MMObility: Battle Dragons and Tiny Tycoons make for light fun

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MMObility: Battle Dragons and Tiny Tycoons make for light fun
Tiny Tycoons screenshot
This week I would like to mention two titles that only recently came across my desk, Battle Dragons by well-known mobile MMO developer Spacetime Games and Tiny Tycoons, a semi-social, real-world game that is published by The Tap Lab. Which is possibly the cutest company name, ever. Both games shine a light on the current mobile market, even though they do not represent every genre that is popular on mobile devices right now. Both games show off just how well-made many mobile games can be and both design's help illustrate why mobile gaming has gained such a large piece of the gaming pie.

We'll start with Battle Dragons, the more MMO-like game of the two. Perhaps because it was created by a studio that has dominated the mobile MMO space for the last several years, Battle Dragons works perfectly on a mobile device.

Battle Dragons logo
You'll start off as simply as possible, following a basic tutorial that will guide you through the beginning stages of creating your dragon-filled town. It's basic stuff, but the polish of the game helps it to stand with giants like Gameloft of EA. The mobile market is so entirely packed with so many different games that the difference between a game that makes it and one that never seems to get its act together is a matter of degrees of polish. Battle Dragons is well-made and easy to learn, but offers a few roads to players who want to play in different ways.

First, you can play casually. You can load the game, log in to Google Play if you'd like (I like to keep track of my achievements with the service) and build up a few buildings while attacking a few NPC targets in the story mode. You'll utilize different types of dragons, from blue dragons that melee enemy buildings or creatures to dragons that, of course, breathe fire. When you load an enemy's map you can tap the ground to select where you want your army members to materialize. It's simple and acts like a reverse tower-defense. Instead of protecting your lands against invaders, you are the invader. Your dragons will try and defeat your enemy's dragons, and you can do it all with only a few minutes a day.

Battle Dragons screenshot
If you'd like to get much more serious about the game you can. Granted, the game is not designed for epic, three-hour sessions but you can easily keep the game settled in next to you while you do other things (like write articles). If you've allowed it to run in the background you'll get a pop-up warning whenever something is finished. This way, you can stay on top of your city and do away with idle time. Your city will be powerful in a very short while!

Lastly, you can pump a million bucks into the cash-shop, turning it into virtual sheep, gold, and pearls. I have earned quite a few freebies just in normal play and have not yet felt the need to put money into the game, but I can easily see how far five or ten dollars will get you. If you continue to put money into the game you can easily grow in power much faster than other players. Once you have higher level dragons and buildings, though, you'll be matched against players who are around the same ability level as you. So, with bought power comes more powerful enemies.

Tiny Tycoons screenshot
Tiny Tycoons is not an MMO, but it's still very notable. It would be better to describe it as a pseudo-real-world-MMO that places a cartoony, bright virtual world over the real-world map. You play, buy, and travel around this map as you will in games like Google's Ingress or Red Robot Lab's Life is Magic. There is a decent amount of persistence in Tiny Tycoons, in the form of real businesses that have been made available for "purchase" inside the cartoony world, utilizing Foursquare for stats. You can start off in a location that is based on your real one and buy businesses around you, playing as a sort of tiny Monopoly tycoon. You can stock those businesses, do jobs at them as well as jobs around other local businesses, and you can even customize the look of each of the businesses you own. None of the systems are so in-depth that they become hard to understand, but I wouldn't recommend Tiny Tycoons for a child.

When I moved to a new house over the last week and a half, I opened the game and found that it knew that I had moved locations (thanks to GPS), and it asked if I wanted to relocate. Once I did, I started looking at businesses around me and decided to make an offer on a wine and spirits bar. It was owned by someone so I made an offer. It was forwarded to the owner and in the meanwhile I was able to perform a few jobs at the same location and earn some coins. Those coins could be used to make more offers, pay rent on buildings, and other things.

Tiny Tycoons screenshot
The game slowly turns into a cute, cutthroat experience. Do you buy, buy, and buy, or slowly work your way up by paying attention to a smaller selection of businesses? I worked a lot of jobs but found that the payout wasn't that great (I'm not sure if the particular business I worked at affected the "pay rate") so I tried my hand at real estate. When I tried to buy more than a few I had to keep up with permits and other small headaches, so I decided in the end to work in a simpler fashion via a combination of working jobs, making friends, and owning different businesses.

The more Foursquare check-ins a property has, the more it costs. But, more check-ins also means more profit! I found myself actually trying to think of the local businesses that I wanted to support, as though my little avatar would actually walk into a place and start working.

You can customize your avatar and send gifts to friends, but you cannot communicate beyond that. It's unfortunate because communication could open up much more strategy and group play, but it should also be noted that you are not forced to rely on friends to help you unlock goodies as is the case in many social games.

Both games are free-to-play with light cash-shop effects. I'd recommend them both, but Tiny Tycoons is only available on iOS while Battle Dragons is available on both iOS and Android.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
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