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Game Dev Story

It’s crunch time in the studio and the developers are slaving away over a Motion Miniskirt game, the third installment in their series. The team is a fully motivated hive of worker bees, pumping out a constant stream of code. This game is destined to be a hit and has made it to the alpha phase without a hitch. The fun factor is high, there are minimal bugs and a slew of hype-driven articles appearing in popular gaming magazines have secured a sizeable fan base for the imminent release. Before long, the final code is ready. Skirt Chasers III goes gold. It’s at this point that you hear word that Round Phoenix, a competing developer, is also due to release a Motion Miniskirt title.

It’s always something.

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This is Game Dev Story, one of the most novel releases seen on any platform in years. It’s startling at first, how addictive it can be. Setting a development studio on the right course, with a popular platform and good genre combinations is the main key to success here. Once you’ve learned what genres work well together, then you’ll be able to exploit that for your own benefit and start making enough money to develop the games you really want to make, Ironic First-Person Shooters with 12 year development cycles, or Adventure games about stacking dolls. Whatever you’re into.

While the genre choices are a bit more limited than that, there’s plenty of room for experimentation. That’s where Game Dev Story gets its legs, as you’re allotting resources into seemingly off-kilter combos that would stand no chance of selling in any real market. Genres are progressively unlocked as staff members are trained in specific areas. For example, training a Coder in Films may net your studio the ability to develop Movie games. As your personalized journey into development hell progresses, myriad consoles are at your disposal, running the gamut of 1980’s spinoff systems, all the way to mock versions of modern hardware.

Despite essentially being a numbers game, the content is actually far too much fun. As you delve deeper into Game Dev Story, whatever you ought to be doing sort of fades into the periphery, and for a fleeting moment, you’re the next John Carmack. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as putting a game out there and having it warrant a sequel. Subsequently, there’s nothing as defeating as only being able to sell sequels to Motion Miniskirt chasing games. Luckily, there are plenty of options for boosting your fanbase through advertisements (John Romero’s Miniskirt is About to Make you it’s Bitch), or putting your team on contract work in-between blockbuster projects.

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The cheerful visual style of Game Dev Story and the way the characters are constantly bursting with enthusiasm for their projects makes the fact that you spend the whole game staring at one angle of an office somewhat forgivable. Besides, as production ramps up, you’ll move into larger offices, allowing opportunities for expanded growth.

While most of the time, you’ll be sweating it out as your devs diligently plug away on their assigned projects, there are occasions where a more active route to success is presented. As your workers accumulate research data, you’ll be able to allot that towards boosts on the current project, with the number of research floppy discs thrown down having an impact on the likelihood of success. It’s a risky proposition, however, as if one of your designers fails the project, your game will be overwhelmed by bugs, pushing its release date back until they could be properly fixed.

I have nothing bad to say about Game Dev Story. Menu-intensive as it may be, the information’s all fairly well organized and it never feels like developer Kairosoft became overly ambitious with their concepts. In fact, everything about the game is right. Unlike most iPhone releases, there hasn’t been a single version update for Game Dev Story, and likely never will be. This is something special, a simulation game adequately developed on a platform that seems almost actively intent on burying anything that might appeal to real gamers. As I begin to wrap up my fourth play-through of Game Dev Story, I’ve finally found an iPhone game that outlasts most full-priced retail products. This is one I can recommend without caution – if you’re interested in the field of game development. Although the game’s better experienced as a satire of the industry’s rampant bad practices, it’s also far more accurate than it really has any right to be.

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Granted, Game Dev Story‘s not the sort of game that most people will play for the iPhone. There’s more to it than a revolutionary tap-to-jump mechanic and there’s nothing accessible about it. If there were ever a game that validated the platform – this isn’t it. The fact that Game Dev Story isn’t the top-selling Simulation title in the App Store, and hasn’t been since it was released for the glorified Smartphone, is telling of the iPhone’s worth as a gaming platform. The vast majority of iPhone fans probably won’t get it. People who care about the gaming industry, however, definitely will.

Review based on version 1.0

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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