App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Making games is hard, and Game Dev Tycoon definitely doesn’t try to hide that fact. This management game starts you as solo developer in your garage and challenges you to climb the game development ranks to make your own AAA studio, and all the while it gives you a ton of challenges to contend with. The result is a management game that’s a super tough nut to crack, but suffering through these challenges is all part of the fun, particularly if you follow the games industry.
In Game Dev Tycoon, you control the ins and outs of your development company from a simple isometric view that you tap on to bring up different contextual menus. As a game about making games, most often you’ll be preoccupied with that, but other things you have to contend with include training your employees, taking vacations, signing publishing deals, creating new game engines, and more.
The amount of stuff you have to manage in Game Dev Tycoon can make your head spin, particularly since the game isn’t turn-based. Time marches ever forward, but—thankfully—the game starts out by keeping your options simple before ramping things up as your company grows and game technology becomes more sophisticated. It also helps that time stops whenever you duck into a menu, but that doesn’t change the fact that Game Dev Tycoon is a game that demands you play it efficiently so you can turn a profit.
Hit big or go home
The management systems of Game Dev Tycoon are deep, complex, and super satisfying. In addition to making games that are well made, you have to contend with marketing budgets, public taste, critical reaction, and more. As fun as it is to make a game called Werewolf Simulator, if you don’t put it on the right platform, target the right audience, or focus on the right aspects of development, it might just be the game that ends up shuttering your studio and prompting you to reload a previous save or start over.
The longer you manage to keep the lights on at your development studio, the more challenging Game Dev Tycoon gets, but it also gets a lot more rewarding. This is mostly due to the fact that the game is lovingly crafted and devoted to showing the games industry for what it is, warts and all. Whether it’s creating fictionalized versions of just about every console out there or using its systems to illustrate why game companies get more risk averse as they grow, Game Dev Tycoon has something to say about real game development at every turn in a way both charming and illuminating, particularly if you follow the games industry closely.
Game Dev Tycoon isn’t afraid to get into the nitty gritty details of game development, which a big reason for why it’s so great. That said, it’s a bit frustrating that this level of detail doesn’t always make its way into the game’s UI. Menus in Game Dev Tycoon always feel like they’re missing information that would be useful to you, which can lead you to making some boneheaded decisions when you really didn’t have to.
Part of this “problem” is by design. Part of Game Dev Tycoon’s management system asks player to reflect on their games to assess what made them good or bad, and doing so subsequently adds that information into menus where appropriate. Unfortunately though, there are other menus and systems that never feel like they surface everywhere they should, which is a bit of a bummer.
The bottom line
Game Dev Tycoon is a must-play management game for anyone who follows the games closely. It does a phenomenal job of rendering the industry accurately, while also building a satisfying game around it. Even if you don’t follow games that much, there’s plenty to like about Game Dev Tycoon. It’s simply a fantastic game.