pretty simple and dated, if the idea of creating your very own video games and making imaginary money appeals to you regardless, then by all means check this game out!
'Game Dev Story' is currently on the Google Play Store for £1.60 (there is a trial version available too).