App review: Happy Street

The cutest and most addictive building game for iOS, bar none.

NameBuilding game app: Happy Street
At a glance:Simple to learn but with good gameplay depth,Can earn all in-game premium items without spending money, if desired,Cute animations and frequently updated quests and items
Summary:A cute, creative and beautifully animated building game - be warned: it's addictive!
Rating:5/5
RRP:Free
Contact:itunes.com

When it comes to addictive little building games, Happy Street is hands-down the best iOS game I’ve tested. Forget The Simpson’s Tapped Out: Happy Street is the cat’s meow. It was launched last September, and I’ve played it every day since then. The only reason I haven’t reviewed it sooner is because I wanted to be sure I’d seen everything it had to offer... and the devs at Godzi Lab kept adding things!

So what makes Happy Street so awesome? It’s super-cute.

Seriously, everything about this game is cute. From the lead character, a fox named Billy, who zooms around on a skateboard (once you build him one), to the little cat Zoe, who has a fixation with bird poop, to the not-especially-bright country bumpkin Nyok and the “artistic” Sopica, everything is bright, cutesy and fun. But it also has a wicked and humorous side (there’s some definite ‘adult’ humour that should fortunately zoom right over kids’ heads) to reduce what could otherwise be an overly saccharine delicacy. You have to have a little patience, because your first half-hour is going to be a little slow, but trust me, it builds.

Before I start gushing, I’ll explain the mechanics of Happy Street.

It is, as the name suggests, a linear street, built on a grassy plain and rendered in 2D layered animations. The animations are delightful, with an eye for detail that should amuse. There’s a claw game you can buy, for example, that has a mini-Billy doll being plucked from the tub as its animation.

The idea is to build your street, encouraging new dwellers and building new businesses to make the street prosperous. There are two types of in-game currency to buy things with, Flooz and coins. You earn coins as your inhabitants spend money going about their day, and you earn Flooz by completing quests or mini-games. But honestly, you’ll set aside any long-term goals because playing the game is more fun than working towards the goals. The whole thing is fun to interact with.

Despite its simplicity – it’s very easy to learn to play – it also has incredible depth to the gameplay.

The basics of Happy Street:

  • Houses and businesses: which you can buy, build and improve
  • Inhabitants and visitors: who gain levels and buy things
  • Recipes: to create items, achieve quests and upgrade buildings
  • Quests: daily, seasonal and level-based
  • Currency: flooz (premium currency), gold, stars and hearts

Houses and businesses

To build your first house, you chop down some bushes to create wood. You can also then build your first businesses – a fruit shop, a bazaar, a pinball machine and a glasses shop.

As you build houses, inhabitants come to live in them.

The inhabitants need three kinds of businesses to stay happy: shops with something to buy (the bazaar), something to eat (fruit shop) and something to play (pinball). If they lack any of those (such as when the stores run out of stock) they’ll mope around the street with a little icon above their head representing their needs.

Each level you gain sees new businesses and new houses available to add to your growing street.

You may want an amplifier so that your residents play guitar in the street, or a puppet theatre to amuse them – they love the seesaw! Similarly, you might want to offer them surfboards, toys, masks and computers to buy. Food and drink? Choose from options such as Asian restaurants, hotdog stands, seafood and the Whacky Burger outlet. Some of the businesses you can buy even include mini-games that you can play to win in-game currency.

Businesses and houses can be upgraded from their starting level (one) to level two or three, using recipes.

Inhabitants and visitors

The inhabitants include the main characters – who have their own storylines – as well as regular inhabitants, premium citizens (who live in houses which cost flooz to build) and visitors to the street.

Billy and Pippin are your starting characters, but as you gain levels Zoe and Dahlia come to live with them. Storyline quests are based around these four, mainly.

Additional inhabitants arrive as you add housing for them. Build a Tiki house and get native American-style dwellers for it, or add a Viking house to get characters with pigtails and furs as their attire. The premium inhabitants include chipmunks, circus-dwellers and pandas.

Just as you gain levels, so do your streets inhabitants – when they level up, they celebrate a birthday, and you get a selection of new clothes in which they can dress. Usually, this means you can choose to give them a new hat, new suit or new pair of shoes – fancy a pair of cowboy boots?

The inhabitants wander around spending their money in the various businesses you build. At any time, a single inhabitant could be sleeping at home, or shopping, and you can take a picture of any of them to post to Facebook or Twitter.

Each inhabitant has a happiness meter and a wallet – buying things of different types keeps them happy, but if their happiness falls too low, you can also perk them up with a potion. There’s no real penalty for unhappy inhabitants, but they look very miserable slumping dejectedly around the street.

Recipes

Happy Street is absolutely full of collectible items that you stick in your ‘Bag’, which is accessible from thee main menu.

When Poopy the bird flies over (Zoe named him), you can touch him to make him poop. Whether you try to drop the poop on villagers heads (they respond with a disgusted “yuk!”) and earn gold, or drop it on the street so that you can touch it to collect the poop is up to you.

