You'd think that being able to do magic would make things like running a magic shop a snap. Just wave your wand and POOF everything is taken care of. Well, turns out it's not all that easy, if Mystic Emporium is any indication. In fact, it's going it take all of your time-management skills to be a successful magic shop owner and satisfy the mystical people and creatures of the realm.
The Fairy Godmother's monopoly on the potion business is on the verge of collapse due to some healthy competition, so she hires a promising young assistant to reestablish her empire. A tired genre gets a sorely needed infusion of creativity in Fairy Godmother Tycoon, a basic tycoon game wrapped in a pretty, pretty package.
As you might expect, the objective in Youda Marina is to run a successful marina. You do this by building facilities, attracting visitors, and earning money to gain fame. It's a unique simulation game that offers a very casual gameplay experience, along with the appeal of pretty boats and steel drum reggae music. Make yourself a Pina Colada (or a Shirley Temple) and settle in to live the dream!
While it may be built upon the same time management foundation we're already familiar with, Everything Nice skirts the perimeter of the genre with a recipe-based setup reminiscent of Miriel the Magical Merchant. Fed up with all the violent toys flooding the market, Abby has the idea to create classic, "happy" toys such as teddy bears and jack-in-the-boxes. A local businessman rejects her idea, but then she stumbles across the Wondermachine9000, a magical device that can create anything her imagination conjures. Just the thing she needs to start her own factory!
Virtual Families is the latest addition to the impressive lineup of simulation games from Last Day of Work, makers of the Virtual Villagers series. Virtual Families takes the basic concepts of Virtual Villagers and brings them home — literally. No longer are you concerned with a village of people trying to survive the ravages of the wild. Now it's just a single family in a single house. While the concept may seem over-simplified when compared to Virtual Villagers, you'll find that it's less about simplifying the game and more about concentrating on the details.
To celebrate Earth Day (April 22), National Geographic has sponsored Plan It Green, a casual building sim in the style of Build-a-lot that joins the sparsely populated ranks of "green" games. True to its name, Plan It Green focuses on boosting your energy credits by designing green buildings and communities using four types of structures. It also manages to have an environmentally friendly message that doesn't smack you over the head at every turn.
The land of Wonderburg has been laid to waste by evil minions, and it is up to a wizard and a stalwart gnome to travel the lands putting right what has gone wrong. That is the premise of the time management strategy game Wonderburg. While it doesn't venture far beyond what games like the Build-a-lot series have established, it's a charming title that stands firmly on its own two feet.
Be a King is a new fantasy strategy title from 300AD. It follows in the tracks of games such as King Mania, Forgotten Lands: First Colony, and the Build-a-Lot series and blends a streamlined building-centric real-time strategy game with a handful of casual knowhow.
Combining some of the best parts of Animal Crossing and Virtual Villagers with a sprinkling role playing know-how, Wandering Willows is something so incredibly alluring you'll burn through a few hours of game time before you realize what hit you. It's a pet-raising recipe-collecting item-bartering friend-gaining character-customizing leveling-up collect-a-thon!
The well-received Farm Frenzy series of time management games has now expanded to include... pizza? HA! I'm joking. Wait, no I'm not. Even funnier than my little gag there is the fact that Farm Frenzy Pizza Party is actually a good game. It doesn't innovate much beyond what the first two titles layed out, but the addition of some new buildings and new products adds a decidedly more strategic twist to the experience.
Cleaning up is rarely fun to do. Unless you're cleaning someone else's mess, right? Hmm, no? How about if you're cleaning up someone else's mess in a casual game? That's the surprisingly successful recipe for fun in Nanny Mania 2 Goes to Hollywood. After helping Mayor Whitby and his family in the original Nanny Mania, Emma moves on to help Sophia Ashford, an incredibly wealthy woman who can't seem to keep her family affairs in order. It's your job to help raise the children, care for pets, and keep the house spotless as clueless teenagers leave unmade beds and babies create problems of their own.
Loco Mogul is a new casually-oriented sim game from ApeZone. Accurately described as a cross between Oasis and Railroad Tycoon, your job is to survey uncharted territory, build a railway connecting towns, then run a train from station to station, picking up and delivering shipment carts as efficiently as possible. It's an ambitious combination of genres that plays both like a strategy game and a resource management title, complete with rail-themed music and visuals.
Chocolatier: Decadence by Design is the latest installment in the popular Chocolatier series. Decadence by Design returns Chocolatier to its original format, allowing you to make chocolates in factories, explore new ports around the world, running errands and completing quests. So, even though this sequel is set a half a century after the first, fans of the original Chocolatier will feel right at home.
