Earlier this year, when Disney shut down LucasArts—the video game development division of LucasFilm—executives for the company made it clear that this wasn’t the end of Star Wars games, but a new beginning.
A few weeks later, Disney announced an exclusive Star Wars licensing deal with Electronic Arts for a series of AAA-caliber titles for console game systems and the PC.
Around the same time, Disney’s licensing arm for the Star Wars franchise began making some very smart decisions around partnerships in the mobile games space. Star Wars: Tiny Death Star is one such game. NimbleBit, the developer of the game, is a fairly small game studio here in California known for a great game named Tiny Tower.
A few years ago, I was absolutely addicted to Tiny Tower (iTunes, Android), which was the precursor to Tiny Death Star. Tiny Tower is a business simulation game that challenges you with managing a skyscraper. The game never ends, and the challenge is to keep growing the skyscraper, building shops, elevators, and living space for new residents.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star builds upon this formula, with some distinct Star Wars enhancements. The Emperor is building a Death Star, and you are tasked with populating the new project with new citizens, businesses, services, and more.
As you build out your Death Star, Wookies, and Ewoks and other authentic Star Wars aliens flock to the planet-sized weapon. Your job is to get these new inhabitants slotted into the right jobs at the right stores, which range from ice cream shops to more sinister fare.
The game incorporates a number of events and moments that are lifted straight from the Star Wars movies, and feature the characters we’ve all come to know and love. I literally laughed out loud at some of these scenes.
One of the nice touches both Tiny Tower and Tiny Death Star is the simulation keeps moving forward even when you’re not playing. When you come back to your iPad, many of the businesses will have run out of goods to sell, creating an immediate call to action on your behalf. This actually compounds the addictive nature of the game—you constantly feel the need to keep checking in on your Death Star to make sure it is operating in as efficient a manner as possible.
Also compelling: At any given moment, you can compare your Death Star to that of your friends.
Here’s hoping that Disney continues to partner with small developers like NimbleBit. Given the constantly evolving set of unique game experiences on tablets and smartphones, this seems like a lucrative and literally never-ending source for Star Wars-inspired game licenses.
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Other tablet games I’m playing
1. 868-HACK: A phenomenal turn-based rogue-like game that I’m having trouble putting down.
2. Device 6: This thriller, made by Simogo, the developer of Year Walk, is receiving a number of “Best of 2013” awards. I’m not surprised. Device 6 is one of the coolest, weirdest, most memorable games I’ve ever played on any platform.
3. Outpost Luna: A surprisingly engaging resource card game with a great set-up. You’re building a colony on another planet.
4. Empire Deluxe Mobile Edition: Old school gamers will fondly remember this classic strategy game from the 80s. What’s surprising is that it is still very fun to play, now that it has been enhanced for mobile devices. Also available on Android.
5. King’s Bounty: Legions: Another game based on a classic gaming franchise, this version of King’s Bounty is faithful to the original. It’s free to play, but doesn’t force you to spend your way to victory.