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Game Dev Story for Android: it’s a hell of a drug

I have a number of games on my Milestone, but I don’t use it as a serious gaming device. It’s nice to have something in the case of a long commute or a quiet moment between classes, though. I’ve taken advantage of Angry Birds and it’s free license, and engage my puzzle-craving side with Frozen Bubble. However, a recent Android release, Game Dev Story, has achieved something that those other games never have: it has made me contemplate uninstalling it based on how addicting it is.  

I have a long and storied history with simulation games: I love them, and many hours of my childhood were spent on Rollercoaster Tycoon and The Sims. While I still can’t build a decent SimCity, I can appreciate quality where I see it.

Game Dev Story is a recent Android convert, coming to us from Japanese developer Kairo Park. While that fact that GDS was first released on iOS might deter some people from checking the game out, I assure you that it’s a good enough port that I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t an original Android game. It looks slick and feels extremely comfortable.

For the uninitiated, the game simulates your creation of a video game company and your quest to make lots of money. You start off with the ability to develop for the PC platforms while consoles are released and discontinued along with the flow of time: this is a treat for gaming historians when you see the slightly-altered names and how the “Virtual Kid” might be a stinker.

Your company can hire/fire employees, level up their attributes (writing, graphics, music and coding), advertise your product, buy licenses to develop for consoles, attend developer conferences and game awards, all the while taking contracts to make capital to make more games. While this seems like a lot to take in, Game Dev Story is easy enough to pick up; I was making AAA Titles after roughly a couple hours of playing. Games are created in a type/genre system, which allows me to make such amazing combinations like “Ninja/Racing” or “Historical/Puzzle” games. Different mixes have different success rates, and most good mixes are pretty logical (like “Checkers/Puzzle.”) Your employees then work on the game, and if the game has high attributes, it will sell well.

The controls are great, as you can choose between touch controls or an on-screen d-pad with center button. I had discovered this soft controller right before writing this review, but it worked well enough that I have no complaints. Then again, the controls are simplistic: choose a menu option, go forward or back. Not much to it, but they work well. My only complaint is that you can’t switch between top-level options on the main menu once you’ve clicked on something – you have to go out of the menu and restart the process. Luckily, this isn’t a taxing process, as menus only go two or three levels deep.

The graphics are gorgeous for pixel creations; there’s such personality in the employee that I have grown attached to them. Ironically, my star programmer is named “Stephen Jobson.” It’s a very simplistic art style, but it does the job well; there’s no real need for 3D graphics when a lot of what you’re watching is a dollar amount pile up. The only complaint I had is that there’s no way to play the game in landscape mode; you’re locked into portrait at all times. As a guy who likes to utilize all his resolution, it’s frustrating to see black bars at the top and bottom.

The music is a bit annoying after awhile, but it’s good for chiptunes. Like a lot of simulation games, it begins to grate with extended playing sessions, but that’s not a sign of low quality; just a lack of foresight. Also, the sound effects as your games’ attributes stack up are a cascade of notes growing in tone, which can get annoying for particularly long chains. Hearing a note for 3 seconds is fine and well, but for 10-20? Not fun.

Ultimately, Game Dev Story is a well put-together package of a game, and gives us something important in mobile gaming: addicting gameplay that’s easy to pick up. While it’s a little deeper than most games, it’s not prohibitive to the player: you don’t have to read a FAQ or keep track of market data on an Excel spreadsheet to get ahead.

This might shoot Game Dev Story in the foot a bit, as the game becomes quite easy once your employee stable grows; I think the only thing I have left to do after three days of hard playing is winning the grand prize at the developer awards. However, this requires perfect 10 reviews from four reviewers, and a whole lot of luck. Until then, I’ll sit back and enjoy the cash rolling in to “Droid Life Co.”

At a $2.50 app price, I want something that challenges me a little bit more; I still recommend Game Dev Story highly, but as something to play in small doses. It seems to be the type of game that is made for user-created “hard modes”, like not using purchasable boosts or only using one employee.

If any of you have any ideas, be sure to let me know.

Matt Demers is a Toronto journalist who really needs to stop gaming and get back to paying attention to lecture. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • Anonymous

    So I dled on your advice and I first thought, LAME! Then I picked back up today, totally addicted! Great reco!

  • Jawshua

    As long as there are no micro-transactionsi might check it out.

  • Jerry

    Funny, I just bought this app last night and spent more time on it than I thought I would. I’m almost afraid to pick it up again and waste a few more hours of my life. Consider me addicted.

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  • Anonymous

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  • Adecker246

    Funny story. I bought this game last night thinking it looked cool. Upon Google authorizing the purchase, my credit card company say no. They thought it was fraud. So, I think I paid for it, it says its purchased under my Apps but it will not download. GREAT! This morning I get a call from my credit card telling me that they thought this was fraud. I tell them it was a game I bought for my phone, not fraud and to let the charge pass. I have been waiting, and waiting, and well waiting. Still, Cant download it. I hope I can download it soon cause this game looks fun!