From the creator of Youda Camper comes another overtly-titled casual game: Youda Farmer. In this resource management sim you play the role of a farmer growing and gathering crops and other food products to sell in town for profit. Using the money you earn, buy new facilities and upgrade existing ones, stimulating the town itself to open new shops and expand current ones.
The premise of the time management/hidden object game Fabulous Finds is that your eccentric old Aunt from Carmel, California (most famous to me as the town where Clint Eastwood was Mayor for a time) died and left you her house with all her crap, er, priceless treasures in it. You're stuck with the property taxes, so you'll need to have a garage sale!
Totem Tribe manages to pull together some of the best elements from a number of popular casual games and create something twice as engaging without upping the complexity. Gone are resource managing, complex building/unit requirements, and villagers who act while you're away, but in are over 20 islands to explore, friendly and not-so-friendly characters to encounter, mini-quests to earn spells, and unlockable artifacts that grant your tribe special abilities.
Build-a-lot has a new competitor in town: Divo Games' Be Rich, a strategy-oriented casual tycoon game of real estate planning, building and investing. The game's title gives away your ultimate goal of raking in cash by constructing and upgrading houses in various cities to increase your profits and up your credibility. It takes a more real estate-centric approach to building than the Build-a-lot series does, although the similarities between the games are hard to ignore.
From newcomer World Loom comes the latest resource management game to take the action out of the diner/restaurant/shop/airport: Fix-it-Up: Kate's Adventure. More of a business simulation along the lines of Build-a-lot, you must help Kate expand her profits by buying cars at low prices, fixing them up, and selling them for a hefty profit. The combination of time management and business acumen creates a delightful final product made even better by its whimsical art style and soundtrack.
Casual sim/strategy fans (and anyone who enjoyed Virtual Villagers or My Tribe) take note: Westward III: Gold Rush has arrived! Following last spring's release of Westward II: Heroes of the Frontier, the third installment in the series continues the new 3D visual style and basic premise introduced in the second game. Take control of three new heroes as you collect resources, construct farms, saloons, granaries and more to keep your settlers happy and healthy.
Casual games built around sets of mini-games are gaining popularity, as are pared-down strategy titles that keep the spirit of the genre intact while trimming the bloat. Then something like Floating Kingdoms comes along and somehow manages to combine both: a simplified strategy game that's one part resource management, two parts mini-games. And it does it in a light-hearted, fun kind of way that just about any age group can enjoy.
In My Tribe, you play as sort of a guardian angel for a tribe of island-dwellers, telling them what to do, dragging them from place to place, and occasionally sprinkling them with a (hopefully) beneficial potion. Harvest food, wood, and stone to build with. Your tribe continues to work even when your computer is off. It's remarkably similar to Virtual Villagers but better in a number of ways.
Normally, mixing real estate with casual gaming wouldn't seem like a smart move, but HipSoft's latest release proves you can take a complex subject matter and make it fun. Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe continues the highly successful Build-a-lot series with just the right balance between familiarity and innovation to lure new and veteran players alike. Hone your real estate skills as you buy, upgrade and sell houses, collect rent, and attract new residents to neighborhoods that need your expert eye.
There's nothing quite like a day on the farm: the smell of freshly tilled soil, tender plants sprouting, and honeybees buzzing in search of nectar. Some call it work, but if you've ever met Alice Greenfingers, you know it's more like play. The lovable pig-tailed girl is back, tending her Uncle Berry's farm in Alice Greenfingers 2, a sequel that does nothing but improve upon the original.
A blend of Virtual Villagers, Westward, and strategy games such as Warcraft and Tribal Trouble, Forgotten Lands: First Colony is a casual RTS game that hits the sweet spot between challenge, complexity, and captivating casual gameplay. The game puts you at the helm of a young civilization looking to strike out and settle new lands. Everything about Forgotten Lands is geared towards easing you into the experience, yet there's no shortage of depth or intrigue.
Farming used to seem like a chore, then the casual game market took hold and turned caring for crops into a resource management experience. Farm Mania is the latest of those games, following a similar path as Farm Frenzy 2 but keeping things fresh and interesting. Yes, it's yet another game with "mania" in the title, but the experience underneath is subtly different and twice as rewarding. And much cuter, I have to admit.
Miriel the Magical Merchant is a medieval-themed time management game from Myth People, the same folks that brought us the well-polished puzzle game Azkend. As per the developer's reputation, Miriel the Magical Merchant takes a familiar formula, pulls out some of the set conventions, replaces them with something much more interesting, and slaps a shiny coat of paint on the top. The final product is something familiar but remarkably fresh that looks almost as good as it plays.
