Run the city in Big Business HD

Big Business HD is a new iPad release from prolific Russian developer/publisher Game Insight. It’s available now as an iPad-only iOS app, and also as an Android app via Google Play. This review is based on the iPad version.

Big Business claims to be a “high-stakes business sim” but in practice it is more like a cross between CityVille (and related titles/clones) and G5 Entertainment’s mobile title Virtual City — that is to say, it’s a simple citybuilder with a focus on production chains.

An initial tutorial walks players through building facilities and collecting income of various kinds from them. Following this, the player is presented with several objectives at once, most of which require periods of real time (or expenditure of hard currency) to complete. The aim of the game, like in most similar titles, is to continually grow the city and make as much money as possible — there is no “level-based” gameplay as in Virtual City.

Most of Big Business’ gameplay revolves around producing resources. Simple businesses produce soft currency income; residential buildings produce population income; production buildings allow the player to create various specific items, which can then either be sold directly for soft currency income or used as ingredients in more complex products. For example, farms produce grain, which can then be sent to a milling plant to produce flour, or combined with berries at the milling plant to produce muesli. More complex, time-consuming products tend to be worth more money and, as usual, long waits can be bypassed through the expenditure of hard currency.

Big Business’ gameplay is mostly pretty conventional, though the “production chain” aspect gives it a slight edge over simpler titles such as CityVille. It has a couple of tricks up its sleeve, however, most notably the addition of “bonus” items that increase the amount of experience or population income for a limited period, or reduce the amount of time it takes for tasks to unfold. Sometimes these bonuses are provided for free as rewards, but they are mostly purchased using hard currency. This feature allows users to spend less on hard currency and still reap some timesaving benefits — a player-friendly move that still allows for a solid monetization strategy.

The trouble with the game, though, is that despite its new features, it’s still very “tap-heavy” and not actually that interesting or strategic at its core. No building produces its goods automatically, so as the city expands the player will be spending most of their time tapping on buildings that have finished producing something. Fortunately, Game Insight has seen fit to omit an energy system from the game, so players can at least log in once, tap on everything and then set a lengthy project going rather than being beholden to the whims of a progress-throttling system, but it still, at times, feels like unnecessary padding.

Social features are also a little underdeveloped, seemingly limited to visiting other players’ cities and “liking” them or sending gifts to friends. Facebook and Twitter compatibility allow for brag posts, but other than this, there is relatively little incentive to play with friends, and no real means of directly interacting with other players.

Ultimately, Big Business HD is a solid if relatively unremarkable to iOS’ library of very similar “tycoon”-style games. Those craving an in-depth business simulation will be disappointed, but those who are looking for a simple, satisfying and well-presented citybuilder will probably find something to like here for a short period at least.

According to AppData, the iPad version of Big Business is currently ranked at No. 11 in Top Free iPad Apps, No. 93 in Top Grossing iPad Apps, No. 6 in Top iPad Games and No. 65 in Top Grossing iPad Games. The Android version, meanwhile, is ranked at No. 252 in the Game charts and also No. 252 in the Top Grossing charts.