I admit, I was pretty surprised when I heard that the folks at Nimblebit were going to join forces with Disney Interactive to create a Star Wars game. Yet, after a few soft launches here we are with Star Wars: Tiny Death Star [Free], a title that combines the simplicity and adorable visuals of Tiny Tower, with the rich assets of Star Wars. The combination of both should be a match made in heaven, but a stingy premium currency economy may make some think twice about investing in this otherwise great fan service tribute.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of playing Tiny Tower [Free], I highly suggest you check out our 2011 review that discusses the game’s time management gameplay. Overall, Tiny Death Star doesn’t deviate too much from its predecessor’s gameplay. The crux of the game still revolves around building floors in a tower-like structure, stocking items that provide ‘Credits’, and ferrying Star Wars themed bitizens that award Credits and ‘Imperial Bux’ (the game’s premium currency). It all amounts to a game centered around timer management with additional, small rewards thrown in for interacting with the game via elevator trips and matching bitizens to their dream jobs. The gameplay was simple enough to be highly approachable and inviting in Tiny Tower, and Tiny Death Star continues that trend.

screen1136x1136-162Despite the above, Tiny Death Star does implement a few new additions that add to the otherwise static gameplay. In addition to awarding credits for ferrying bitizens to their desired floor, each delivery knocks a minute off the floor’s restock (or building) timer. It’s a small, but appreciated change. In addition, the debut of ‘Imperial’ floors along with quests provide additional diversions to earn additional Credits while saving up money for adding floors and moving in bitizens. I also appreciated the larger variety of VIPs, which do everything from instantly filling out a residence to allowing you to move floors without the requisite bux charge.

Unfortunately not all the changes in Tiny Death Star are appreciated, or even welcome. The loss of a random bux award for ferrying citizens or fully stocking floors significantly reduces the ability to earn that premium currency. In addition, the game’s ‘Find Events’ (which are a throwback to Tiny Tower and reward bux for completing them) are also a far rarer occurrence. The same goes with the majority of VIP events, with the exception of the supply officer which works hand-in-hand with the new Imperial floors. Why is this important? Well, bux are still important for quick-filling residences when you have a lot of floors and are the only way to upgrade your elevator.  Long story short, earning bux in Tiny Death Star is a far more onerous experience and the fact that they cost much more to purchase via IAP than Tiny Tower also hurts.

Despite the above issues, I keep coming back to Tiny Death Star simply because of its excellent fan service.  The pixel art is masterfully done and does a great job recreating the Star Wars universe in the Nimblebit art style. Each floor has animated backdrops that really give the game far more life than Tiny Tower. In addition, Tiny Death Star offers loads of characters and heroes from the Star Wars universe and even provides small encyclopedic entries on each one with useful information. Even the game’s cutscenes, which occur randomly and offer no monetary rewards, are just yet another nice touch to the overall game. It’s obvious that when it comes to art and content, Tiny Death Star was made with great love for the Star Wars universe.

Still, the changes to the freemium experience are hard to ignore. In the case of Tiny Death Star, it simply becomes a question as to whether the immense amount of Star Wars fan service outweighs the somewhat harsher freemium experience. As a Star Wars fan it’s no question for me that Tiny Death Star is worth playing despite the added heartache. However, I fully understand that for others, it may be closer to a toss-up as to whether it’s worth the time investment.

TouchArcade Rating

  • jtall

    Not a word about no iPod support?

    • MagiicMuffiin

      I have it on my ipod after a couple of tries

      • jtall

        I've tried many times and keep getting that I need a digital compass. And in iTunes where it shows what devices it supports it doesn't have iPod listed at all

      • MagiicMuffiin

        Then I must've been lucky cause I didn't get that message just the "not supported" message but I tried a couple of times and boom it started downloading ;p

  • rewindx

    Hello, this is rewyan but I changed accounts for a few reasons.

    Anyway, thank the Lord Vader for a review finally. I've been joking about no TDS review for a while now. I think TDS's time is over though, as it is rapidly spiraling down the charts.