The Cake Mania series is back with its third installment, Cake Mania 3! Not content to confine the game to slinging cakes in fancy modern-day locales, Sandlot installed an interesting storyline that splits the game into five unique areas, each in a different time period and different place. While the core mechanics remain unchanged, Cake Mania 3 serves up something unique in the resource management series to create a wholly enjoyable game.
From the city lofts and apartments comes the sound of home improvement: hammers pounding, saws buzzing, and paint rollers slopping. Is it a new season for Do-Up-My-Home-TV? No, even better. The crack design team of the now-classic game, Home Sweet Home, has returned. But these designers aren't content with country living rooms any more. Home Sweet Home 2 takes style to new heights by tackling big city high rise apartments, along with some sleek improvements and additional rooms.
Farm Frenzy 2, the follow-up to last year's Farm Frenzy, takes the smell out of farming with a challenging and addictive resource management/arcade title. Keep your animals fed so they produce basic goods you can refine into more complex (and profitable) products. Then, load everything on a truck and send it to town, using the resulting cash to upgrade your buildings to be faster and more efficient. But uh, watch out for panda bears that drop from the sky. They don't play very nicely with your livestock.
A new twist on chocolate-making — or is it an old twist? Rather than exploring the world in search of new ingredients, this version of Chocolatier will have you serving individual customers in gourmet shops, in a style similar to the now classic Cake Mania. Mix chocolates, fill them, shape them, add on delicious toppings or serve them up plain. Whatever you do, serve them quickly — Baumeister's patrons are a hungry, impatient bunch.
In Sandlot's newest addition to the Tradewinds series, Tradewinds Caravans, experience the excitement and derring-do of a merchant's life, without the boredom and general unpleasantness that would tend to come with the real thing. In this loose, fantastical simulation of a merchant's life circa 100 BC, you will explore the silk road, fight your way through swarms of bandits, and uncover the unique story of the character you choose.
Sick of slinging cakes in time management games? Want to build a real estate empire but don't feel like crunching numbers? Build in Time may be your answer. Combining some of the best features from big titles such as Build-a-lot 2: Town of the Year and Cake Mania 2, Build in Time blends resource management gameplay with a simple real estate theme to breathe a little life into a familiar genre.
A casual game that both challenges and chides you is finally here, and it's time to cater to your toughest customer yet: Chef Gordon Ramsay. Hell's Kitchen is a resource management management sim based on the gritty reality-television cooking competition show of the same name. Take control of both serving and cooking as you seat customers and prepare meals to meet chef Ramsay's high expectations. Perform well and raise your rank from dishwasher to Senior Chef, but if you fail you suffer Ramsay's fiery, scornful wrath.
In Dairy Dash you are in charge of a family of farmers who must feed, water, and care for a number of animals (and patches of garden) in order to harvest milk, eggs and other products. Dairy Dash eschews a number of more complex game mechanics and focuses on efficient ordering of tasks, not how many convoluted upgrades you can buy. Because of its simplicity, Dairy Dash provides one of the most rewarding resource management experiences in the genre that's familiar but with a few strokes of originality.
Virtual Villagers is back, and we're so excited we couldn't wait until the weekend to tell you! With Virtual Villagers 3: The Secret City, the surprisingly addictive real-time simulation game sticks with its proven formula and makes a few minor tweaks to freshen up gameplay. With new secrets to uncover, new technologies, real-time weather effects and a whole new island to explore, Virtual Villagers 3 has all the ingredients that made the first games so compelling, plus more.
Ice Cream Dee Lites is a resource management game that separates itself from similar titles in the genre with catchy art work and gobs of personality. At its heart the game is composed of the same food serving skeleton casual players are quite familiar with. The music, sound effects, setting and artwork display a classic 1950s motif, and the customers are so filled with charm you can't help but love the game.
Dogs, cats, fish, bunnies and birds. It seems like everybody wants one, and it's your job to provide! In Pet Shop Hop you play Cassie, a zoology major working to preserve her family's pet store against the might of the Megapet Superstore. It's a resource management game along the lines of Airport Mania and Magic Farm, but tasks are separated into distinct categories and the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and, well, cuddlier.
Decorating your home is loads of fun. Assuming you have a huge budget, unlimited resources, and all the time in the world. Sandlot's new casual game Eye for Design drops you in the interior design chair with near total control over the inside of each house. You play Cheri, the top grad from a prestigious design school in Paris, working with clients looking to spruce up their abodes. Choose and arrange nearly every element in each room to make the customer happy and earn respect in the interior design world.
