By Joel Abrams
I recently put in a bid for The Boston Globe, but was unsuccessful, so I bought Boston.com. Not in the real world, but in Tiny Tycoons - a sim where instead of growing crops, building a city or running an amusement park, you take over real-world real estate.
The unique twist in this game from Cambridge start-up The Tap Lab is the connection to Foursquare, which turns the venues near you into properties you can buy. The more check-ins at a spot, the higher the cost of the property (and the more money you can earn from it).
Game mechanics are what any veteran of this type of sim would expect: you tap, tap, tap away at jobs, spending supplies and energy (here called mood) to earn coins. The jobs at each category of business are amusingly titled: at an office, you start by making copies and fetching lunch, progress to proofreading and writing reports, and eventually get promoted to planning strategy and speaking to the media.
You buy unowned properties, bid for owned properties, and upgrade or customize the properties you own. All that requires more coins, which requires more tap, tap, tapping on jobs, which requires ordering more truckloads of supplies, which requires more coins. Or, you can spend real-world money to buy cash to short-circuit most of the limits on resources. The animation is cute and quite legible.
The one place where mechanics could be improved are the rudimentary social features.
On the plus side, you are never required to bug your friends to unlock anything. You can also friend strangers who meet, wandering the streets of Paris, San Francisco, or Boston.
Unfortunately, you can't communicate with them other than by giving gifts, and you can't find out anything about them. I wonder who the mysterious "Tycooner" is who owns the Boston Globe. He's a sim media mogul who also owns The Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and Chicago Sun-Times, as well as Dubai International Airport and Epcot.
With a few million more taps, I figure I could be the iPhone Sulzberger to his iPad Murdoch.