Developer: MeNic Games
Release Date: August 30, 2021
City builders were one of my go-to game genres for a lot of years, but for awhile now, I’ve been really struggling to find one that scratches the itch of the early iterations of the Tropico series, or going even further back, the old Impressions city builders. It seems like either they’re far too casual (like Polyville Canyon), or they’re laser focused on realistic infrastructure and traffic issues. When I do find something comfortably in the middle – and Tinytopia definitely falls into that category – it seems like the developers can’t resist adding a quirky mechanic that sucks the fun right out of the concept.
Now, the mechanic in Tinytopia sounds great in theory. As you proceed through the levels, you unlock more basic buildings, and you use blueprints to upgrade them to better versions. Place down a single store block for a level one store, but place two next to each other, and you’ve just made a level two store. For the first couple of buildings, this actually is really fun. It’s a neat idea, watching your buildings snap together and turn into something new and different.
At least for me, it got old real fast. You only “learn” blueprints after you initially create them, and the interface which shows you how to build the next level of something is less than idea. You get a little ghost outline of what you need to add, and even if you have the “snap to object” setting turned out (which apparently needs to be turned on again each time you move between scenarios – please just give me a toggle!), it isn’t always as simple as it’s made to look.
So I figured maybe I’d just jump into sandbox mode for a bit, and just play around with how pieces fit together until I felt like I really got it. Unfortunately, that idea was foiled rather quickly.
I managed to fail a handful of scenarios by getting caught up in the loop of wanting to figure out all the evolutions of the buildings, and failing to consider, well, anything else. There’s a nifty “move building” button, but there’s a price every time you use it. There also doesn’t seem to be any sort of undo button, which I feel like this game really could have used.
In time, I probably could have learned my way around the quirks, but as a new player, it all just felt very frustrating. Which is too bad, because I really liked the aesthetics of the game – I found the cutesy art style delightful. It’s probably a title I will revisit if I really have a hankering for something a little off the beaten path in the city building genre, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was more than a bit disappointed that I didn’t find it more intuitive.
SteamDB estimates that Tinytopia has sold between 3,300 and 9,100 copies on Steam. Although I didn’t fall in love with, reviews have been very positive. It is ranked 1128 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.