One of the joys of iOS gaming is that the proliferation of the devices and the low financial barriers ensure that the masses can easily get on board with whatever's currently doing the rounds. Tiny Tower, a new freemium offering from NimbleBit, is one of those games, and it's so now I actually wouldn't be surprised if its fleeting memory will be forever interwoven with the spirit of summer 2011.
It doesn't take long for you to realise there is nothing especially clever or inventive about Tiny Tower, however. You're in it to build a tower, and your strategic options are virtually nonexistent - this is way more Farmville than Sim Tower.
As the ruler of a delightfully pixelated tower, you shuffle your various citizens around with the aim of plopping them into a fairly decent job until you can shuffle them into their prescribed dream role, all the while acting as a glorified bellboy and giving visitors lifts to their desired floors.
Meanwhile you're also watching your money climb upwards so you can afford to elongate your tower with new floors, which can be either a residential complex (allowing you to home more residents) or a money-generating commodity from a range of food, services, recreational activities, retail stores, or a creative industry. You don't get to choose what kind of specific outlet you build, however, so if you design your new floor to sell food you could end up with a sandwich store, ice-cream shop, or a diner.
Shops can be staffed by up to three of your citizens, with more staff giving you access to fancier goods to peddle. You're also required to manage stock, spending currency on new items to sell when your current stock is depleted.
Each action takes time to complete, however - before long building a new floor will take over 10 real-time hours, and restocking valuable items in my current tower takes approximately three to four hours.
This is where the game becomes so freakishly addictive, with you spending ridiculous chunks of your time simply clicking little icons that stack up along the bottom of the screen and watching your empire grow ever so slightly. It's so gentle and undemanding that Tiny Tower is barely more than an automatic process, but there's an odd, gurn-inducing satisfaction that is derived from the painstaking lengthy process of watching your tiny domain blossoming into a slightly bigger empire.
It's also possible to view the towers of your Game Center friends in real-time, and I've spent way more time than I should jealously perusing the confines of my colleagues, chums, and rivals. Who am I kidding: they are all rivals.
There are two ways to expedite the constant need to grow. The first is with VIP guests, who arrive randomly and lop three hours off construction or restocking, as well as attracting more customers to one of the stores you've currently got open. The other method is far more nebulous: micro-transactions.
The game's second currency, Towerbux, can be earned slowly through regular play or bought in bulk for payments 59p, £2.99, or £17.99. Towerbux can be exchanged for money, or spent to 'rush' production and restocking of your floors. While it's possible to sit and patiently play the game for the rest of time, Nimblebit is clearly hoping you'll get tempted by the prospect of splashing out £2.99 and building a couple of floors without the two-day wait.
Tiny Tower's real question is about the scale of its economy, then, and whether you can stomach playing a game that becomes increasingly desperate in its desires to part you with chunks of your own money.