There are not many games on mobile phones that I can think of. There are a lot of applications that present their micro/macro transactions well though. Aside from some games including those created by Nitrome, many fail to feel like a game to me. Sure, some get close before they stop you with adds for the “full” experience or to ease the grind for a while, but there is always something that stops most apps from crossing the “I’m just here to waste your time” to being a full-on game. In comes Tiny Little Kingdoms and all its complexity and I’m left wanting it on a bigger screen (because I’m not on my tablet). This almost feels like a fully conceptualized game on a phone. Let me break it down for you.
I was drawn to Tiny Little Kingdoms (TLK from here) from the town building management simulation aspect. For the most part, that’s what this game plays like in the most basic sense. However, after playing a fair bit of it, I wouldn’t classify it as such. This talk of building your town and making it large and thriving isn’t really how the gameplay pans out. TLK works more like a puzzle game designed with town building sim aesthetics on top.
While you can choose to jump into the sandbox mode, TLK recommends their tutorials. Normally I would say that these aren’t completely necessary. Here… I would highly recommend them so all of the different tiles get explained to you (at least the basics). You’ll need some form of work building to do everything from farming to fishing. They need to be placed next to specific squares that have the required resources in order to do the work or your buildings are wasted. In a grid based game, you’ll realize that if you want the maximum amount of profit you’ll also want the maximum amount of exposure to each work house. Obviously that would be a road leading to a building with the correct resource square directly touching that square on the three available sides. Diagonals don’t count except for the lobster man who seems to sail his boat in a 2×2 grid. Maybe if I gave him a 3×3 grid he’d do more for me…
Obviously you’ll need to get as many resources as you can. You gain resources as you place down tiles. If you have a lumber jack next to a forest you’ll get one log every time after you place down another tile until his storage is full. Build another lumberjack to gain more room for more wood. If your lumberjack has a forest on all three possible sides, then you’ll gain three wood each turn until your wood storage is full. This works the same for every building. You’ll need specific resources to build up to and to build other buildings. If you are in need of a specific road type, then you can spend an increasing amount of wood for certain paths (from you inventory). This is convenient until you need a lot of straight pieces because you built yourself into a corridor.
This is where my main gripe for the game comes in and I really only have two gripes with TLK. The first is the gameplay. This may sound like a huge negative, but it’s mostly just an annoying one. I recommend playing the demo first to get a taste for how this game actually plays. The video I watched gave me a different idea on how it was all going to play out. You are given three board pieces to use at a time. When you use one, another replaces it. The pieces given are different each time you play to spice things up for every play-through.
That being said… I feel as if luck plays a big role here. This was even brought up in a review for the game and I totally feel where this reviewer is coming from. The (I’m assuming) developer (could just be a PR person) comes in and seems to say that luck doesn’t play much of a role at all and that you can 100% the levels every time if you “master the strategy”. This feels like a ‘get gud’ reply, but as I’m also developing my own game, I have also found myself telling (even my friends) that my game isn’t that hard if only you do “X”. However, I’m the one who knows the ins and outs of my game. TLK really feels more like a puzzle game and there have been times where I’ve felt genuinely stuck with no roads or to many wrong tiles to build up resources at the right rate. You’ve only got so many turns before you run out of places to put things so time is ticking… sort of. (I remember one level where they wouldn’t give me roads and I had to plop down a bunch of different squares hoping that I could build to them eventually. That wasted a lot of turns as now I had less turns to build up certain resources.)
The other gripe I’ve got is the building art. Not that the art is bad. It’s simple and it really does the job. In fact, I rather like how the game looks. I find it simple and very calming at the same time. The issue are the rotations. Some buildings look upside-down while others look like an earthquake hit them. I understand that the building rotates with the tile, but it’s still strange looking and I can’t help but stare at times. In the middle of playing the game I don’t notice it. If I get stuck and have to look around and think for too long, that’s when the buildings stare back at me.