Kairosoft. Probably a name you've heard of before. At the bare minimum, you recognize the screenshot above as being from Game Dev Story, a game of theirs that made the rounds for iPhone and Android two years ago. While the Android version showed a few signs of being an obvious iPhone port ("What do you mean, my finger accidentally hitting back closes out the game without a prompt or autosave?"), I still thoroughly enjoyed it. While I was never a big fan of games where you play God on any scale, moving the whole simulation to my phone allowed me to watch my little worker toil away at whatever project I had for them at my leisure. Re-heating a pizza? Time to make a new edition of "Yo Dawg!" (Take a guess at the genre.) Long car ride? Hey, maybe you can tighten up the graphics on level 2 there. Hell, sometimes I'd make excuses to play.
Regrettably, the game only let you play for 20 years in-game. Perfectly understandable, though. The game in question loved to lampoon the history of the games industry. Hell, at one point, you're given the option of buying a "Virtual Kid" dev kit. Obviously, that is a bad investment. When the game came out, though, we knew nothing of the Wii U or if there was going to be a PS4 (Sony says no) or XBox 720 (still in the dark there). So, 20 years seemed perfectly fair. Maybe in another 10 years, someone will make a spiritual sequel that adds the next 10 years of gaming history to the formula.
Kairosoft kept releasing games for the iPhone and Android, though. The first follow-up I heard of was based on making a Japanese spa, and when I read about it, it was apparently going to be a Japan-only game since it's... well, based on a very Japanese concept. And yet, I can find it perfectly well on the Android Market (under the name "Hot Spring Story"... for some reason, it won't let me link to the market). So, what happened? My guess is that people in the US actually bought the Japanese-language version (at the time, there were no region-lock controls on the Android Market). It'd certainly explain his/her/their next couple of games actually having a timed exclusivity on Android.
I don't know how I stumbled upon Grand Prix Story, which was their next game out. Probably was bored in class. All I know is that I downloaded the demo, tried it, and enjoyed what I saw. It took Game Dev Story's formula for addictive sim games and applied a veneer of auto sports to it. So instead of making games to sell, you were making cars to race. And the racing is what hooked me in, in spite of it being as automated as everything else in the game. It's always fun to root for your team, even if you're the guy in charge and telling them what parts to install into their vehicles or what vehicles to use. And thankfully, the races are quick (as in, one or two laps).
My only gripe is that they slapped on that 15-year time limit. It made sense in Game Dev Story. Here? I didn't get it. Why am I done? I still haven't finished the final Grand Prix! Yeah, I can keep playing, but now you've taken all the wind out of my sails by saying that it won't contribute to a ranking of some sort. And do you know how long it took for me to get a good build of that Super Car? Seriously, that was the biggest let-down I ever had in a game since the ending of Sonic Chronicles. (On the plus side, you at least get a pop-up dialog box asking if you want to quit when you hit back.)
One of their most recent games has the word salad title of "Epic Astro Story" (to be called EAS from here on in). And while I haven't hit the game's time limit yet (and they're at least considerate enough to tell you of the time limit ahead of time), I've been enjoying EAS so far. Tired of focusing on one static layout, the dev decided to take on Sim City (or more accurately, Sim Town)... and set it IN SPACE
. The space setting allowed the dev to make some interesting choices. For instance, you start out with only a small area of land and have to send your residents to explore new lands to find places to build. Frequently, on your explorations, you'll find monsters that you'll have to battle. Tourism comes in the form of other races, who seem to find their home planets ravaged by pirates all too frequently and are all too willing to spend 30,000 space-bucks on a TV while visiting.
Wait, did I mention battles? Yes, I did. Somewhere along the line, the devs (who hail from Japan) realized that all that number crunching that was in their sims seemed to overlap with the RPGs of their youth. So, each of your settlers have a Health stat (for HP) and an ability stat (supposed to modify how a particular weapon boosts attack). You can research new weapons and armor for your gang to bring into battle. Each settler has their own unique skill which can be leveled up or even exchanged for a new skill. And while both sides essentially just auto-attack, using their skills as the skill dictates, you do get to set up formations before battle begins. It adds a fun dynamic, and also functions as a roadblock to prevent you from expanding out too far too soon.
Weirdly enough, though, I don't see them getting much press anymore, like they did when Game Dev Story came out. I had to find out about EAS on my own, just searching their games in the market. It's like the gaming press (and come to think of it, most big corporations when they consider developing an app) just treats Android as a second-class citizen, which is weird considering the latest Neilsen report
shows that it still holds the title of most prolific smartphone OS out there. And it's a little sad that just because Kairosoft has started doing Android versions first, they get shunned. They don't deserve that, since I've yet to see these guys do anything wrong.
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