Towers & Dungeons (iOS) review

Towers & Dungeons is a new iOS game from Ravensburger Digital. Ravensburger is a European company best known for its board games, but it has been branching out significantly into digital entertainment recently, particularly on mobile. Many of Ravensburger’s past downloadable games have been adaptations of board games and puzzles, but Towers & Dungeons is an all-new title for mobile. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with additional in-app purchases of the game’s “gold” currency.

Towers & Dungeons makes no attempt to hide the fact that it is heavily inspired by Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower, but the twist here is that not only can players build up into the clouds, they can also dig down into the bowels of the earth. The concept of the game is that a baby dragon named Eugene is trying to find his home, but he doesn’t know where it is. All he knows is that dragons either live very high up or deep beneath the ground, so it is up to the player to build in both directions in an attempt to find the little one’s home.

The flow of gameplay is very much like Tiny Tower. Players construct new floors in either direction and then determine what they are going to be used for. Unlike Tiny Tower, which simply saw players assigning a general purpose for a floor and the specific premises being determined by luck, in Towers & Dungeons, players may choose specific things to build on a floor. The more floors a player has built in total, the more different types of floor they are able to build. Certain floors have synergy bonuses — for example, having a juicer floor near an orchard floor provides a bonus, and this bonus may be further extended by having a juice bar near the juicer.

Floors are split into two types — dwellings and production floors. Dwellings attract minions, who are required to perform tasks in the tower, while production floors produce building materials, food or gold. Constructing new floors, upgrading existing floors or performing production tasks all take varying amounts of real time to accomplish, though these wait times may usually be bypassed by expending the game’s gold currency.

Occasionally, visitors knock at the tower’s door. When the player lets them in by tapping on the door, they walk into the lobby and announce their purpose via a small speech bubble. Witches can be recruited to use their magic to finish a production or building task immediately, while tourists often require the player to find a hidden object that has been secreted somewhere on one of their floors. Both witches and tourists only hang around for a brief period, after which they disappear again, so the player must respond quickly to them once they have been let in — though they will continue to knock on the door indefinitely if the player does not answer.

Social features are not made initially obvious to the player, but it is possible to log in to Facebook and play alongside friends. After building a certain number of floors either up or down, the player also gains the ability to construct trading posts, with which they can trade various resources with their friends.

Towers & Dungeons is an interesting twist on the Tiny Tower formula with good presentation, but there are a few annoyances that get in the way of enjoyment. Most significant is how often the game interrupts the player with screen-filling pop-ups of characters spewing meaningless dialog. Baby dragon Eugene is most often to blame for this, with his incredibly childish and useless comments quickly becoming very tiresome and, more seriously, getting in the way of the player dealing with the strictly time-limited witches and tourists. It’s good to see some attempt at injecting some personality into the characters rather than them just being treated as resources, but Tiny Tower handled this in a much less obtrusive manner with its completely optional “BitBook” system — players could essentially “opt in” to this if they wanted, and it didn’t interrupt their play session.

Towers & Dungeons follows a proven formula and thus is likely to enjoy some success, at least in the short term. Whether or not it offers a distinctive enough experience to follow Nimblebit’s long tail, however, remains to be seen. It’s one to keep an eye on for now, then, but hardly an essential download.

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A good twist on the Tiny Tower formula that may enjoy some short-term success, but not distinctive enough to make it an essential download.