  • Taclys

    I'm not a huge star wars fan, and don't need to help the license whoring buy downloading this.

  • doublezz

    I spent a few days playing this one, the game was fun but soon turns into frustration.
    The reasons are:
    * Expensive IAP. When I say expensive, I mean $10 only gives you 150 Game money. 150 is only good with unlocking 1 or 2 levels. And I haven't talked about upgrading yet.
    * No IAP restore function. When you restart the game, all the game money you purchased gone.
    * Dodge missions. Such as ask you to build 2 residential levels but only reward you 600 coins. Not to mention build 2 levels costs over 10,000 coins.

    Basically the game is a big money sucker. I have stopped playing after building 17 levels.

    • defaultuser12

      I quit after 11 floors. It's not really a game or a simulation. It's more of a babysitting game. Tap to stock, tap to move the elevator. Check back later. Repeat.

      • Maniacfive

        You never played Tiny Tower did ya?

    • pobautista

      The Imperial levels are scams. Sith lords are evil, but I didn't expect them to be fraudsters.

    • pobautista

      The Imperial levels are scams. Sith lords are evil, but I didn't expect them to be the fraudsters depicted in this game.

    • http://www.drew-fletcher.com Drew

      Was gonna post my thoughts but you already did. This is hardly a game. Cool art and tribute but boring after building a few levels.

  • MidianGTX

    This must have been a tough call. Looking at it by itself I'd say it deserves the 4 stars, but essentially being a reskin, I'm just not enthralled like I was with Tiny Tower. I wish they'd been able to really open the game up and include something crazy like fleet building (merging TT gameplay with Pocket Planes/Trains maybe?) or different shaped "towers" to represent various different craft from Star Wars.

    • defaultuser12

      I was really disappointed in the game.

  • TimTim92

    I can't have an opinion about the game because there's NO FREAKIN iPod SUPPORT ! :/ Not cool..

    From the sound of it though, it's a good try but needs to be tweaked to bring people in to play it more. Ohh well, I guess us iPod people will never know.

    • MagiicMuffiin

      I have it on my ipod it took a few tries for me

      • TimTim92

        How can that be? It needs a digital compass.
        iPod isn't even listed as a supported device to play the game.

      • MagiicMuffiin

        I got lucky somehow but it has small letters for the name compared to the other apps, I would should you but I don't know how

      • TimTim92

        I don't know.. I tried it last night like 80 times, and nothing.

      • MagiicMuffiin

        I don't see why it wound need the digital compass when it hasn't asked me for it nor have I seen anything that would need it

  • stormy8888

    I want to download on my iPod, BUT NO SUPPORT!!! Please tell me why this app needs a DIGITAL COMPASS!!!! I hope they add support in future

    • Jon

      People with iPod Touches who want this game. It took me looking around to figure out how to do it but now I have it on my iPod Touch 5th Generation. Go to iTunes on your computer. Search the game and download it. After it has downloaded go on to the App Store on your iPod, go to updates tab, purchases, and tap the cloud button that should now be next to the app(the cloud button that appears instead of a download button

      • Jon

        ) I have a black 5th generation iPod touch running iOS 7.0.4 and the above worked first try. Good luck, I hope this helps my fellow iPod users.

  • metvane

    Wish it had iPod support as well. Tried it on my fiances droid and its pretty cool but can't get into the meat of it

  • gosenbach

    Tip: i have found that the only good way to earn bux is to build extra apartment levels and constantly move in new bittys. Evict everyone that does not fit in a dream job. When a new bitty moves in with a useable dream job, evict an existing in and put in the new one. You get a bux everytime. I have been able to get 33 floors and the 4th level elevator so far. The trick is to have lots of open apartments on several floors so you gave a batter chance if getting bittys to move in.

    • themostunclean

      That would be great if it didn't take forever for new guys to move in if you have any more than 10 floors. The real estate agents are by far the rarest of the VIPs too.

