Mega Mall Story iOS Review

Mega Mall Story is the almost-latest game from Kairosoft, the moderately-famed Japanese developers of cutesy, lightweight management sims.

It shares many traits with popular predecessor Game Dev Story. As before, your given objective is to make as much money as you can within a given game length – in this case, about 12 hours of play – although you can continue to play indefinitely after your final score is calculated. As before, the main intellectual challenge is to combine different game elements together to earn synergy bonuses – in this case, building related shops next to each other on the same floor – and judiciously save and spend research points to research and upgrade new shops and products. As before, great emphasis is placed on building a relationship with your customers, with happy shoppers providing you with new shop plans and other bonuses, and there is a huge amount of secret stuff that will require multiple playthroughs to figure out.

What’s new is that the action sprawls out over a much larger area, requiring you to scroll around and zoom in and out to keep track of everything. It feels very much like a game designed for the iPad, a system with a large enough screen to cope with the large playing area. As for myself I was playing on an iPhone 3G, a system for which the game doesn’t even support a landscape format, forcing me to play in a square area half the size of the screen. This did bother me. I’ve heard people complain that Game Dev Story‘s single-screen offices felt restrictive, but I felt a lot happier when I could oversee the whole business at once.

For me, the most interesting aspect of Mega Mall Story is the way that you spend a lot more time and money investing in local development projects around your mall than you do building the mall itself. To begin with you’ll have local parents asking you to build parks and bus stops – things you might reasonably expect a mall to subsidise – but as you advance through the game you’ll find yourself building more and more apartment blocks and office buildings, and eventually things like circuses, castles and direct economic bail-outs. As my financial interests diversified, I began to feel less like Sir John Hall and more like the head of a Japanese zaibatsu.

It’s a fun game, although I’m not sure if it will stand up to repeated playthroughs. For me, much of the excitement came from unlocking new shops, but since they’re carried over when you start a new game I feel like I have a lot less to do next time; that said, there is always an option to delete profile data and start afresh if you really want to. As a management sim, it strikes a good balance for a casual mobile game – quite light on business, but heavy on the human elements of building a loyal customer base. Most importantly for me, the jokes and wacky characters were funny enough to keep me entertained even during slow periods. Again I would question whether this would still be as compelling the second time around, but I think there’s still enough secret stuff hidden away to keep me coming back for a few months.

7 out of 10