It’s only been a year since Tiny Tower launched, letting players build skyscrapers full of random office buildings and attractions. Since then, the game’s massive popularity has inspired several imitators, like Zynga’s Dream Heights. Happy Squirrels from Chillingo is also a freemium tower-building game, but it feels much less interactive than previous sims.
In Happy Squirrels, you add floors to a deluxe treehouse by spending either the game’s “soft” currency, nuts, which can be harvested over time, or the premium currency, potions. Your first few additions won’t be too expensive, but they won’t give you much payback, either. Fortunately, you can swap out potions for nuts at any time, and the exchange rate is fairly generous.
Wait eight hours? Nuts to that.
Once you select an addition to your treehouse, like a squirrel arcade or salon, you can watch your little construction-worker squirrels go to work, sawing away. You can also watch a countdown timer, which offers all the excitement of waiting for your food to finish microwaving. This is the biggest problem with these types of games– once you’ve made your virtual purchases, the best thing to do is turn the game off and go entertain yourself elsewhere for a few hours.
Happy Squirrels attempts to keep you in the game with a few minor extras, but not all of them are worth your time. You can harvest nuts along the side of your tower by tapping on them, and their melodic chimes sync perfectly with the background music. You can also play two tilt-based minigames– one where you pilot a plane, and one where your squirrel has to pick up nuts and avoid falling bees. Neither minigame is very fun, and they don’t reward you with very many nuts.
Calling in the squirrel air force.
The best reason to download Happy Squirrels is the gorgeous visual aesthetic. The game looks like a kid-friendly cartoon, and each room in your treehouse adds more details the more you upgrade them. However, since this is a game that you can only play for a minute or so at a time without spending all of your in-game currency, Happy Squirrels feels more like an interactive dollhouse than a proper game.
If the squirrels from Happy Squirrels end up in a real game, with an actual challenge beyond resisting the urge to charge your credit card, we’d be more interested in the characters and their cutesy environment. But the interactivity in Happy Squirrels is so limited that the game’s target audience, kids, won’t find much to do at all. Plenty of freemium games offer extensive gameplay, and for just a buck, you can buy full-length games that will keep you busy for hours. Unless you don’t mind on playing it for just a few minutes throughout the day, skip Happy Squirrels and look for something more substantive on the App Store instead.