The Tower SP
The Tower SP was sweet back in the day. Today, not quite so sweet...
Trivia: The Tower SP is actually Sim Tower, a PC game released 12 years ago, during the height of the "sim-everything" PC gaming fad born out of the success of Sim City. Unlike most of those cash-in games, Sim Tower was actually pretty fun, and that remains mostly true of its portable rebirth as The Tower SP.
As with all games in the genre, you start out with limited funds, and limited building options available to you. You begin by placing offices and a few other basic types of money-generating tenants, and then support these with bathrooms, vending machines, restaurants, cleaning and security personnel, etc. Transportation is The Tower SP's other big focus - you'll need to ensure that all floors and offices are easily accessible via a network of stairs, elevators, and escalators.
As you progress, your tower rating increases, slowly opening up more and more options for you to work with. You'll gain access to hotel rooms, underground parking, a large variety of shops, movie theaters, and more.
The game does an excellent job of easing you into these options and into the expansion of your tower in general. In the beginning I thought my 10-floor tower was huge, but my current building has three belowground levels and 42 aboveground. The expansion was gradual enough that I never felt like it was too much to manage or control.
Even with all these options available, The Tower SP's age still reveals itself in the relative simplicity of the "sim" experience. Yes you can build hotels, movie theaters, and more, but I found that in practice I'd make more money just sticking to offices and facilities to support them. I just built my tower higher and wider with more and more office space and nothing else, and it worked perfectly.
The game also contained none of the designed entropy found in many other sim titles, for better or worse. If you have things running smoothly, you could leave the game on for hours and come back to collect your money. Since my maintenance costs fell well below my revenue, the "game" aspect of The Tower SP evaporated rather quickly, and it just became about collecting my ever-increasing amounts of money at the end of every period.
The game plays out smoother than expected, given the GBA's relative lack of input options. Stylus control would have been a perfect way to ape the original's mouse controls, but using the d-pad to move your cursor and A to select feels good and works well. The building menu is opened with R and is equally painless to navigate.
Graphically its hard to fault The Tower SP too much, since it is a port of a title that's more than a decade old. Just be aware that the "people" in your tower are nothing more than little blobs, and the menus, while functional, are unattractive. Fans of the genre should be unbothered by the lack of graphical fidelity, however.
The Tower SP is a good concept for a sim title, and the game is fun enough, for sim fans. It's moderate fun-factor shows that a sequel brought up to 2006's standards for depth and challenge would be excellent.
What's Hot: Creating a massive, bustling tower from humble origins
What's Not: The 12-year-old gameplay shows its age