ISLANDERS

The Game

ISLANDERS by GrizzlyGames is a beautiful city builder for PC. It’s minimalist in its approach to the whole city building genre but the options and combinations will challenge you to think about layout and efficiency.

The game starts you off on an empty island and begins by giving you a choice of 2 building types. The one you choose will give you a collection of buildings, in the late game collections include some of your previous choices. You’re then tasked with laying those buildings out in a way to accumulate points based on their position in the world and their surroundings – some buildings boost each other while others can incur a penalty from being near others. Collect enough points and you level up and be given another choice if two building types. As you progress you’ll get new building types, eventually you’ll run our of space and you can pack it all up and move on to a new island to start all over.

The game is done in a beautiful low poly style and along with the chilled out music it’s a perfect relaxing experience. The game is easy to play and sucks you in as you keep plopping down buildings and before you know it you’ve spent a few hours creating the perfect island settlements and hopping from island to island.

Worth it?

The game is available on Steam for £4.79 and it’s even on sale occasionally. The game is worth it. While it’s not necessarily something you’ll be racking up hundreds of hours on it still offers and amazing escape for a few hours as you’re engulfed into creating the perfect island society. It would be amazing to see this game on mobile and with the fairly simple gameplay it feels like it would work amazingly (provided the game doesn’t get bogged down with gatchas, rather just a free and an add free paid version).

Overall it’s a very relaxing and aesthetically pleasing experience. Trying out different building options and combinations gives the game a decent amount of replay value especially as you get to the late game buildings – you keep wanting to have designed your island a bit better so you can now accommodate all these buildings – nothing to do but start over if that’s the case. It makes for great casual or even medium length play and is a must for any city builder fans.

Tips

  • You don’t need to use all your buildings before getting new ones and vice versa – you can use all your buildings before getting new ones
  • Some buildings benefit from houses, others from mansions, some from both – plan your city and neighbourhood layout accordingly.
  • Sometimes the order in which you place things will allow you to maximise points gained – for example if you place a lumberjack who gains from surrounding trees first, then build something that replaces the trees.

Useful Links

Stardew Valley

The Game

Stardew Valley is a modern gaming masterpiece made by a single person – Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone. The game is one of the ultimate open world, farm, spelunking, life simulator RPG. Yes that is a lot of things and this game does them all. You start out having inherited a plot of land from you grandad – a farmer. Upon your arrival the farm is in quite a state, your long term goal is to turn it into a cash cow (you can have cows) and don’t forget the cash crops as well. From the very start the game allows you to do your thing and introduce yourself to the inhabitants of Stardew Valley, the first few days have a bit of guidance but from then on it’s mostly up to you to figure things out by exploring the world around you.

The primary game loop focuses around farming and spelunking in the caves where each level increases in difficulty. Some days there’s so much farm work to do that you won’t have much time to do anything else. In the winter you might find yourself spending a lot more time there. There are occasional quests on the town board with a time limit and there’s a series of main quests that develop over time and depend on your actions, decisions and interactions with the other townsfolk. The main quest alone will keep you playing for around 50 hours or upwards of 2 in game years – and that’s just the surface of the game.

This game is packed with mysteries and achievements to collect and discover. Your relationships with other townsfolk can get deep; you can even get hitched and have kids, if that’s your thing. You could also just string along all the singles in town until they all find out… If you’re not all about that you can just spend your days fishing and forget about the hustle and bustle.

Worth it?

Ranging from £7.99 on mobile to £34.99 on Switch the game is available on virtually all platforms and put simply it’s worth it. The game is frequently on sale and while the upper end of that price range is a bit too much, anything less than £15 is a steal. The mobile versions are extremely good and a touch cheaper, albeit a bigger phone is useful

The game will keep you in for hours and even after you play through the main story you can always start another farm on one of the other farm layouts. My first playthrough is over 70 hours long. The game is packed with secrets and unique interactions and scenarios. You will want to keep upgrading and improving your farm – it just keeps you coming back thinking “just one more day”.

Overall if you’re after a farm/life/dungeon RPG game this is it. The game is still regularly updated with new content and fixes. Put simply, this game is a must.

Tips

  • There’s so much to this game that I would simply recommend checking for specifics in the Wiki linked below.

Useful Links

BitLife

The Game

WARNING! This game is highly addictive. Don’t be fooled by BitLife’s (by Candywriter, LLC) simple appearance. This text based life simulator goes incredibly deep. Packed with obscure activities, oddly specific interactions, tons of achievements this one will just keep you coming back for more. The game also includes a few paid options, but more on those later.

