We’ve talked about local government recently when discussing Patron, a brutally difficult city-builder that’s all about starving to death while you run out of firewood and your citizens go nuts. That game was a little stressful, suffice to say. If you’re after a somewhat more welcoming city-building experience, you might want to take a look at Tinytopia, a combination physics puzzler and city-builder from MeNic games.
Tinytopia’s a city-builder that’s probably closest to something like SimCity. You’ve got your housing to attract citizens, your employment areas to keep them busy, your services like power, fire and police coverage and so on. If you’re familiar with the genre you’ve probably got a good idea of the basics here. You’ll have to balance your citizens’ desires with the city’s budget and tax income – after all, a town that runs out of money isn’t going to stay livable for long, no matter how many fancy parks that money bought!
Where Tinytopia differs, then, is its presentation and the associated implications. See, this isn’t a realistic city-builder; you’re playing with toys. That means that instead of, say, zoning an area for residential construction, you’re just going to physically plop a house onto the board. If you want a bigger house, you can plop a couple small houses next to each other and they’ll meld into a bigger residence.
Further, if you really want to pack people in, you can stack a bunch of apartment buildings together in a predefined pattern to turn them into a giant apartment complex. There is, mercifully, an auto-align feature to help keep you from dropping buildings willy-nilly and wasting them.
That’s a cool idea right from the start, but it might just sound like a gimmick. Initially that’s the case, but Tinytopia’s willing to mess around with your expectations. Because you’re physically stacking up buildings to construct larger facilities, that means you’re prey to the whims of physics themselves. That means that when Tinytopia asks you to build a city on top of a rotating turntable, structure placement becomes a little more complex than you might expect. Likewise, balancing the budget isn’t quite so easy when you’re also balancing the city itself on top of a see-saw.
It would have been pretty easy to just make a city-builder with stackable, physics-enabled buildings, but Tinytopia goes the extra mile and is all the better for it. There’s plenty of fun to be had throughout Tinytopia’s campaign as it introduces new challenges and locales, with each location offering several different objectives that you can take on at your own pace. Meanwhile, if you just feel like chilling, there’s a perfectly relaxing Sandbox mode available as well.
As a toy-based city builder, it should come as no surprise that Tinytopia’s presentation is about as cute as can be. Buildings are adorable, services are adorable, you can send cute little fire trucks to stop cute little fires that are cooking your cute little citizens – there’s even adorable disasters that you can send to wreak havoc on your town. It’s a great aesthetic for the style of game and it remains reliably enjoyable throughout, especially when you visit exotic locales like Paris and Tokyo.
Hardcore city-building fiends might find Tinytopia somewhat wanting from a depth perspective, but that’s not necessarily the point of this game. Instead, this is a city-builder that’s all about balancing the needs of your citizenry with the needs of gravity. It’s a unique combination that’s plenty of fun. Tinytopia’s absolutely worth a look, if only because, again, you get to build a city on a rotating turntable.