Tinytopia was the impetus that forced my hand to take a break from game writing for a bit. Other reviews were uploaded in the past week, but they were all scheduled from a while back. After having so much fun with this minuscule city builder, I decided to take a week off to catch up on games, movies and some reading. There may or may not have been a couple of days where I ventured out, but don’t quote me on that.
But each time I came back to Tinytopia – a game from MeNic Games and Mastiff, out today on Steam – I couldn’t help but get stuck in. You’re the mayor of each tiny Micro Machines-like town, reconstructed on the floor of a kitchen, a ruler or worktop. An ideal candidate will keep their citizens safe, offer low taxes and build notorious landmarks based on the locale. Or they could even be the instigator of a catastrophe, inciting an earthquake, for example.
Taxes are automated based on the happiness of the inhabitants. The key requirement for every home you build is access to suitable jobs; otherwise, people won’t flock to your town/city. In addition, all buildings must be connected to a road and have a power supply – whether that be coal, nuclear, wind or solar energy. However, the game errs more on casual than the complexities of SimCity or real-life planning permissions.
Tinytopia is a toy world, so in some ways, it’s a lite version of some of the more in-depth simulators. That said, it doesn’t make any sacrifices on gameplay as it’s lots of fun and equally addictive. Besides satisfying your population with the above fundamentals, you’ll ideally need to place the three emergency services within proximity to keep their happiness levels up, perhaps even building them a skate park, football stadium – or even better: a statue of you, the mayor.
These are just the basics, as each stage offers a primary objective and two optional ones. For the bulk of the game, the goal is to build a special structure or national landmark – the Eifel Tower, for example. These are unlocked by increasing the size of your population and ensuring you make enough money from the taxes and profitable buildings. Side objectives vary, but they often relate to increasing residents and their happiness, plus developing several buildings to a set tier level.
The tiers set Tinytopia gameplay apart from other titles as buildings are upgraded by stacking. Hovering over a building will project a ghost-like effect on what’s required to level up. Structures must follow these blueprints (accessible from the menu), and part of the game’s charm is unlocking them during levels or in the sandbox mode. Unfortunately, there aren’t shortcuts for building a high-end building; instead, stacking them manually each time.
Look Mom, Gravity!
Tinytopia is a physics-based game, so stacking a building on a sloping structure, at the edge, or even a San Francisco hill will result in it toppling down. This can be fatal as citizens need to be rescued by the relevant services, and fires put out promptly extinguished. The process isn’t automated, so you’ll manually need to place a vehicle on a pre-built road, or activate a rescue-chopper if within the station’s catchment area.
Other events include protests from unhappy residents or thieves, but the real threat (other than gravity) are the natural disasters and Godzilla wind-up toys. Often you’ll be building towards a special structure to counter the related event, but for the most part, you will need to have enough services to respond – whether that be choppers or even turrets.
Tinytopia has an auto snap tool to help build, but you can also change perspective for a birdseye view and rotate in one of four ways around your cityscape. Switching views is essential as it’s easy to place a building incorrectly, causing them to topple in a domino effect. This is particularly bad if you’re building on one of the dynamic stages.
Pinning Diarrhea To The Wall
The above heading is more realistic than some dynamic stages such as a moving turntable, bike pedals, a coin drop arcade machine and even a rope. Have you ever tried building a house of cards on a washing machine? Well, that’s what building is like on these stages.
Building areas are restricted and often move. The Rope stage was particularly tough, balancing out bulky structures that would take out other buildings if they fell. Still, this adds to the longevity. It’s also surprising how you end up replaying a level to restart the layout. Some might call this OCD, but it’s just doing things right. Even after finishing every stage, I’m still returning to places where I’ve aced the objectives but playing for the sheer fun of it.
If you’re a fan of city builders in general and want something a bit lite in terms of mechanics, but without compromising on gameplay, then I highly recommend Tinytopia. It’s incredibly addictive and offers plenty of replay value by restarting a level from scratch to ‘tidy up’. There’s even the endless sandbox mode to try out multiple blueprints then destroy it with a natural disaster or overgrown radioactive lizard.