Toys R Us Towers is a new Facebook game, developed as a partnership between the toy retail giant and prolific publisher Ubisoft. It’s available now on the social network. The game promises not only a fun social game experience for its players, but also the opportunity to save money when shopping at Toys R Us either online or in-store — progress in the game occasionally unlocks Toys R Us coupons which may be redeemed against purchases, though this functionality is only available to U.S.-based players.
Toys R Us Towers sees players managing their own multi-story Toys R Us store. By building departments, hiring staff and satisfying customers, they must work their way up through the ranks until they reach the coveted position of CEO.
Building in Toys R Us Towers takes an approach similar to other side-on building management games such as EA’s mobile game Monopoly Hotels. Players have a limited amount of space in which to construct new departments, and each department is a specific size and shape. Bad placement is not an issue, however, as players may simply pick up and move a department at will whenever they like.
Once a department has been constructed, assuming it is fully stocked, it will begin to attract customers. When a customer buys something from a department, a cash register icon appears and the player must click it to collect the income. Alternatively, they may hire Associates to staff the departments for them, which means they do not have to manually collect the money. Only a limited number of Associates are available at any one time, however — if the player builds more departments than there are Associates available, they must wait until the next in-game day before they may hire any more.
The in-game day structure allows for the player to have some “downtime” where shoppers are not coming into the store. A day lasts for several minutes, and a player’s performance on a single day is tracked against their friends who are also playing. A performance indicator of how many customers the player is seeing per minute is also tracked on screen, allowing them to immediately see at a glance how well they are doing.
Constructing new departments, hiring Associates and placing them in their “Dream Job” adds to the player’s Hype rating. At various predefined intervals, the player’s Hype will level up, and they will receive a promotion. As the player rises through the ranks, they unlock access to more and more different types of department and attraction — though curiously, there is also an experience level system alongside the hype rank system, which seems somewhat redundant. The player gains experience levels faster than they gain hype ranks, however, and the game’s fairly generous (and mostly unnecessary) energy system is restocked any time they level up, so this may account for its presence.
Toys R Us Towers is a good game with a certain Tiny Tower-esque appeal to it. As the store grows, the player has more and more things to keep an eye on, and it always feels like there is something to do. There are a few annoyances — clicking multiple times to build a new structure purely to consume energy, having to recruit friends for certain tasks and having to bug friends for special items to complete certain constructions are all social game conventions that most players tolerate these days, but they aren’t especially fun or player-friendly. The floating arrow that repeatedly nags players to “don’t forget your objectives” is also more irritating than helpful, and the character designs are rather ugly and stylistically inconsistent throughout — the Associates and customers look fairly “normal” for want of a better word, but the main “assistant” character Susan has a ridiculous-looking football-shaped head and grotesquely exaggerated expressions that make her stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Perhaps a more serious issue to consider, however, is the fact that the interface occasionally just seems to not respond to input for no apparent reason. A refresh of the game page usually resolves this problem and it’s possible it can be attributed to connection issues rather than a problem with the game itself, but it can be frustrating to be trying to do something and the game simply not responding to inputs, and this happened several times during testing.
This aside, however, Toys R Us Towers marks a good entry into the social gaming arena for the retail giant, and may well blaze a trail for other companies to follow. Players enjoy being rewarded with tangible gifts and coupons for achievements in the games they play, and tying these real rewards into the theme of the game as happens here makes a great deal of sense.
A solid step into the social gaming arena for the retail giant, and a fun Tiny Tower-esque game in its own right.