Freemium games have evolved quickly in the last few years, ever since games like Farmville and We Rule showed that giving away the store was a viable business model. Like in those games, everything in Tiny Tower is free to unlock, as long as you’ve got the patience to check in every few minutes or hours to keep your virtual workers productive.
Tiny Tower is a game where you are the owner and operator of an office and apartment building. You start with just one floor, but can add new floors by purchasing them with in-game coins. Coins are earned by putting your tenants to work, and the businesses are randomly generated every time you construct a new level.
As a result, it won’t take long until your Tiny Tower starts to feel unique. Ours, for example, features a sushi bar directly beneath a pottery workshop, which in turn is beneath a barber shop.
You can keep your businesses going by stocking them with goods, which are then purchased by customers. Restocking is Tiny Tower’s equivalent of planting crops. After you place an order, you’ll have to return in a certain amount of time to pick it up and put it on the shelves. This is where Tiny Tower enforces its discipline: If you wait too long to return to the game, your shops will shutter and you won’t earn any more coins. Fortunately, there’s no spoilage like in some freemium games.
At any time, you can speed things along with the game’s premium currency, called Tower Bux. Tower Bux can be used to rush orders, sell items quickly, or buy more coins. Besides being available as an optional in-app purchase, Tower Bux are frequently awarded for completing minigames, like operating the elevator for guests, or locating individual residents, Where’s Waldo-style.
Through all this give-and-take of freemium bargaining, where you exchange time and effort for more virtual money, there is a wonderful streak of random chance. You never know when your tower will be visited by a VIP who will bring more customers or rush an order for free, or when a goofy-looking new neighbor will come searching for their dream job.
And while you’re waiting for things to happen, you can enjoy Tiny Tower’s brilliant visual aesthetic. Each character looks distinct due to the wide variety of colorful clothes and accessories they can wear, and you can mix up their outfits at any time. They’ll even chime in regularly on “BitBook”, a virtual Facebook where your Tiny Tower residents will socialize with each other and remark on your progress.
Tiny Tower is a big step forward for freemium games. It’s got a lot of the same gameplay mechanics as Farmville, and like those free farming games, there’s very little skill required to play. All you need is a lot of time and patience, but the rewards feel endless. Like Eliminate Pro, Gun Bros, and DJ Rivals, Tiny Tower is one of the very best iOS games that you can play entirely for free. Download it without hesitation.