Gazillionaire's characters have certainly got faces only a mother could love, but if you just get to know this addictive lemonade-stand game you'll come to appreciate its inner beauty. You play a budding entrepreneur in the galaxy of Kukubia. The object of the game is to reach a certain amount of wealth, depending on the length of game you select.
Another popular television game show to make the leap to the casual gaming world. The classic "guess the most popular answer" formula is as exciting on your computer as it is on TV, only now it's much more interactive than just yelling at the screen. With over 3,000 questions to ponder and a tacked-on home decorating game, you won't have a hard time finding an excuse to guess what the "survey says".
Airport Mania from South Winds Games is a time management sim that drops all the trite settings and food-related themes we've grown tired of in the genre. Instead of serving cake or pizza or sandwiches, your job is to direct airplanes, load passengers, and make sure everything runs smoothly. All of this is accomplished with a simple interface and airplanes that are too cute for their own good. And unlike real airports, you can actually have flights arrive on time or even early!
Build-a-lot 2 is a real estate tycoon sim game where you must improve the value of different towns by meeting goals set by each area's mayor. Tasks range from building a number of houses/buildings to earning a set amount of cash or increasing rent income to a certain level. All the while you must manage three things: cash, workers, and materials. It's simple, extraordinarily fun, and could easily be one of the best casual games of 2008.
The sequel to Sandlot's Virtual Villagers-esque hit sim Westward has finally arrived! Westward II: Heroes of the Frontier continues the old west drama with a whole new batch of improvements, including 3D visuals, new buildings to construct, more scenarios to complete, and a brand new sandbox mode. Keep your townspeople happy, fed, and busy gathering resources as you expand across the uncharted territory in search of the elusive Copperhead Gang.
Youda Camper is a slow-paced simulation game along the lines of Sim City. You're put in charge of creating and running a camp site, from where to put the toilets to how many spaces for tents to allocate. Keep campers happy by building amenities and learn from their complaints to construct a campsite that rakes in the cash day after day.
Aah, gardening. One of the most relaxing and rewarding hobbies one can undertake. There's nothing like planting flowers and watching them grow, especially when you get to sell them for loads of cash and smash gigantic bees and snails with a shovel from time to time! This is the basic premise of Magic Farm, a resource management simulation along the lines of Grimm's Hatchery and Alice Greenfingers. As a magic-wielding gardener, you must plant, water, protect and raise a variety of flowers to sell for cash. You also have three basic skills that can be increased as you play, lending a delicious RPG flavor to the game.
Escape from Paradise (Windows/Mac) is a simulation/adventure game similar to Westward and Virtual Villagers where you lead shipwrecked castaways on a quest to build a tropical paradise. The interesting twist is the inclusion of minigames that help you earn supplies as well as distract you while your villagers work. It's an intriguing genre-bending concept that puts you in the role of resource manager and resident puzzle solver, and despite its not-so-polished presentation, pulls it off quite well.
The fashion business has changed quite a bit since Jojo Cruz took an early retirement a few decades back. So, now that her daughter, Rosalind, has convinced Jojo to make a comeback, is it any wonder that she needs your help? Grab your eye for style and get ready for Jojo's Fashion Show.
It's SimCity meets isometric Tetris in this new casual mash-up from Electronic Arts, The Sims Carnival SnapCity. As mayor its your job to build a thriving city and keep its citizens happy and prosperous. Three colors of blocks descend onto the grid, each one representing residential, commercial or industrial zones. When the blocks land and are connected by roads, citizens begin to move in and your population grows. Extras like puzzle zones and natural disasters keep the action lively, but it doesn't take much more than that to keep you hooked on this addictive game.
Turbo Subs, a follow-up to Turbo Pizza, is a food serving time management game along the lines of Cake Mania 2 and Diner Dash. On vacation from the hectic pace of serving pizza (at turbo speeds), Rebecca and Robert travel to New York to relax. The entrepreneurial bug has bitten them, however, and when they see a small subway car they just can't help themselves. With Robert behind the sandwich counter and Rebecca serving food, the pair opens up a subway shop and hopes for success.
Are you the type of person who walks into a room and immediately thinks about a remodel? "Ew... who put those curtains with that carpet? And that coffee table is way too close to the couch. How do you reach the window?" Perhaps you like to dabble in feng-shui. Or, maybe you're one of those weekend warriors when it comes to home-improvement. In any case, you're ready to try out your hand at design. If so, welcome home. Home Sweet Home, that is.
A generation has passed since you last helped the Baumeister reach sweet fame in Chocolatier. Since then, the company has fallen into the wrong hands. Evangaline Baumeister's granddaughter, Alexandra Tangye, needs your help to save their chocolate empire by stirring up a little competition. Uncover secret ingredients as you mix your way to chocolate-induced success!
