“No Terry, ‘Beam Me Up’ is a Mad Science themed adventure game for the PC! Stop focusing on the engine and work on the Story! Pete. For the last time, you can’t take a break to patch the previous title. No, I don’t care if it will cost us fans. Eduard stop overworking please. Just go on vacation and stop burning out. Marketing! WHY IS THERE NO PROMOTION FOR THIS?! THE GAMES OUT IN 1 MORE STAGE! For god’s sake Yolanda get your design level up already! Why can’t you all be like Joann and use your boosts to make this game a 10/10 money maker! Again with the sad face Eduard? You just got back from a holiday! It’s not like I get to go on vacation! I stay here at all times to keep the lights on and the company running. Me! Just ME! I MADE THIS COMPANY! BUILT IT FROM NOTHING IN MY BASEMENT AND oh we’re bankrupt… never mind. Start again”
Who doesn’t love to make video games? I love the idea of making video games. I’ve notebooks of ideas, folders of half finished assets and more unfinished projects than there are ports of Sonic The Hedgehog. There are pages of concepts on this very site (#Concepts) that I popped up for games that I neither have the time nor energy to create. Taking this very palatable idea of making a video game in a video game and mixing it with a relatively handsfree relaxing process is absolute genius. Having already played hours of the PC original I was more than happy to dive into the Switch port but was it a rushed port to sell to a trend or a 10/10 sensation?
You’ll spend the majority of your time with Game Dev Tycoon watching blobs fly up to the main numbers at the top of the screen. Each blob adds to Bugs, Design, Tech and Research but you’ll be busy making sure you manage everything to keep your money in the black and fans happy. Games are created by picking a name, a topic, genre, platform and (once you create one) an engine. What starts off as simply choosing which aspect should be more important for each game slowly develops into managing your staff to make sure nobody burns out. Picking features that will benefit the game, making sure they can be implemented properly and expensive extras are left ignored. Game Dev Tycoon does a fantastic job of explaining the basics and then letting you find your own feet without resulting in an instant fail state. It’s definitely a game you’ll lose hours to, finding what works best and learning to be better in the future.
Everything pops nicely on the Switch port. That’s probably because there isn’t anything particularly taxing to the game for the Switch to struggle with. The office and characters remain in their pose throughout and you can’t explore the surroundings. Not that you need to, there’s plenty to be getting on with. There are touchscreen controls and a lot of tweaks to the UI feel like they follow on from the mobile ports of the game. I found myself using the touchscreen to type on the frustratingly counterintuitive Switch Nintendo keyboard and using the joycon shortcuts for everything else. It’s a game that was originally launched for mouse and keyboard and manages to do a good enough job running on your Switch without the interface getting in the way.
Game Dev Tycoon is a game that encourages you to experiment in the best way. The best thing about failing with a game or idea is the post-launch report option for each game gives you little hints and clues about what works and what doesn’t. It’s encouraged to as this provides research points to unlock new features for your next engine. This knowledge can be carried across on each playthrough and with the knowledge of events and launches that occurred in the real video games industry you’ll have an idea of what will be a money maker and what can bankrupt you. The switch port was my first foray into the extra Pirate mode where each release you produce will have considerably less sales until you balance copy protection to an enjoyable experience. This mode not only ramps up the challenge but also includes content from emails the developers have received over the years and it makes for a very interesting experience. Just be sure to try it after a normal run as you’ll need every advantage to stay afloat.
The minimalistic presentation is one of Game Dev Tycoons strongest points. Although everything looks a little basic at first glance, when you’re in the thick of it; trying to squeeze out the most from your staff before a game is launched, your bank balance dangerously close to a game over state and everyone close to quitting, then you appreciate it. Everything snaps nicely and the text is incredibly easy to read throughout. The sound effects give the same feeling you get from levelling up in an MMORPG and the music is stand out as well. Pleasant soft melodies that play in the background, never intrusive to interfere with the pacing but earwormingly enjoyable with a nostalgic Theme Hospital feel to them.
Overall Game Dev Tycoon is one of the greatest and most enjoyable strategy games ever made. It’s incredible how many little bits of video game history they’ve managed to cram into the title. Nice little Easter eggs, in-game achievements and famous figures are sprinkled throughout. Releasing Doom Eternal on the OUYA and then making a small fortune releasing Car Go VRMM on the Xbox Next before retiring is such a fantastically surreal experience. Even a slightly clunky interface can’t dampen the enjoyment of the game and most of that clunk is due to the Switch having a frustrating keyboard. There are some games that you just know you can’t pick up to play on the go because hours later you’ll still be playing it, Game Dev Tycoon is one of the best kind. Set aside an hour or 4 and just enjoy creating that Gitaroo Man sequel that never was.
9/10 – The Tycoon of game dev games