The concept and delivery are simple – simulate a life, one year at a time. The game does this through simple random text messages and interactions in a diary type format. You can go to school, get a job, find love, have kids, die. But that’s only one way you could go, if you’re so inclined.

Alternatively you can break the law, kill people, cheat on your spouse, get hooked on drugs and ultimately die. Each year of your life you have hundreds of options to choose from at work, at school or with your friends and family. The replay value is amazing and the options are virtually endless, coupled with hundreds of achievements and challenges – it just keeps you coming back for more.

You’ll also have a record of all lives lived and a full diary of each your of their lives, if you ever decide to read back and have a laugh. You can also visit the family grave plot and check out your thousand year legacy.

Worth it?

The game has a free version, which does sadly come with quite a few ads at random intervals or for certain activities. There’s an add free option for £3.89, which will allow you to do a bunch of new things and remove all ads, most importantly you’ll be able to spend time with all of your friends and relatives without watching an ad – this is very helpful when you need to maintain them or get a happiness boost. It will also make you a Bitizen and allow you to join frats or gangs in prison. This paid version is absolutely worth it.

There is also a God Mode DLC option for £2.89, which will allow you to customise appearances and edit characters. Personally I don’t think it brings as much value as the ad free version, but can be fun if you want to recreate your own family or edit your character.

Overall a great game, the free version can get a bit tedious in terms of ads so I do recommend purchasing the ad-free version. It’s one of those games where you just keep thinking one more year and all of a sudden you realise you’ve lived 5 lives and spent 4 hours glued to your phone.

Tips

  • You only get 1 ribbon per life so if you are aiming for a specific one and you’ve achieved it, be weary not to end up getting another
  • Purchase the ad-free version so that you can easily spend time with all friends and relatives at once – a great happiness boost
  • Study hard to get scholarships
  • What you study at university will determine what kind of job you can get after
  • Experiment, try new things, explore

Useful Links

Reddit Tips Directory:
https://www.reddit.com/r/BitLifeApp/comments/a6y7xc/bitlife_guide_tips_tricks_from_level_winner/

iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/bitlife-life-simulator/id1374403536

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.candywriter.bitlife&hl=en_GB

Game Dev Tycoon

The Game

Game Dev Tycoon was released in 2012 by Greenheart games and was an instant hit amongst Tycoon-game players. The game lets you create and manage your very own Game Dev Studio (the clue is in the title). You start out as most start-ups in a dingy garage, coding away on your own, smashing out new titles every few months. You will be able to choose your platform and game genre and theme. Then you will need to manage your time spent on the various elements of the game – get all of these combinations and balances right and you might just land yourself a smash-hit success that gets 10s across the board. However, if you get something like the theme and genre combination wrong, you could be facing a serious loss that may even put you out of business.

The game allows you to research better game engines, features and themes. You will eventually be able to make AAA games, have a maturity rating and release on multiple platforms simultaneously. You will also grow your office and recruit new members of staff to help you build better games (and to keep you from overworking yourself – don’t forget that occasional holiday). In the late game you will be able to fund an R&D lab and give them special projects, as well as your very own Hardware lab, which will allow you to make and sell your very own console (and of course put games onto it).

Worth it?

The game costs £4.99 for iOS or Android and it is available for £6.99 on Steam (with the added benefit of mod support). Is it worth it? Absolutely. The game offers a good deal of replay value, especially as your first few companies may tank – all part of business, as long as you learn from your mistakes.

Having a PC experience on mobile for a 5er is money well spent, my only criticism would be that once you do get to the end-game and you’ve got your own hardware, there really isn’t that much more to do – you can train your staff and do all the research, but at this stage the game cycle is already a bit repetitive. However I would say there’s a good few days, possibly even weeks of play before getting to that point. Not only that but if you have the PC version you will be able to mod it to your hearts content.

Overall a great tycoon and management sim, reinvigorating the genre and a great PC-like experience available on your phone, should you opt for that version.

Tips

  • Don’t rush into upgrading your offices or hiring new staff – the bills can add up very quick and sink you before you know it
  • Train your employees – late game you will want specialists for each of the major game components, also don’t forget to send them away when they are overworked
  • Know what makes good game/genre combinations – use a bit of common sense and real life experience here
  • You can turn tips on/off for second playthroughs – can be very useful in knowing what’s needed to deliver a hit game as often as possible, it is based on your previous attempts and the analysis of what has worked and what not

Useful Links

Wiki: https://gamedevtycoon.fandom.com/wiki/Main_Page

Developer’s Site: https://www.greenheartgames.com/app/game-dev-tycoon/

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/239820/Game_Dev_Tycoon/

Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greenheartgames.gdt&hl=en_GB

App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/game-dev-tycoon/id1162580001

Pocket City

The Game

Ever wanted to play a city builder on the go? But you can’t deal with all the gatchas and pay to wins? Pocket City by Codebrew Games is exactly that. Its aesthetically pleasing isometric cartoon art style and the smooth delivery of classic city building mechanics make this a great choice for anyone looking to build some amazing cityscapes.