Real estate sounds about as exciting as dentistry when it comes to casual games, but in HipSoft's latest tycoon-style game Build-a-lot, managing your empire turns out to be quite entertaining. You assume the role of a contractor working for towns to improve property value. Tasks include building houses on vacant lots, upgrading homes to higher-rent properties, and managing cashflow to feed all your ventures.
Farm Frenzy weds an arcade title with a resource management sim for a game that's as much thought and planning as it is fast mouse clicking. Gameplay revolves around planting grass to feed animals which in turn drop goods for you to use. These goods can either be sold for cash to improve your farm or turned into higher-value products to rake in even more gold. As you progress through the game's 45 stages you can buy more animals, get new buildings and upgrade existing structures, all while keeping a lookout for bears that drop from the sky!
Jill's back in a sequel to one of the most popular casual games of last year, Cake Mania. In Cake Mania 2 you reprise the role of the baker extraordinare with the task of helping one of two friends: Jack, who is looking for a bakery in his underwater theme park, or Risha and her bakery in the big city. Serve cranky customers piping hot cakes as quickly as you can to rake in the cash and expand your business!
Plant Tycoon puts you to the task of planting seeds, growing plants of over 500 different species, and discovering the genetic secrets behind 6 magic plants that will make you rich! Become a master horticulturalist as you pollinate adult plants to produce seeds, and even cross pollinate your plants with other species to discover new and rare varieties.
Kudos Rock Legend sim allows you to indulge your dreams of rock stardom—start out as a struggling band with no publicity or gigs, develop your musical style, write songs and claw your way up to playing the Enormo-dome, making TV appearances and hiring bodyguards to protect you from the hordes of screaming fans.
Miss Management is, in fifteen words or less, one of the most entertaining, captivating and hilarious casual games I've played in months. Developer Gamelab has really gone out of its way to craft unique characters that fuel the game from beginning to end, making it play like an interactive sitcom rather than your typical time management game (such as Diner Dash or Nanny Mania).
Sometime in the mid 19th century, scandal tore apart the great Baumeister chocolate empire. Tempers flared and factories closed, leaving the world desperate for a decent bite of chocolate. To paraphrase cocoa guru Benard Shintero, "nobody knew the truffles they'd seen." In this latest game from Playfirst, play an apprentice chocolatier working to restore the Baumeister reputation.
Hey surfin' dudes and dudettes! Have you heard about that bodacious betty who has been bagging burgers over on Mount Tikikola beach? Patty Melton, the new owner of the fast food sensation, Burger Island, makes the most totally radical lunch on this side of the Pacific, and she needs your help!
Here, among the roses of red and strange mushrooms, we find Alice. Is she visiting the Queen of Hearts? No, it isn't that Alice. Meet Alice Greenfingers. She doesn't have time for chasing rabbits and general nonsense (save the occasional gnome); she has to take some tomatoes to the market while the demand is still high!
Nanny Mania follows a formula similar to downloadable games such Cake Mania where you play a working woman going through the daily grind in order to make a living. The Mayor of Suburbia and his wife are too busy to cook and clean up after their growing family, so it's your job to straighten furniture, do the laundry, and perform all the little tasks that need to be done during the day. It's an extraordinarily well-made game that beats the competitors by leaps and bounds.
It's here! The next chapter in the captivating virtual island village sim is available to download. The follow-up to the monumentally successful Virtual Villagers game keeps the same formula as the original but adds all new puzzles, events, collectibles and more. It's the perfect follow-up to one of the most amazing casual games ever released.
Taking a page out of the popular village management book, the downloadable Westward (Windows) drops casual strategy elements into the mix for a game that's both interesting and a bit different. Westward pushes you across the unexplored old west setting up towns and hunting for riches. There's a surprising amount of depth in this game, yet very little was sacrificed to keep it user-friendly.
Cake Mania is a fast-paced arcade game where you play the role of Jill, a new graduate from culinary school, who returns home to discover her grandparents' bakery is closed. Business fell when the new Mega-Mart opened and not even their special recipes could help them compete. Jill decides to open her own old fashioned bakery to earn money and re-open her grandparents' store. Through nearly 50 levels and four different locations you'll help Jill serve customers as efficiently as possible.
Virtual Villagers is a downloadable real-time simulation game developed by Last Day of Work, the creators of Fish Tycoon and a number of other casual sim games. Take charge of a village of crash survivors and help them carve out a living on a jungle island. Teach them to farm, help them research scientific advancements and expand their population. It's a remarkably addictive game that's easy to play but impossible to stay away from!