Game: Mega Mall Story 2
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (also on iOS & Android)
Developers | Publishers: Kairosoft
Age Rating: US E | EU 3+
Price: US $14.00 | UK £11.69 | EU €13,99
Release Date: March 25, 2021
Review code used, with many thanks to Kairosoft!
Mega Mall Story 2 (MMS2) transported me 25 years back to a childhood of playing simulation games on the PC. Before The Sims came to life, there were the other “Sims”: SimCity, SimAnt, SimTown, SimCopter, SimPark, and so on . . . and SimTower.
Indeed, this was a blast to the past, like I was playing SimTower again. Managing a multi-storey complex, keeping customers happy, making the rare VIP happy, building ever upward (and downward), ultimately striving for the 5-star rating. SimTower was actually the brainchild of Japanese developer “Yoot” Saito, winning him a local award and the attention of American publisher Maxis.
In a way, MMS2 feels like a return to these Japanese roots, as it follows a similar concept to SimTower. But it is also a Kairosoft game—which, according to hearsay, means nothing terribly innovative and yet fun, cute and unexpectedly addictive. From what I’ve read, it may also share a few frustrating features with some Kairosoft titles: too slow, too many screens to click through. I can’t give you a proper assessment of how MMS2 compares with other Kairosoft games as this is my first. But here’s what I think of it as a game in its own right.
What Makes a Customer Happy
Placement is key. For example, putting high-Reputation shops upstairs encourages customers to shop in less attractive stores they pass along their way there. You can rearrange shops at any time, if you have the moolah. Beware, though, that the further you build from ground floor, the more expensive it is. This applies not only to brand-new shops but also to shops you’re relocating! Yep, you’re always paying for something, be it new staff, new stairs, or new steak houses. But at least demolishing shops costs nothing; in fact, you get a little cash back!
Cash will be slightly tight at first (but never too scarce), though in later years you’ll probably have way more money than you need. MMS2 isn’t a punishing or difficult game. Money isn’t all-important here; it’s a Rank 5 title you’re after, and MMS2 gives you 15 years to do this, which is a very generous amount of time.
The monotony is broken by exciting moments of “Frenzy,” which is when the music picks up and a flood of customers pour in and shop like crazy. It’s also fun to welcome new customers, who arrive after you’ve added new stores and fulfilled customer requests. Most are human customers, your ordinary grandpa or high-schooler. But there’s an occasional animal or man-in-costume, which is super cute. I was surprised to actually spot specific customers zooming around my mall after they had become regulars.
What Makes a Customer Sad
Unfortunately, MMS2 could be much better—just by several simple improvements. The game could have been faster, mechanics explained in more detail.
For example, I hit a plateau after reaching Rank 3. There was little I could do to unlock new shops at that point. My few transport systems crawled at snail pace, so it seemed like I was waiting forever for new VIPs to appear—and without them, I couldn’t rank up. It took me ages, around 10 hours in, to figure out how to do well financially and speed up customer arrivals. In the end, it took 15 hours to reach Rank 5, though I’m sure a second playthrough could be exponentially shorter.
Due to my own ignorance (plus lack of prompting from the game), I didn’t realize several things until quite late. First, you can speed up customer arrivals by assigning multiple transports to one residential area, and by improving advertisements. Second, you can save time in navigating menus with a shortcut button (L) to jump from the Build Plans sub-menu to the Buy Plans sub-menu. Third, you can stop ruining your eyesight, by using the touchscreen to zoom in on your mall. These may seem like minor details, but added together they could make the game annoying (or not).
Besides a better tutorial, here’s what else I wish the game had. More than anything: an alphabetical list of shops, not just shops listed by floor, because it takes ages to track down shops when you have a sprawling 23-floor mall.
Next, I could really have used a fast-forward button to skip animations and messages. In the Settings menu, there’s an option for “Fast” speed gameplay, but it’s locked until you finish the game once. Why not make it available from the start? Lastly, the game should allow players to relocate shops one tile away.
Currently, there’s an absurd rule where you can’t relocate a shop if the new location overlaps even slightly with the current location.
Monster of a Mall
But like so many obsessions, MMS2 is both fun and fatiguing. Sometimes it’s hard to draw a line between the two. Though, when my mall grew into a massive monster (I named it “Tyrannoshoppus” Mall, by the way), it crossed the line to fatigue. Tapping through repetitive screens and animations, waiting ages for VIPs to show up, the toil of relocating stores yet again . . . it felt too much, almost like trekking through a needlessly oversized mall I know in real life (also aptly named Mega Mall). By the time I hit Rank 5, I didn’t feel like using the remaining years to enjoy the rewards unlocked by my victory: new stores, new floors, new customer requests.
So I hovered between giving the “Not Sure” and “I Like It” rating. I like MMS2 just enough to want to try other Kairosoft games, to see if they’ve done better with the simulation formula elsewhere. I like it just enough to think, “I bet I could do a better job on a second playthrough!” But no, I don’t like it enough to sit through it again, even if Fast mode eliminated the eternity of screens and waiting and dragging shops around (though the touchscreen function performs wonderfully for this final task). Maybe the thing about Kairosoft games is that you’re expected to play one and move on to the next?
In the end, bearing in mind MMS2’s roots as a mobile game for casual gamers, I guess it’s okay. Just okay.
Verdict: I Like It