You can touch the full moon to collect moonstones, and you can collect bats’ teeth from a bat that hovers over your village at night. If you go to the forest, you can collect fish (you have to plant a fishing hook in the river to catch them), chop trees, and pick flowers, crystals and mushrooms. Once you get to a certain level, you can also travel to the mountains, where you can collect wool and stones, or to the caves where iron and glowing mushrooms can be found.

What do you do with all these collectibles? Well, once you build a workshop, you can splice together bits and pieces to make new objects. Bird poop and water? That makes fertiliser … obviously. Rope and wood planks? That makes a guitar! You can create all sorts of weird and wonderful recipes.

Additionally, you need the collected items and recipe items to upgrade your businesses from level one, to level two and three. Upgrading an Irish pub, for example, takes some green dye and rope for level two, and green dye, rope and bats’ teeth for level three.

There are four different recipe-making spots where you can meld items. Aside from the workshop you build in the main street, Sopica has an artist’s studio in the mountains that can produce – among other things – cut stone, anvils and gears. Nyok, in the forest, has a hut that produces potions and dyes. When you get to a certain level, you can buy a tailors that produces costumes for your inhabitants to wear.

Be warned: some objects are much harder to get than others, and worth hanging on to rather than selling to make a quick bit of cash. Bats’ teeth, for example, are as rare as hens’ teeth!

Quests

Happy Street goes a long way to keep you amused. It has level-based quests that kick in at the start of each new level (so far, there are 36 levels), and there are also daily quests from Peppin.

The quests range from the bizarre to the ridiculous. At one point, you have to collect dozens of bird poops to make a snow-like effect for the street. In another quest, Sopica uses Dahlia as a model for a classical sculpture for which you need lots of moonstone. The big quests have no time limit fortunately, so you can take your time in completing them.

Peppin’s daily quests each have a time limit, and completing them earns you either gold or flooz. These are really worth doing to earn quick flooz if you can – usually he asks for something you can make, and gives you enough time to make it before the quest runs out.

Some quests – such as building a hotel that other streets’ inhabitants can come and stay in – require different coloured crystals to complete, and your forest gets only one colour of crystal – either red, yellow or blue. You’ll have to add friends on Facebook or Game Center and ask them for their crystals to collect the other colours. They may be willing to swap one for something else they need, though, such as a bat’s tooth. Visting your friends each day earns you some flooz or gold, too.

Currency

There are several different types of currency used and earned in Happy Street.

Gold: When your inhabitants shop, you earn the gold they spend. You can also earn gold by collecting items, selling collectibles, dropping bird poop on villagers heads, popping balloons, visiting friends and more. Gold can be used to expand your street, and to buy buildings and decorations.

Flooz: Flooz is the in-game premium currency, used to buy premium houses, premium businesses and premium costumes – as well as for speeding up the time it takes to complete things. You can earn flooz by visiting friends’ streets, playing mini-games, and completing quests. It’s not really worth speeding anything up by spending flooz – save it for buying items.

Stars: Stars are the experience points in the game, and go towards earning new levels. You earn stars by restocking your businesses – they generate one, two or three stars, depending on whether they have been upgraded.

Hearts: Hearts are a measure of love (aww) and you earn them in several ways. If you touch anyone driving or flying along the road through the village you get love as a thank you, and they then stop and make a purchase. You also get love if you direct a lost inhabitant to a person or building they are looking for. Dahlia seems to get lost a lot... Get enough hearts and you earn a fiesta, which makes your citizens go crazy with a kind of shopping lust, spending five times as much as usual at your businesses until the fiesta timer runs out.

There are also blue tokens, that give you a chance to spin for flooz at the spinning wheel.

Gameplay

You may be getting the idea that there’s always something happening in Happy Street, and always something to do. That’s absolutely the case – you can waste plenty of time just waiting for the next car, alien, scooter, or plane to enter the street so that you can stop them and make them buy things.

The beauty of Happy Street is not just that it keeps you busy, it’s that it does it with humour. It also does it while providing you with enough flooz that you can buy all the premium and seasonal items if you play for about an hour a day. If you want to take a shortcut and buy flooz, you can, but there’s definitely no obligation. If you’re like me, you’ll buy flooz just because you appreciate the work that the devs have put into making such an absorbing and cute game.

The devs are also incredibly proactive about adding new quests, seasonal specials and new items to add to your street. Right now, there’s the tail end of a St. Patrick’s day special quest, and you can buy a limited edition leprechaun house and Irish pub for flooz. An Easter quest has just begun, too – I’m collecting eggs from my friends’ streets.

The things I love most about Happy Street are its easy dip-in dip-out approach, that there’s always something to do, and that the quests often make me laugh out loud with their humour. It’s adorable: everything from dressing characters up – with costumes such as a baby dragon’s head – to the fiesta tune and the way that Poopy the bird lets a little “pfft” noise out every time he poops.

Honestly, I’m sure I’ll get sick of it eventually, but the main risk is that it will suck up all my spare time until then.

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Zara Baxter

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