    • Joe

      Had the same problem myself. Hoping my bank sorts it out and the market lets met download the game. It looks really cool!

  • Mr. Joe

    Droid life hasn’t failed me yet in app recommendation.

    For your sake Kellex I hope this was worth that $2 something.

    • ragman89

      Matt wrote this

      • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

        Thank you <3

      • Mr. Joe

        I know, but I’m sure Kellex oked it.

  • Stephen D

    I’ve had this game since Christmas, and it is so addicting and amusing. There are people such as Stephen Jobson and Gilly Bates. Companies like Senga, Sunny, Microx, and Intendro. They have consoles like the Game Kid, Senga Exodus, Playstatus 2, Microx 720, and the Intendro Whoops. I can’t wait for the sequel, which is confirmed.

  • http://twitter.com/EvanTheGamer EvanTheGamer

    I have a long and storied history with simulation games: I love them, and many hours of my childhood were spent on Rollercoaster Tycoon and The Sims.

    Yep! Same here. I use to build up an entire empire(sorta of) in The Sims, then just let them do their own thing(while living the computer) for hours, then to come back and see if they destroyed what I built, by burning down their houses. lol Was really fun!

    And Rollercoaster Tycoon, that game was extremely fun back in the day. Wow…boy were those the days!

    And now about Game Dev Story, I’ve been meaning to buy the game for a few weeks now but never got to it yet. I think I will soon though, as LittleBigPlanet 2 gets released next week, and I’ll be spending quite a lot of time on that one.

    Game Dev Story does look fun, and from most of the comments, it seems to be as addicting as you say. And now because of your humongous post on the game, in fact, I think I’ll pick it up today(as I finally got paid!).

    Thanks for the post!

  • http://twitter.com/EvanTheGamer EvanTheGamer

    I have a long and storied history with simulation games: I love them, and many hours of my childhood were spent on Rollercoaster Tycoon and The Sims.

    Yep! Same here. I use to build up an entire empire(sorta of) in The Sims, then just let them do their own thing(while living the computer) for hours, then to come back and see if they destroyed what I built, by burning down their houses. lol Was really fun!

    And Rollercoaster Tycoon, that game was extremely fun back in the day. Wow…boy were those the days!

    And now about Game Dev Story, I’ve been meaning to buy the game for a few weeks now but never got to it yet. I think I will soon though, as LittleBigPlanet 2 gets released next week, and I’ll be spending quite a lot of time on that one.

    Game Dev Story does look fun, and from most of the comments, it seems to be as addicting as you say. And now because of your humongous post on the game, in fact, I think I’ll pick it up today(as I finally got paid!).

    Thanks for the post!

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Thank you for the comment, good sir!

    • Old Guy

      “…hours of my childhood were spent on Rollercoaster Tycoon and The Sims.” You guys are making me feel old! I was addicted to The Sims in college. My first PC Game ever (in High School) which hooked me for life…King’s Quest 1! Not to do a “When I was a kid…” but I remember how excited I was the day they announced that games would be in 32 shades of monochrome instead of 16!!!

  • Anonymous

    I had this game on my iPad and played it for hours. I even had dreams about which games I should make. I ultimately uninstalled it after “beating” it.

    Looks like my old drug has made it’s way to Android. Must… resist…!!!

  • Anonymous

    kellex! frozen bubble by who? there are two similar ones in the market

    • Anonymous

      kellex didn’t write it

      • http://twitter.com/Payaso_113 Freddy

        Kellex has help now!

        • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          I’ve been writing here since March!

  • http://twitter.com/tomabrad Tom

    Good game and really addicting, but once you get to a certain point it is way too easy and the fun of the game is gone.

  • http://twitter.com/Pucuck Nicholas Ringhiser

    First day I bought this I played it for 4 hours straight. I bought it when it was about $5…Oh well. Still worth it.

  • BB-Gun

    I need to poop.

    • Salsa_33

      LOL! Just got back from a righteous poop and rousing game of Angry Birds.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3HGZ3PQOFDEVUT7GIRCZ65JN7A Brian

        JUST GOT BACK FROM AN ANGRY POOP, AND RIGHTEOUS GAME OF BIRDS

    • http://twitter.com/EvanTheGamer EvanTheGamer

      *cough*idiot*cough*

  • Risenequinox

    i have it and it was pretty fun until i reached the 20 year mark and i stopped playing it. but i should try to get that 1 million dollar perfect game award.

  • Anonymous

    seems like the kind of game that destroys lives

    • BB-Gun

      Can you poo poo?