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Tiny Tower

June 23, 2011

Video Game Cat Review

Date of Review:  May 15, 2012
Language / Country of Origin:
  English / USA
Online Capability: 
Players can connect to Game Center, where they can view their achievements and follow their friends’ in-game progress.
Equipment Needed: None, except mobile device.
Maintenance Required:  None, except periodic game updates.


Since Tiny Tower is a casual simulation game, there is no traditional plot to speak of.  The goal of the game is to build a tower consisting of various kinds of floors, either residential or commercial.  Commercial floors are decorated to reflect the type of products being sold, but can be customized.  The residential floors house bitizens, or the tiny people who visit the tower and work in the businesses.  The commercial floors sell various products, falling into five basic categories: Food (e.g. different types of restaurants), Service (e.g. dental offices, health clubs), Retail (e.g. various kinds of stores), Recreation (e.g. cineplexes, night clubs), and Creative (e.g. art and photo studios, architect offices).  Only five bitizens can reside on each residential floor and only three bitizens can work in each business.  The more bitizens that work on a floor, the more products that can be sold (in a one-to-one ratio, with a maximum of three).  Bitizens have preferences for the types of businesses that they would prefer to work in – designated by a scale of numbers from 0 to 9.  They also have a specific dream job.  Placing a bitizen in their dream job will increase the productivity of the associated business.

When bitizens buy products from stores, the tower earns coins.  Coins are also earned by delivering bitizens from the lobby to a floor that they designate via an elevator.  Coins are needed in order to restock products in businesses and to build new floors.  The game forces players to wait while products are restocked and while floors are being built.  Some products are restocked more quickly than others (e.g. chips and salsa in the Mexican restaurant versus eyeglasses in the optometrist).  The larger/taller the tower, the longer new floors will take to be constructed.  Players can choose what category of floor to build but cannot specify exactly which business will open.

Players can also earn tower bux – which is a special kind of currency used to upgrade businesses, buy costumes for bitizens, expedite restocking or construction times and purchase faster elevators, among other things.  Tower bux are not earned passively (like coins can be), but are awarded for locating specific bitizens in the towers, completing missions, fully stocking businesses, placing bitizens in their dream jobs, or by getting tips from random bitizens in the elevator.

On occasion, random VIPs will show up in the elevator.  There are five types of VIPs: the delivery man (who will take three hours off the restocking time), the celebrity (who will increase the number of customers in a business for a short period of time), the construction worker (who will take three hours off of construction time), the real estate agent (who will fill any vacancies in a residential floor), and the big spender (who will buy out all of one product).  VIPs will only affect the specific floor of the tower that they are delivered to.

Cultural / Historical Value: 
Tiny Tower is an immensely popular game that has been downloaded several million times.  In fact, it reached 10 million downloads in February 2012.  The game has been praised for imparting personality to its bitizens through its “Bitbook” – a play off of Facebook.  Players can read Bitbook to see what each bitizen is thinking at a given time.  Overall, due to its popularity, addictive gameplay and slick design, Apple named Tiny Tower as iPhone Game of the Year in 2011.

Teaching / Learning Characteristics: 
Unfortunately, this game does not contain many teaching or learning characteristics.   However, it could be argued that it can illustrate time management – by forcing users to continually keep track of different floors’ restocking and construction times.  In order to generate the most amount of money for the player’s tower, floors have to always be completely stocked.

Replay Value:  
Some may see the game as repetitive, but others will find it oddly addictive.  The gameplay does not change as the tower builds floors.  However, there is a lot of customization that can be done.  Bitizen’s clothes can be changed.  Businesses can be upgraded to hold more stock, their walls can be painted various colors, and their names can be changed.  Further, there are a variety of in-game missions that can be completed for tower bux as well as Game Center achievements that can be earned.  All of the above will keep players entertained for hours.

Likely Audiences:
This game is appropriate for everyone, as there is no violence, sexual content or bad language.  Hard-core gamers might find the title lacking as the gameplay is limited to building floors and earning coins and tower bux.  Casual gamers, in particular those into simulation games, will however likely enjoy Tiny Tower.

Overall Score:

Other Reviews:


About the Author:
Shannon L. Farrell, MLIS, MS
is an Assistant Professor and Liaison Librarian at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins.  Having been an avid gamer for the last 25 years, she has a great interest in incorporating videogames into library and educational environments.  She has conducted research on the topic, examining current use of videogames in libraries and the resources available for collection development purposes.  Shannon is a member of the ALA Games and Gaming Round Table.  Since she plays videogames on a daily basis, Shannon is a regular contributor and editor of reviews for VideoGameCat.  She also maintains the VideoGameCat Twitter (@thevideogamecat) and Facebook ( accounts.


Award Giver Category Verdict
Game Developers Choice Awards 2012Handheld/Mobile Game Nominee

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