Game Dev Story is one of those perversely recursive artefacts: a videogame about making videogames. You play the manager of a small videogame development studio. As the game progresses you can access an increasing array of game styles and genres: adventure, shooter, racing, simulation, even audio novel, as well as fantasy, animals, samurai, historical, and so on. The combinations are up to you. So if you, say, wanted to create a simulation game about games, I have no doubt that you could. How is that for recursion?
The game is designed for mobile phones, such as the iPhone or the Android, and as such it’s forced to adhere to a bunch of specific challenges. It can’t be too complex, or too lengthy or slow. It needs to have a certain visual clarity. I found it surpassed all of those challenges, although it does seem a little overwhelming at first.
The game utilises a wonderful ‘old-school’ aesthetic as well, harking back to the 16-bit era of the Megadrive and SNES. On top of that, it’s packed to the brim with awful puns, thinly veiled references to gaming history and well-played moments of parody. If you’re a hardcore fan of the industry and its history, Game Dev Story will probably give you many hours of entertainment.And don't panic about the blue-suited chap in the picture above - he's not actually on fire in his office (but what a game Game Dev Spontaneous Human Combustion Story could be). Part of the game's strategy involves careful use of 'boosts', in which characters can enter a furious storm of creativity, increasing their project's graphics, sound or gameplay - and thus making a more successful game.
Like a lot of casual simulation games, increased familiarity breeds an unfortunate awareness of the game’s limits, but a good sense of humour and a rich spread of options help deflect that for at least a while. And when it comes to casual, amusing videogames to be played on mobile phones – waiting to meet a friend, riding on the bus, and so on – that’s generally more than enough to meet your needs.