Developer: Circle Entertainment
Platform: DSi/3DS (DSiWare)
Release Date: May 2, 2013
ESRB: E for Everyone
A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review.
Have you ever wanted to run a game publishing company? Not many of you may say 'yes', but with game development simulators like Game Dev Story and Game Dev Tycoon, you get to live it anyway. These games were a relative hit on mobile devices and the PC respectively, and Publisher Dream hopes to fill this niche on the DSi and 3DS. One can't argue about the title being overpriced, sitting at a humble two dollars, but... how much fun does this title end up being?
Publisher Dream starts you off small--you have two employees, $100,000, and the task of creating hit games. You can't make too much at first, mainly small puzzle and card games, but as your employees' experience and company recognition grows, you'll be able to take on bigger and better genres. However, it's not good to simply abandon the smaller games, either; when you keep creating a game of the same genre, the company's level in it increases, which makes that genre easier to create and generally more popular overall. It's a careful balance of trying news genres while sticking to tried-and-true, ensuring that you make money and don't go bankrupt in your nine year span.
You can also hire new workers (and you'll have to if you want to make larger games) with different strengths, weaknesses, and salary amounts. Assigning the right worker to the right job helps to make the games better, and also levels them up. When a worker levels up, they get better at their job, but their salary also goes up, ensuring that you're paying for quality.
Obviously, once you make a few games, you'll gain a bit of capital. You use this to pay your expenses, start up new projects, or even buy decorations . The trick is that the cShop (the platform you develop games for) only pays out quarterly, while you pay your expenses monthly. This causes you to have to ration out your earnings, and make sure you can pay the piper every month. If you fail, you basically get three more chances until you're forced to shut your doors, giving you a bit of leeway before getting a game over.
This is the basic flow of the game throughout the nine years. It's a pretty simple concept, but in all honestly, the game makes it more difficult on you than it should. The small tutorial beforehand doesn't really explain much, and for the most part you have to fiddle around the game and controls yourself to figure out what to do. A somewhat shoddy translation doesn't help matters, either, and may even serve to confuse more than help. For example, late in my game I hit a milestone that typically unlocks more room and more stuff to buy, and the game even told me that happened, but yet nothing new unlocked... an unfortunate consequence of using the same message for every milestone.
Also, Publisher Dream has one very glaring flaw: You cannot fire people. This may not seem like a big deal earlier on, when you need workers to make more games, but later on this starts to become a rather gnawing issue. Like I stated before, workers' salaries go up when they level up, and when you have a large office late in the game, you'll probably have a lot of workers at mid- to high levels. Every time a single employee levels up, your expenses go up, and other the course of three months, you're paying $450,000 instead of $400,000.
Salaries seem to rise exponentially, to the point that your capital gain may not be able to keep up. The natural solution at this point would be to cut back on workers and maybe sell a few decorations... but you can't do that. Instead, you have to think far in advance how many workers you want and what levels you want to get them to, and that's something that's hard to have the insight for.
However, even with these problems, Publisher Dream isn't a bad choice if you want some game development action on your portable device. It has a certain charm to it, and can be fun to play even if you don't make it the whole nine years. And at a mere two dollars (or 200 DSi Points), it's not likely to break anyone's budget either.
+ A simple and easy to pick up and play simulator
+ Changing the BGM actually affects how your workers perform
- Odd translation and sparse tutorial make it hard to figure things out
- Not being able to restructure can cripple your company late game
Overall Score: 6 (out of 10)
Publisher Dream has some great ideas kicking around, and while not all of them come to fruition, the low price still makes it a worthwhile game if you're looking for a game developer sim fix on your portable.