      • gosenbach

        The trick is to have one or two open slots in each apartment. Your chances of someone moving in are a lot higher than if you only have openings on one or two floors.

  • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave Metzener

    In my experience playing TDS, I have received Imperial Bux for ferrying citizens as well as fully stocking floors. They are pretty uncommon, but they were uncommon in TT as well.

    I get Find Events pretty much each time I use the game. I don't stay in the game for more than about 10 minutes, but when I return, I usually see a Find Event at least once.

    VIP events are pretty rare, but since you can call up Supply Officers for 1000 credits, it's not all that bad. The other VIP's are mostly fluff except for the one that fills out a residence.

    I don't know about the statement "Long story short, earning bux in Tiny Death Star is a far more onerous experience..." I haven't found that to be so.

    I've enjoyed the game so far and really like the Imperial floors and quests way better than the quests in TT.

    I haven't spent any real money on the game and have 25 floors, 35 bitzens and usually make enough credits for a new floor about 2 times a day. I launch the game about every 2 to 3 hours and spend about 10 minutes in the game each launch.

    I personally find TDS a welcome improvement!

    • the fish

      Exactly what I think except for one thing: how did you get bux for ferrying or fully stocking? I have 27 floors and got bux only for building a new floor and dresmjobs. How is that possible?

      • themostunclean

        I've been playing since first soft launch. I've never gotten bux for fully stocking, only buying frenzies. And ferrying only gets you credits, no bux.

        The original comment is totally false, bux for ferrying and stocking have been completely eliminated.

      • gosenbach

        It happens but it is rare. I have 33 floors and i got a bux exactly once from an elevator and exactly once from fully stocking.

      • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave Metzener

        Thank you @toucharcade-3cf0846b792ba6419864fa31eba4d3fe:disqus! I thought I was imagining getting the bux from ferrying bitizens.

      • http://www.metzener.com/ Dave Metzener

        To be fair, I feel like I remember seeing getting a bux for ferrying someone to a floor, but it might have been for something else. Oh, like bringing a bitzen to a residence with an open room. Maybe that's where I was seeing that.

        Still, the fully stocking bux occurs when that triggers a buying frenzy, so I stand by that one.

        Either way, the review's "far more onerous" statement seems a bit of an overstatement. I've been progressing through the game just fine without the need to pay RL dollars to advance. (Sure, if I wanted to get to 200 floors in a week, I could easily spend a bunch of RL dollars. However, that kind of takes away from the whole point of the game.

        Oh, also in my last session, I got 5 full Find Events and I was only playing for about 20 minutes.

        So to themostunclean's statement that my comment was totally false, I say :p

  • ktern

    Well, it's not surprising that this version is evil...

  • rewindx

    I'm at 19 floors and I already feel like it's tiring and slow. I didn't get that feeling with Tiny Tower until the 80th floor or so.

  • Geertyy

    I currently have an emperor quest that says something like this: working for tips is acceptable. Find the bitizen(s). I have no idea what to do. Does anyone know?

    • JudahJames

      I paid bux to skip that quest. Don't know what it wanted from me?

      • rewyan

        You have to find the Bitizen when the blue box appears on the bottom that asks you to find someone.

  • RunningWild

    4 stars? For what? I'm a diehard SW need and this 'game' is utter garbage. They shoulda called it Tiny Grassgrow..

    • TimTim92

      Erase this comment, this is your old one.
      It takes up room. 😛

  • RunningWild

    4 stars? For what? I'm a diehard SW nerd and this is utter garbage. Should have called it Tiny Grass Grow..

  • http://www.gahe.co/ Gahe

    Very impressive article. I have read each and every point and found it very interesting

    • MisterMiracle

      What a non-comment :-/

  • JudahJames

    What I can't figure out is what the imperial levels do? I mean I bring down a VIP supply officer and then get an inventory item but then what? What do I do with the items after I earn them? Anyone?

    • Maniacfive

      Missions from the imperial level below arrivals.

  • woodsielord

    Am I alone in thinking TT's art direction was much better, and in TDS especially the colors are muddy & indistinct, and everything is crowded?

