After years of being burnt by free-to-play games, from Nexon’s Maple Story and Zynga’s Farmville to a handful of iOS apps in-between, I just couldn’t take it, anymore. Fatigued by the constant restraints of pay-walls, I had all but abandoned free games until I came across Tiny Tower by NimbleBit. However, the curious kid who grew up with a Game Genie abused the TowerBux hack. What I thought would make the game more fun actually ruined a great game for me.
I tried other freemium games, like Gamevil’s Punch Hero, and kept hitting that grind-or-pay wall that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I thought I’d never find another free-to-play that I would enjoy. And then along came Happy Street.
It’s easy to see the inspiration behind Happy Street’s design. The game looks like Animal Crossing if it took place on a 2D plane. It even sounds like it, with high-pitched gibberish playing along in dialog boxes and soothing background music. However, Happy Street plays more like Tiny Tower.
You build houses and businesses along the street near your new home. Cute animal characters move into town and buy from local shops. This funds your production. Along the way, you’ll spend your time gathering items, crafting, upgrading properties, and trying to have a bird poop on everyone’s head. If the last one sounds like a joke, I assure you it’s just one of the strange bits of humor that give the game charm.
The graphics are clean and look great. Whereas Tiny Tower appealed mostly to older gamers who grew up when pixel art was the only real option, Happy Street appeals to virtually anyone. Kids will absolutely love the cute animals. I imagine girls will love customizing their animals in adorable outfits every time they see the birthday gift icon pop up. Meanwhile, boys will pop every last balloon they see and hope it startles a villager. The quirky humor that shows up from the moment you start the game goes a long way towards giving the game character. I don’t care how smart or old you are, leaving a pile of poop for the hapless villagers to slip on is a lot of fun. It’s not as elegant as a banana peel, but the end result is the same.
Some of the animals in town will also hand out quests. Meeting these quests can reward you with items, coins, or the game’s secondary currency, Flooz. Flooz can be used a number of ways, from speeding up crafting and construction or buying collector’s items to selling off a shop’s inventory. The primary use, though, is to expand your village and the surrounding areas. Flooz is not handed out as liberally in Happy Street as Towerbux were in Tiny Tower, but it is fair nonetheless.
The one complaint that I do have, though, is that you make considerably less money while out of the app than you do while in the app. Since experience is tied to re-stocking a shop’s inventory, this means you’ll also gain levels slower. If I’m waiting on a craft to finish before I do something important, such as upgrade a property, I simply don’t want to be in the app.
That said, there are reasons to stay within the app if you’re willing to wait around. Occasionally, special characters can ride into your village and reduce timers or spend massive cash. Additionally, buses stop every five minutes with characters whose sole purpose is to bus in and spend money. Finally, there are random passersby that can be stopped by touching them.
Those characters, along with little find-the-villager or find-the-store missions, add to your “Love” meter. When your meter is full, you can throw a Fiesta. Every animal in town, including those bussed in or passing by, goes on a massive spending spree.
Finally, there are a few little social elements thrown in. You can visit a friend’s village and invite their characters to stay in your Friends Hotel. Characters staying in the hotel get a 100% wallet bonus, meaning they’ll bring extra money into the town. Additionally, visiting your friends’ towns will reward you with Flooz or coins. You can even send or request gifts.
Happy Town is basically like Tiny Tower, but with a pretty coat of paint and more things to do. People looking for Animal Crossing on mobile phones are still going to be left wanting. It has the charm, but the game simply isn’t the same. You’re not going to be digging for fossils or catching bugs to fill collections. It has elements that run in real time, but there’s also some form of game time that’s not tied to your clock. You won’t interact with most of your villagers. Hell, you don’t even have an avatar all your own, as Billy cannot be customized.
Get past what the game isn’t, though, and you can surely love it for what it is. Happy Street is a charming, little town building game that will be loved by kids and adults. Moreover, it’s another shining example that free-to-play can also be fair-to-play.
(Happy Street is available for free in the App Store. It is stacked with retina-display graphics, GameCenter leaderboards, and achievements. It is universal. Happy Street is also available on Android in the Google Play Store. The iOS version does have a couple of multitasking bugs, while the Android version lacks the convenience of GameCenter. Happy Street was tested on an iPhone 4 with the latest firmware.)
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 308 posts on Delta Attack.