The iPhone has become something of a specialised format when it comes to creating simple games with addictive gameplay. However, I’ve never really thought of it as a platform for addictive games that have a bit more depth and an actual learning curve. I simply never saw myself as spending more than half-hour stints playing games on my iPhone, let alone several-hour marathons. Game Dev Story has changed all that.
In this game, you live out many a geeky gamer’s fantasy by taking control of a games development company. Game Dev Story is very much a business simulation game, as you’re responsible for everything; from hiring and firing staff to choosing the kinds of games you release, to marketing your games once they’ve been released. You control things from a simple isometric perspective of your office where you can watch your employees in action, with all the menus being easily accessible within a couple of taps of the screen.
What is appealing about Game Dev Story is the little details that make it a surprisingly intricate game. The game spans over 20 digital years, during which new consoles get released, different game genres come in and out of fashion, and annual industry events take place. By constantly throwing up new challenges and aims for you to pursue, Game Dev Story doesn’t get boring quickly, encouraging you to play out its 15-odd hour story mode again and again.
It’s nice to see that real-life knowledge of the games industry can help you succeed in Game Dev Story. Matching up the genre, ‘type’ and ‘direction’ of the games you develop are crucial to your success, and are in line with real-life trends. So if you try to create an ultra-cute Romantic Shooter, for instance, and you’d need to invest ridiculous amounts of money in staff and advertising for it to be at all successful. On the other hand, make a realistic Action game involving Ninjas, or a Fantasy RPG with a well-realised game world, and you’re onto a winner.
Game Dev Story has such a great formula for addiction that it’s actually very hard to step back and criticise it. Certainly, the graphics are basic and the music is a repetitive 16-bit loop (which disappears if you put your own music on), but this game is so painfully immersive that I didn’t even care. In fact, it was only when I thought about what an idiot I’d look like if someone walked into my room and caught me hunched at my desk playing Game Dev Story with its horrible soundtrack on that I thought it best to put on some background music; just to save face.
Game Dev Story is one of those games that immerses you in its world, and you’ll develop a genuine sense of pride as your pixellated little company grows from developing low-budget puzzle games on the PC to making multi-million dollar projects on your very own games console. While I don’t think it’s healthy for your eyes to be glued to the iPhone screen for several hours on end, the hours really fly by with this unique gem of a game. The graphics and sound may not showcase the iPhone’s technical capabilities, but once your own game company’s on its feet, you will hardly notice.