  • http://about.me/davidlnguyen David Nguyen

    It sounds like TA gave a 2-5 star game that was completely ruined by IAP (*coughngmoco*) and gave them 4 Stars anyways because of the Star Wars theme. With all the hype built up around this release I naturally thought this would get a 5 star review so I knew there was something up with this 4 star review before I read this. I miss the days where there were only a few good apps a month and TA didn't overrate the games....

    • Maniacfive

      You've clearly not played the game and skip read the review. And when was the last time Ngmoco were relevant in these parts? Get out.

  • Maniacfive

    Totally deserves it's four stars. I like this. No pressure to spend actual money Star Wars fun. However Minus one for the notifications! Whereas TT would notify you the first time since you last opened the app, TDS notify EVERY TIME! drives me mad. To the degree I've disabled all notifications for it.

    One is enough. I see the lock screen. I open, done. I don't need 5 across 10 minutes.

  • Joel Detrow

    Playing on the Windows 8 version (and the erm, 'bonuses' that the desktop provides), I have been able to examine the game's content and figured out that this game *sigh* is endless. There is no endgame. There are no limits, except that once you build all the floors, you can't build anymore - which makes it pretty absurd that the emperor will still ask you to build another level for a reward of 400 credits, especially when the price tag on said new level would be 936,150 credits.

    There is no limit to the rank a floor can achieve - seriously, I originally thought maybe it would stop at 10. Nope! Maximum rank is actually limited by the numerical constraints of the data type, which comes out to 705,032,704. This large number, as it turns out, makes the level stock negative values (instantly requiring a restock). From a design standpoint, this is pretty sloppy. In theory, if you played long enough, the game would just break, and that's bad design. It's a completionist's nightmare.

    Build every level, stock them all with rank 9 dream jobs, find every scene, collect every bitizen, upgrade your elevator to max rank (which BTW makes it a real pain in the ass to take someone to a specific imperial level), nothing will ever happen. There's no sense of accomplishment, and no fun in it at all, you just did your damn chores until you got what you wanted. The only thing I didn't try was unlocking all the scenes, which, let's face it, would take absolutely forever in-game and, again, be just a chore. It's not worth playing, and it's sure as hell not worth spending money on.

    Even before I dug deep, I'd already grown bored of the game and was going to stop playing. Back to actual games like Skyrim, Mass Effect, and Warframe, while I wait for Battlefront to come out. This makes me wary of future Star Wars games, though. Disney, I'll repeat what fans said from the beginning: Please don't ruin Star Wars.

    All that said, the effects were decent.

    • misfitskater6

      Thanks for the post, what a bummer. Even without your insight, I feel like the game is holding back so hard on bux that you can't really do anything... The novelty and the pixel art is nice but especially after reading your comment, I think I'm done playing. I don't usually play these pointless time-sink sort of games, figured I'd try it due to the Star Wars theme. I guess I'll keep it installed to see if any future updates make any improvements, but I'm not going to waste any more time on this.

      • Pheebers

        The funny thing is that I DID get sucked in for a few days. I liked collecting all of the floors in the original Tiny Tower. Sure, it wasn't exactly Civ IV, but it was occasional fast and mindless entertainment. However, the more stingy bux and insanely slow elevators are rapidly bursting my bubble on this one.

    • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

      "It's a completionist's nightmare."

      Yep - thanks for confirming that there's no end game (3 months later). Uninstalled. BTW - your comment is the #1 Google search result for the terms "tiny death star no end game".

      • Joel Detrow

        Whoa, that's awesome 😀

  • Stephen Ynwa Blythe

    Since i downloaded it a week ago i cant stop playing fun little game

  • Stephanius

    Good idea but obnoxious f2p structure...

  • Fred

    Why do the prices to unlock levels in the game's store keep going up and down? One minute they're around 140 bux, then later that day they're 380, then 270 another time. Do they really expect players to pay 10 or 20 Euro to unlock one level?

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4