Over the years, we've seen an outstanding number of video games based in the Star Wars universe, ranging from great to horrible in a variety of genres across multiple platforms. It's been particularly hard for the galaxy far far away to find a home on mobile devices, with games like Star Wars: Battle for Hoth, the time management game Star Wars: Cantina, and the card game Star Wars Force Collection. Earlier this year we were given the fun Star Wars version of Angry Birds, and now Disney has released their first game featuring the newly acquired property. The first thing worth noting is that Disney is using the LucasArts name to publish the game, which is strange considering that shutting down the company was one of the first decisions the Mouse House made after purchasing Lucasfilm. Tiny Death Star was made with the help of NimbleBit, the company responsible for the 2011 iPhone Game of the Year winner, Tiny Tower. Tiny Death Star is simply a reskinned version of Tiny Tower, set within the Star Wars universe, offering fans a fun, rich environment to play in. The game opens with a pixelated Emperor Palpatine, who informs Lord Vader that in order to fund the completion of the Death Star, they must put "bitizens" to work by filling the space station with various apartments, shops, and restaurants. The gameplay is extremely simple, involving the construction of levels and the hiring of employees. Construction levels include a residential floor and four kinds of businesses: retail, food, recreation, and service. The apartments house up to five bitizens, whom you must then hire in the various shops depending on which of their skillsets are most beneficial to the business. Bitizens have dream jobs, giving you incentive to employ them where they most desire, and those who are put in the right floors give a boost to business. Once the stores have employees (each store can hold up to three), you must make sure their inventories stay stocked, which in turn earns you coins in order to add new floors. Then, you start the process over again: build a residence, hire employees to run businesses, and expand. Every aspect of the game is designed to keep you upgrading the Death Star and moving one step closer to galactic domination. In time, the Emperor's true plans become clear, as you not only build new levels upwards, but add Imperial floors below the shops as well. These include interrogation rooms and tractor beams, and give you new challenges that add a little variety to the proceedings upstairs. The gameplay is surprisingly addictive and the game continues on even if you exit the app. Each time you come back to it, you're given an updated amount of coins the Death Star was earning while you were away. In order to maximize these profits, you should check in at times throughout the day and make sure the shops are running smoothly. It's a great little feature that allows you to play as you please, and it's nice to put the game down for a night and wake up with a nice chunk of change in the morning. The greatest aspect of the game is how brilliantly it plays with the Star Wars universe. You'll see shops and apartments modeled after familiar places and planets, such as The Cantina and Rancor pit, and levels like lightsaber stores and droid retailers. The game's character designs are all modeled after characters in the original trilogy, and peppered with easter eggs and surprise appearances from cutesy versions of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, and dozens of other familiar faces. The music and sound effects in the game are great as well, taken right from the film but given that old-school 8-bit video game quality. The Force is strong with this one, and all in all, Tiny Death Star is an extremely fun, addictive game; offering plenty of nostalgia and charm that make it well worth your time. It's currently free, and thankfully strays away from in-app purchases that often keep players from enjoying a game's full features (though they are there, if you wish to speed up the gameplay). Tiny Death Star is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Windows RT.
James is a 24 year old writer and filmmaker living in Portland, OR. He attended college for graphic design and writes for various sources on the web about film, television, and entertainment.
You can view all of his work on his website, www.thereeljames.wordpress.com