Lil’ Kingdom offers a fun fantasy spin on Tiny Tower style gameplay

“What if you took Tiny Tower, but instead of building up, you dug down?” In a nutshell, this simple premise seems to be the driving force behind Lil’ Kingdom. Yet what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in polish and charm.

In case you’re not familiar with the formula, Tiny Tower plays like this; build a new floor in your tower, staff it with skilled folks, keep it stocked, earn money, build more floors. Other elements, like delivering visitors to the correct floor via an elevator and matching people with their dream jobs come into play too. All of the above applies to Tiny Tower, but if you swap the word “tower” for “dungeon,” it all applies to Lil’ Kingdom too.

Yes, Lil’ Kingdom is more or less a straight clone of Tiny Tower in terms of gameplay, but in a sea of similar titles, Glu’s entry manages to do a few things to stand out. While you’ll still be building floor after floor of business and residence, this time you’ll be doing so in a fantasy setting. It’s a minor change, but a surprisingly refreshing one. Seeing goblins and dragons going from floor to floor can’t help but put a smile on your face.

Likewise, the presentation in Lil’ Kingdom is top notch. All of the characters and environments have been rendered with 3D models, and it looks fantastic. As you scroll up and down through your tower, the presentation of the floors will shift to account for your perspective. So if you happen to be below “Felton’s Pizza Furnace,” for example, you might see little more than an edge of the table cloth from below. Slide your finger until you’re above it though, and you’ll see a pizza sitting on top of that table, just waiting to be munched on.

In addition to the similar gameplay, Lil’ Kingdom borrows something else from Tiny Tower that gamers should be happy about – it’s fair-handed approach to premium currency. Gems might be used to speed up certain processes or purchase things like special items and elevator upgrades, but the game hands these out liberally. Built a new floor? That’s a gem. Put someone in their dream job? That’s three gems. Tap on the right person for a tip? Another gem. So long as you’re not looking to build 20 new floors overnight, you should find the currency situation to be more than favorable – and really, this is one of the things every game should take away from Tiny Tower.

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But despite all of its similarities, the game manages to add a few new twists to the tower-building formula. For example, players can hatch a dragon from an egg that will walk from floor to floor. Every 6 hours, it can fully stock whichever floor it’s on – and so long as you’re willing to cough up the gems, you can hatch as many eggs as you like. Other special creatures can be called into play too, if create the requisite special floors. And even if you don’t want to build all of these fancy pants elements, knights will be more than happy to toss an indentured servant your way from time to time, or an elf might appear to magically raise the skill of one of your residents. Fantasy trimmings abound.

Lil’ Kingdom also introduces the idea of “collections” to the Tiny Tower formula. Yes – collections have been all the rage since FrontierVille seemingly brought them to the scene a few years back, but in Lil’ Kingdom they’re implemented in a wonderful way. You’ll get new items in your collections by completing quests for the princess (these amount to nothing more than having your jester hop on the elevator to find a certain item in a certain amount of time). When you complete a collection, you’ll be rewarded with a unique floor to add to your dungeon,like the “Smuggler’s Den” or “Rumpelstiltskin’s Spinning Wheel.” In my case, completing the Leprechaun Collection netted me the “Double Rainbow Room” – ALL THE WAY!!

Is Lil’ Kingdoms a lil’ too much like Tiny Tower to avoid labels like “clone” and “copycat”? Sure. But here’s the thing – even if you’re going to toss those words around, there’s no denying that it’s a really great clone or copycat, and it does just enough new to set it apart. If you’re a fan of Tiny Tower and looking for a second building to manage while you restock your sub shop, you’d be a village idiot to pass Lil’ Kingdoms up.