I’ve hit a point where I think I’m kind of spent on Kairosoft’s isometric build-a-whatever sims. It’s one of their go-to variations, along with their isometric groom-a-whatever sims, and while I was completely caught up in Hot Springs Story ($4.99), the first of that type they released in English, I hit rock bottom somewhere around Pocket Harvest ($4.99). They can throw whatever paint they want on it, and it’s still fun if you haven’t played the other dozen or so, but there’s just too little variation beyond the themes. The groom-a-whatevers are at high risk of getting played out, too, and all without following up Game Dev Story ($4.99) properly on iOS. They’ve done a couple things outside those two types, such as the recent and interesting Kairobotica ($4.99), and one of my favorites from early on is Mega Mall Story ($4.99), a concept they could have easily milked but haven’t yet.
Well, hopefully this isn’t the harbinger of destruction, but Mega Mall Story finally has a follow-up in The Pyraplex ($4.99), Kairosoft’s latest release. It’s kind of a ridiculous set-up, with you being tasked to build a pyramid in what seems to be ancient times but still filling it with anachronistic shops and amenities. Plus, you pay your slaves. Oh, sure, Kairosoft, take all the fun out of being a pharaoh, why don’t you? All jokes aside, I kind of like the wacky theme because that’s usually where Kairosoft shines the brightest. When the gameplay is expected to the point of being a bit mundane, you might as well rock a bizarre set-up. Your pyramid starts off very small and not terribly pyramid-like, but as you earn money and dig up resources, you’ll be able to expand it into a massive monument to commerce. Once a year, you’ll even have your pyramid’s size and shape graded, so make sure to remember to build it in, you know, a vaguely triangular shape unlike certain dullard reviewers.
At first, the game felt like another cheap re-skin, but it soon starts laying out some of its additions to the Mega Mall formula. Your pyramid is right next to a cliff wall, and your resources are earned by digging it out. The other side can’t be expanded out any further, so if you want to increase the footprint of your pyramid, you have to dig out that wall. You can allocate all your employees to doing so if you want to speed it up, but then you’d have no one to actually build the shops and serve the customers, among other important jobs. That stuff is important because it keeps the money rolling in that pays the salaries of your workers. It’s also important because you’ll be fulfilling special requests as you work, and those requests earn you stamps on a stamp card. Earn enough stamps and you’ll get a number of different prizes, including new items, room types to build, and vertical expansions for your pyramid.
You also have to make sure you’re managing the flow of stones properly, since they’re required for all types of construction and have to be hauled from the cliff side at the bottom of your structure. You can build stone storage areas where excess stones can be piled up for later use, but the stones still have to get there to begin with, and it takes a while before an elegant solution presents itself. Just as you’re getting the swing of that, the other major new element shows up. There are other towns besides yours, and you’ll want to send out people now and then with some of your items and manufactured goods on trade missions. Doing so will earn you some extra money and improve relations with your neighbors, leading to more visitors to your pyramid. Each town has different likes and dislikes, which you’ll have to suss out by sending a bit of everything and seeing how it goes. A successful trip will earn you a fair bit of profit and might even open the diplomatic doors to a new town.
This is the first Kairosoft game in some time where I couldn’t just autopilot my way to victory. It’s not a hard game by any means, but you do have to pay attention to what your staff are doing and where you need them to be to keep resources flowing smoothly. For once, the game will not bail you out if you run out of cash, so you can’t just blow your money indiscriminately, counting on that golden parachute. You have to balance between having enough staff digging out stones both for space and raw materials, doing construction for obvious reasons, crafting new items to send on trade missions, shopping to boost your cash flow, and serving customers to earn hearts. Those hearts are vital in this game, since you need them to renovate amenities and shops, trigger special events, and even expel the cobras that keep sneaking into your pyramid. Let one of these things fall behind, and the whole delicate chain will come apart.
The back half of the game is more of a slide than anything, in usual Kairosoft fashion, but there’s so much going on that I never found myself getting bored. The one or two times I had to dig myself out from a bad situation due to my poor planning were really enjoyable. I like that I had a degree of control over the shape of my structure, too. I was expecting the game to just box me into a pyramid shape, but you can definitely make whatever lopsided, weird design you want. You’ll suffer for it in the rankings, but you can do it. I also enjoyed seeing a fair bit of art I haven’t seen in another Kairosoft game before, especially with the background pieces. The people are kind of a mixed bag of new and old, and it’s all in the house style, but it still doesn’t look exactly like any of their other games, and that’s a victory of sorts with this company. I wish the backgrounds were animated, though, as it feels weird that they’re so static when everything else is animated.
The interface is the same as usual, with a menu and controls that feel like they were pulled from a PC game, probably because they were. It works well enough, and since you’re not doing anything like having to lay down long walkways or paths, it’s not nearly as fussy as some of their other games. Getting access to certain sub-menus and commands is a bit more obtuse than it should be at times, particularly when it comes to managing your staff, but it’s nothing outside of the norm when it comes to this developer. I like that I can play in both landscape and portrait depending on my preference, and I’m of course happy there’s no silly IAP to be found in the game. Sadly, as has been the case with most of the releases from Kairosoft, there’s no Game Center support or anything like that.
I ended up really enjoying The Pyraplex, which makes two Kairosoft releases in a row that didn’t feel like some degree of treadmilling. It’s not tremendously different from Mega Mall Story, but this is the first time they’ve gone back to that well, and they at least had the courtesy to add a bunch of new things to do that change up the game a little, even if it’s fairly similar at its core. If you enjoyed Mega Mall Story, you’ll likely want to give this one a go, even if you’re getting a little tired of Kairosoft’s other efforts. While it’s very derivative of that game, it at least feels like it justifies its existence beyond its surface theme.