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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: Game Dev Story

Game Dev Story is a simplified management sim with cute art style. It was developed by the Japanese Kairosoft, which seems to be the definitive management sim studio out there right now. The game is very reminiscent of the old-school Tycoon games as well as the Theme games from (now sadly defunct) Bullfrog except the choices and customisation features are somewhat limited.

If only the real industry was this much fun


Most of the gameplay manifests itself through layers of menu options and fiddling with numbers — and I love it! It lends itself well to portable play because it’s not so deep, that you have problems figuring out what you were doing the last time you set it aside. It balances quite well between being deep enough to be engaging and not too complex so that you would want to play it on other platforms.

You are the head of a game studio and as such you need to recruit talent, buy licenses from platform holders, and make games. The ultimate goal is to make money so that you can invest is more popular platforms and make a hit. Eventually you will get to make your own console if you are successful enough. There are a number of options to consider when making a game like what genre, type, and which direction to take it. Will it be a budget game or a grand masterpiece you sink all of your budget into? You can choose from a huge list of genres and types and make combinations that don’t really seem possible.

This game is endlessly cheerful


The way you produce games is a combination of procuring resources, finance and research, and the staff you are able to hire. There are several job positions you need to fill to make a good game. You will need a coder, designer etc. Each game is split into three different phases, designing, art and music, and each phase requires a specialist to get it off the ground. You can outsource these parts if you feel like you don’t have right talent and the better the freelancer is the better results you possibly get.

My biggest complaint about the game is how hard it seems to be to find information on stuff in the game. If I wanted to make a console I would need a hardware engineer but never does it tell me that I need to fully level up two other positions to be able to assign one of my guys with the necessary abilities. Little things like this can matter if you want to make your company successful.

You know what I'm not going to develop? Call of Duty. That's what.

It would also benefit the game to be able to have more than one save going at the same time. I thought the time of limited save slots was long gone but evidently Kairosoft begs to differ.

Gameplay-wise, it’s not a great game. It’s decent enough to be interesting but it certainly could be deeper and more interesting. I think the reason I got hooked on it has more to do with the silliness of it all and the fact that making nonsense games with cheesy names successful is a lot of fun.

The way game is set up is sort of a parody of the video game industry. All the little winks and nudges that take a stab at how things work. You can hire booth babes to attract more people to your booth at the trade show and the more money you put into a game, then the reviews are better. The humour is fairly competent, all though never laugh-out-loud funny it’s amusing and earns a smile here and there.

The game seems to hit home for those who follow the industry closely. Whether it’s because of hidden ambitions of running their own studio or possibly just the fact that it subtly makes light of the many issues that many take seriously, I can’t say. But it’s certainly fun to make up names for my sim-robot games or my incredibly successful franchise that deals with the emotional journey of a space cowboy in the hit life game, Space Cowboy. Yes, I make up stories about the games I produce and that’s the really fun part of the game. If you like that stuff and have an affection for management sims, then this is the game for you.

- Arnar L

Review: Game Dev Story
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