We find ourselves in a difficult situation reviewing a game about making video games. Should we judge Game Dev Story by the same metrics the game’s virtual reviewers use when they evaluate our virtual games? Or are we a bit more sympathetic now, knowing what companies have to go through to put a piece of entertainment software in our hands?
Game Dev Story doesn’t address every single detail of the video game industry, but it does provide a sweeping overview. You start the game in the early 1980s with four desks and a small pile of cash, and must immediately begin making your first game. You get to pick the genre and setting, and your coders get to work.
So meta it’s making our heads hurt.
They’ll improve your game in four main areas: Fun, Creativity, Graphics, and Sound, but you also have to pay attention to the level of hype your game and company receive. These can be artificially inflated with a big advertising budget, but that takes away from your precious development dollars.
At every stage of your virtual game’s development, you’ll have some hard choices to make. Do you hire an outside talent to spruce up a game’s graphics, or throw it to the company designer? Should you develop award-winning games for the latest and greatest consoles, or pump out cheap garbage to make a quick buck? This level of complexity is a rare thing for iPhone strategy games.
Game Dev Story, for a game that focuses on the process of developing games, leaves a bit to be desired in its presentation. The action takes place entirely in a letterboxed portrait mode, and you’ll only leave the four walls of your tiny office to attend the occasional press conference, awards show, or convention.
Yes, you can hire booth babes in this game.
But Game Dev Story makes up for this in a big way with its humor and charm. Parodies of popular game systems and industry luminaries can be found throughout the game’s 20-year campaign, and half of the fun is discovering the next new system like the Senga Uranus or Sonny PlayStatus.
Plus, Game Dev Story requires you to move immediately from one project to the next, making it nearly impossible to put down. As soon as you’ve wrapped up one virtual game, it goes to market, is scored by virtual reviewers, and money rolls in for almost a year before it’s off the shelves. Meanwhile, you have to develop your next game or risk having the industry move on to the next big thing without you.
We spend a lot of time immersed in video game culture and business, so Game Dev Story is incredibly absorbing to us. If you’re not quite as obsessed with games, Game Dev Story might be too meta for you, but we found it to be a heartfelt love letter to everyone involved in the business of having fun: developers, players, and even reviewers. If you grew up with games, Game Dev Story tells the story of your life. It’s a true gamer’s game.