"It's a Job That Doesn't Feel Like One."
When I think about playing a video game that revolves around working, I don’t really conjure up the most satisfying visions in my head. Fortunately, Game Dev Story is anything but an exercise in manual labor.
As the boss of a game development studio, you must hire a group of employees to develop video games for a myriad of consoles, most being unlocked once there’s suitable funding for a development kit. It’s not just about developing product either, as promotion will lead to more anticipation, which will lead to more sales, which could lead to higher critical acclaim. With optional conventions during the middle of the year that can garner more notoriety towards your company (kind of like E3) and more pricey forms of publicity (from radio ads to lunar writing), there’s a number of ways to get the public following your every move.
There’s a deceptively high amount of nuts and bolts to this machine, one that provides more and more replay value once the player figures out how to unlock new genres and types, more talent point allocations, bigger office space and so on. Is there a staff member who possesses a skill level far below your standards? Have a job fair with highly talented prospects….so long as you have the funding for a more “higher class” recruitment. Need a bit of a boost in certain workers skills? Have one go to vacation and come back refreshed, or even boost their knowledge in certain fields with company paid activities.
Game Dev Story is all about the “paper”. Creativity in selecting the right genre with the right type goes a long way, especially in the beginning when there are so few options available. While a Pop Star Music title, under a competent dev team, could produce a harmonious package that will sell well, an Action RPG Golf game and its implausibility will more than likely not excite your team or motivate them to produce work that the masses would purchase. Then there’s taking into account your employees salaries at the end of the fiscal year, and it really does seem like a job more than a game. In reality, it’s not.
Players will never really see the fruits of their labor mature into any kind of visual showing. In fact, there’s a minimalist approach in terms of graphics, however that’s to be expected with the amount of micromanagement within menus and such. What is available is a clean, 16 bit throwback that does enough to present your office space, employees, occasional peeps at the line of customers eagerly awaiting a midnight release, and so on. Kairosoft titles in general have the same visual feel to all of their games, which can give the feeling of a generic coat of paint on each release, though this is the first Kairosoft title I have owned, with little time devoted to a demo of Mega Mall Story.
There really is quite a bit of micromanagement involved, which does help portray the illusion of work over play, but as a simulation, it does its best to balance things, and more often than not succeeds. I invested a sizable amount of time as a whole (almost up to year 29) and for the better part of the journey, each little unlock through my successes gave me more incentive to show up for virtual work more and more, hoping my next combination would lead to higher sales.
The only thing that makes me want to show up late is the music. There’s one song that plays throughout the experience for a majority of the time, which isn’t bad the first time it plays, but after the 50th, it’s just asking for a pink slip. Luckily the volume can be adjusted to zero from within the options screen. Effects are all simplistic, which all feel appropriate to their subject matter.
On a platform often dominated by Angry Birds banter, Cut the Rope chatter, Air Penguin pimping and so on, quite a few gems are never fully unearthed. Game Dev Story is a gem within a sea of cubic zirconia. At $3.99, it’s worth every penny, as the replay value builds over time, with newer consoles slowly unlocking, new genres and types, and so on. With a brief (very brief) demo also available, there’s really no excuse to pass up any opportunity to put your resume down on this one.