Tiny Death Star Review: My Phone Sounds Like A Wookie
I'm not a huge fan of mobile games. Most of them require me to spend real dollars that I'd rather spend on something like a PC game or... you know, something more valuable than imaginary currency in a game I'll forget about in a few days.
I've been playing Tiny Death Star off and on for a couple of days now, and must say that thus far, it's the only game that has even remotely tempted me to spend real money. It's not cheap, either.
However, that aside, Tiny Death Star is a charming little game that can keep you entertained and actively engaged for quite some time. You'll build levels, run businesses, and evict bitizens, all the while completing missions for the Emporer and the Imperial Forces.
Currency and Economy
The game runs on two types of currency--Imperial Bux and gold coins.
Gold coins are earned over time as your Death Star, currently in funding through commercial business, hosts a variety of 'bitizens' and runs multiple levels of businesses. This part entertains me and keeps me engaged, as you must return to your Death Star in order to stock your businesses and make money.
The only downside to this is that when you put your phone to sleep or, heaven forbid, go to do something else, your businesses can still run out of items and close. You'll still earn money, but not nearly as much as when your businesses are up and running. I do wish there was a way to set a mode that would auto-order items that run out of stock.
Also, levels increase in price every time you build one, and there's a waiting period as the level is being built (unless you spend Bux on hurrying the process). Currently, when I build a level, it costs me nearly 10k gold. Quite the wait.
The game is playable without every spending a real penny, but it becomes incredibly time consuming and not so much fun when you're waiting for an hour and a half on one item order.
Imperial Bux is the currency that you spend real money on, and allows you to bypass waiting and build levels and order items immediately. You start the game out with a few, but they're quickly spent and hard to earn.
Earning 'free' bux requires downloading some other mobile game, playing it, and reaching a certain level before you can be rewarded. Occasionally, missions from the Emporer will grant you bux, but most of the time mission rewards consist of meager gold rewards.
Style and Play
Honestly, this is one of the more charming games I've played. The music is probably one of my favorite parts--imagine the Imperial March as an 8bit tune. Or the main theme.
It's the best. Like elevator music--which is appropriate, given that the time you're not spending on businesses and stocking items is spent taxiing people around your Death Star on your grimy, nasty elevator.
You think I'm joking, but it's actually an interesting aspect of the game. Given that you're an Imperial craft, you're constantly on the lookout for limited edition bitizens, rebel spies, and supply deliverers (whom you kidnap and interrogate for rebel secrets). You'll also be watching for things like the Decorator Drone, the special icon on the right side of this screenshot, which unlocks a special achievement this holiday season if you decorate ten levels of your Death Star.
Just how are you keeping an eye out for these characters? Through your elevator. By taking the drone to a specific floor, you're selecting a level to decorate. When Leia shows up, she'll appear on a level and unlock a special scene; most likely some kind of 8bit gun battle.
The more levels you create, the more bitizens you'll need to house in order to fill open positions at these businesses. Levels without employees can't stock items, and thusly, can't run. That's what residential levels are for!
Residential levels are exactly what they sound like--apartments for your bitizens to live in as they work for you and earn your Death Star money. There is a list of bitizens available in the Menu, found on the bottom right of the screen.
Each bitizen has a dream job. Your goal with bitizens is to fulfill their dreams and place them in their dream job--doing this increases the stockhold of businesses so that they can double the size of item orders (meaning you can sell more, and make more money). It also makes bitizens happy, but really... you just want the money.
Levels built are random unless you specifically purchase them with Bux, so not every bitizen can get their dream job right away, which is fine. Moving a bitizen from one job to another is fairly simple and doesn't really affect anything other than the employee count of the original business. This gap can easily be filled with an unemployed bitizen.
Unemployed bitizens are bad and you don't want to have too many, so if you're finding yourself with too many unemployed people, build more commercial levels and less residential.
You'll see special bitizens come and go, which include notable characters from the original series and limited edition characters. Your album stores information about characters you've seen--Yoda can even come aboard (though I'm not sure why he's shopping on the Death Star).
Microtransactions and Push Notifications
I'll reiterate--this game is microtransaction heavy and will force you to wait if you're determined not to spend money, like me. So far the game has been playable without spending cash, but it's definitely become a waiting game. I don't particularly mind because I can always set the phone down and do something else. However, I can see how a person on a bus or train could become frustrated with it. Again, it's not exactly a cheap game, even with the special deals. This is my main complaint, though I knew it had microtransactions when I bought it.
Also, I've gotten a few dirty looks when it's 2 AM and my phone lets out some variation of a wookie noise. I've yet to figure out how to turn off push notifications, or even how to turn them down, because I think they're stuck on the "let everyone know you're playing Tiny Death Star so we get free audio advertising" option. Sometimes I'll get the Darth Vader mouth-breathing, which isn't always... the best situational soundtrack.
I give it a six. There are obvious flaws and sometimes the game can load different screens or options slowly, but my main beef is with the obsession Disney Mobile has with sneaking in to my wallet. I can silence my phone easily enough, but having to wait for items is annoying.
I would highly recommend this game to someone who has self control--spending money is easy and younger audiences who don't understand 'self control' and '$1,000 credit card debt' should probably only play with an adult watching. However, I don't see any reason younger kids can't play it. It's a simple concept that kids would probably enjoy for an hour or two.
Tiny Death Star is free to download and available on Android, iOS and Window devices.