The game relies on familiar city building requirements such as zoning for residential/commercial/industrial, as well as maintaining services and resources for your citizens. Keep your city pretty with parks and various types of special buildings, make use of the sky rail, bus or airport to transport people around your city. The game does a nice job of providing a wide variety of specialist buildings from animal pastures to banks and some neat landmarks as well. You can also invest in various policies that will make your life easier. But watch out for the disasters (which you can inflict on yourself if you are so inclined).

The game also has an awesome quest system with objectives you can work towards. And once you have built up your amazing city you can start a new one in the same region and gain income from your neighbouring cities.

Worth it?

There are both a free and a paid version available, it’s £2.99 for the full version and it’s absolutely worth it giving you full access to all buildings and sandbox mode. There are no transactions in the game, no wait times, no BS.

The game plays great in both portrait and landscape, has a huge variety of buildings, models, events and quests. Grow multiple cities within the region. Overall it’s a solid city builder with nice graphics and good controls. The game has a lot to offer and for that price it’s a no-brainer.

Useful Links

  • Use events to gain decent chunks of XP.
  • Monitor your income and expenses through the stats tab – make sure you’re making more than you’re spending.
  • Keep an eye on your goods tab, because if certain goods can’t be sourced locally they will be imported, which can get quite expensive.
  • Having excess goods is a good thing as you will export any extra and help boost your income.
  • Complete quests for good chunks of XP or cash, some involve finding things on the map – so zoom in and look around, you’ll be amazed at the details.

Tips

Wiki: https://pocketcity.fandom.com/wiki/PocketCity_Wiki

Pocket City Free Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.codebrewgames.pocketcity&hl=en_GB

Pocket City Full Version Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.codebrewgames.pocketcitygame&hl=en_GB

Pocket City Full Version Apple Store:
https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/pocket-city/id1330451888

Developer Site: https://pocketcitygame.com/

Mini Metro

The Game

Mini Metro by Dinosaur Polo Club released in 2014 was an instant classic. With its clean minimalist design and simple gameplay it’s a great game for either a casual 5 minutes to kill or a longer more in depth session.

The game is a Metro (or Subway) system simulation game. The aim of the game is to set up and maintain your public transport network in the most efficient and effective way. You control the Metro lines and can manage the amount of trains and carriages each of them carries. The game features 4 modes: Normal, Extreme, Endless and Creative and also features a Daily challenge on a random map in a random mode.

The game is easy to pick up, but hard to master. Your network will quickly grow from 3-4 stops to a sprawling metropolis. Normal and Extreme mode will both end when you overcrowd any one of your stations. The difference being that in Extreme you can’t move tracks or trains. Endless allows you to tinker and aim for the most efficient set up possible, while Creative just lets you do whatever you want.

Huge selection of levels, game modes and a daily challenge.

Worth it?

Put simply – absolutely. However it’s worth noting the price differences between platforms – the cheapest you can get it is on Android, currently that will set you back around £1, whereas iOS is charging £3.99 and on Steam you are looking at £6.99. However, the game is frequently on sale as well so that’s probably your best bet.

For that price on Android/Mobile the game is absolutely worth it – a great time killer, works offline too – perfect for a flight. It can be played in short sessions or you can keep tinkering on your endless map to get it to the optimal efficiency, up to you.

Tips

  • Don’t have too many of the same type of station in a consecutive order
  • Try to vary the types of station present on a single line as much as possible
  • Try to keep lines short or doing very specific routes that cover a good variety of stops
  • Using circular lines can be very helpful in certain situations, but in those cases it’s probably good to have 2 trains running in opposite directions

Useful Links

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/287980/Mini_Metro/

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=nz.co.codepoint.minimetro&hl=en_GB

Apple Store: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/mini-metro/id837860959

Developer Website: https://dinopoloclub.com/careers/

RollerCoaster Tycoon® Classic (Mobile)

The Game

An all time Atari Classic is now available on your phone! One of the first games I ever played and absolutely favourite of mine the RollerCoaster Tycoon series has had it’s ups and downs over the years, but this version takes you back to the golden age.

The game offers 95 classic scenarios to play through from RollerCoaster Tycoon 1 and 2. Fully functioning custom rider builder, hundreds of ride designs, shops, stalls and of course most importantly Roller coasters.

For those new or who have somehow managed to miss RCT this is THE theme park simulation game. You manage your finances, your visitors demands and the maintenance of your park. Some scenarios are time constrained, others pose different challenges. Flex your design skills, make your parks look pretty an master the running of a successful theme park.

95 scenarios from the RCT 1 and 2, and additional DLC maps as well.

Worth it?

The amount of levels you get are 100% worth the money. At £5.99 it is a deal you cannot pass up, it’s cheaper than it is on Steam. The one tiny downside is there is no sandbox mode, however there are several maps that could function as such once the objectives have been met.

The expansion packs offer 14 and 17 new scenarios respectively. These scenarios are on massive maps, some of which heavily themed already – if you are still itching for a few extra scenarios they are worth checking out, although it would be nice to get something a little extra with the purchase.

Overall, this is a great mobile version of a classic and absolutely worth buying.

Tips

  • Pause the game to understand what’s required to win the scenario
  • Focus on small reliable rides before moving on to building roller-coasters – you want to ensure you’ve got a good cash flow and money in the bank
  • For attendance objectives make sure you are using advertising campaigns
  • Map out routes for your handymen in order to maintain a clean park, although also worth having 1-2 free roaming to pick up any missed areas

Useful Links

Wiki/Walkthroughs/Guides: https://rct.fandom.com/wiki/RollerCoaster_Tycoon_Classic

Google Play Store:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.atari.mobile.rctclassic&hl=en_GB

App Store:
https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/rollercoaster-tycoon-classic/id1113736426

Tiny Space Program

The Game

Tiny Space Simulator by Cinnabar Games is an interesting and quite aesthetically pleasing space simulation game. The game is free to play with regular updates coming out (although last update was April, so may be affected by lockdown). It’s a nice take on the genre, not focusing so much on the launching and flying, but rather on colonising, tourism, research and resource management.

You start on earth and your first tasks is to set up base on the moon. Building things takes real time and jobs can be rushed for premium currency or video watching. Honestly I haven’t really felt a need to rush or boost anything in this way and in that sense the gatcha element isn’t very intrusive. However maybe the game could have made use of some sort of login reward system to at least keep you coming back.

As you research new ship parts and upgrade what you have you will be able to venture out further in space, build more and make more money.

3….2….1…. Lift off!

Worth it?

Since it’s a free to play it’s definitely worth a play. I think the game still has room to grow quite a bit and some of the “coming soon” features do sound quite good.

Personally some of the waiting times are a bit tedious and keep me from playing the game for longer stints at a time. It would also be nice to be able to be able to set workers to do tasks automatically once completed.

Overall a fun game, good take on resource management and simulation. Mostly a casual game to be played in short bursts. It will be interesting to see how the game develops from here on out.

Tips

  • There is a series of tips and tricks in game to help get you started
  • Completing the basic missions when you first land on a planet/moon can be a great source of cash
  • Tourism can be a good source of income, but requires a 500 coin upgrade to start
  • Research better ships for more carrying/crew capacity

Useful Links

Wiki: https://tiny-space-program.fandom.com/wiki/Tiny_Space_Program_Wiki

Trello: https://trello.com/b/KVZlAV0r/tiny-space-program-idea-list

Tap Craft: Mine Survival Sim

The Game

A simple but effective idle clicker game by Iron Horse Games. In this beautiful clicker game your objective is to collect resources and claim all the surrounding islands. You can mine and harvest various resources and once you start automating this process you can create more complex supply chains – for example harvesting wheat to make beer to sell at the tavern for serious profit. The game has 3 different biomes – snow, grass and sand with unique resources available in each. The game has quests and objectives for you to meet from building certain things to delivering resources.

An ok amount of stuff to build and resources to acquire.

Worth it?

One thing is immediately apparent when you start playing the game – the potential of it is great. It is just a clicker game, but well paced in the beginning to keep you quite active after which you will start to rely on longer idle times and 2x videos.

Overall I felt it was a bit short – within 3 days I had built everything and had more resources than I knew what to do with. I definitely think the game can be taken further and expanded on massively. I would recommend it as a great time killer, but not much replay value after acquiring most buildings.

Tips

  • Focus on grass farms early on, so you can get shovels.
  • Shovels are useful to unlock extra islands and extra people through digging up treasures.
  • Completing quests can also give you extra people.
  • Getting multiple workers in a mine (or any work place) will increase the output to equal the number of workers.

Useful Links

Sadly not much there in terms of a wiki and guides, but also not much to explain about the game either. Nothing a quick google can’t answer.