Brew Town is a free-to-play, casual, tycoon-like game by Appbox Media, available for Android and iOS. In it, you control a craft beer company which brews various ales and lagers. These can be sold piecemeal in the bar or wholesale to customers to meet their order requirements.
Big Beer Batch
To do this, you must first collect hops from the farm, each of which enables you to brew a batch of beer which you must then bottle. Bottled beer is stored in your warehouse, and from there you can choose to stock up your bar or fill customer orders at your HQ. You start with just one product — the humble lager — but can improve your range by upgrading and unlocking seven more beers in the brew lab.
Each of these buildings can be upgraded with the money you make from selling your wares and each upgrade offers additional capacity — for, example the brew house will initially produce fifty litres of beer, but fully upgraded this ramps up to 11,000 litres! Each litre makes two bottles and you can purchase up to eight brew houses — now that’s a lot of beer!
Even your hops can be upgraded once you have hit the required criteria to do so, resulting in a new profit multiplier. Should you choose to do this, though, all of your upgraded buildings reset, as does your bank balance. I guess it’s a clever way to get you to enjoy rebuilding your empire again, as there are nine hop upgrades to unlock, but I decided after doing it five times that I would wait to fully upgrade all of my beers before continuing.
Best Bottle Blueprints
One of the nicest features in the game is the label designer. At any time, you can go into the brew lab and change the design of your bottles and cans using this feature, customising the container colour and cap, and designing the label. It’s this last part that the developers have, in my opinion, totally nailed. You can choose from any number of shapes, decals, letters, brands and preset designs to put on your container. Simply layering up a multitude of differently coloured, rotated and scaled shapes allows you to fully customise how you want your drink to look. It’s immensely satisfying and I love it.
It’s clear that the developers are proud of it, too — once you have completed your design, it is then shared with other users to rate in a mini-game called Hop or Not, in which you simply say whether or not you like or dislike a label design. All the designs you see in here have been created by other users, and it’s amazing to see the range of creative skills — from lazy people who just whack a single shape on a bottle to those who create intricate masterpieces. When you rate a design, that is reflected in the designer’s game on that bottle. The more liked a label is, the faster it sells in the bar.
It’s such a simple system but so elegantly integrated with the main game. In fact my only qualm with it is that, initially, the hop farm produces way more hops than you can use — and by the time this settles down so that you are waiting for hops and might be tempted to go into the Hop or Not mini-game, you have accrued such a large stockpile of beer and money that you don’t really need to brew that much anyway. Also, the Hop or Not system doesn’t really reward you with enough to make it worth your time, which is a shame as it is so excellently executed, but I think that this could easily be balanced out in a future update.
Big Brew Bucks
As I mentioned at the start of this article, Brew Town is free. So how do the developers make their money? With ads and in-game purchases, of course! Instead of these being thrust in your face though, Brew Town is quite subtle about how it shows you ads. For example, when you have been away from the game for a while you come back to discover that you have sold X thousand bottles in the bar and have made Y thousand dollars — do you want to double that amount? Simply watch a short ad, then! Another example: you need to speed up production or research. You could spend ‘caps’ to do this, or you could watch an ad! You get the idea. There is also a little truck that drives through your town every now and again which offers you cash or caps in reward for watching an ad.
‘Wait, what are caps?’ I hear you cry. Simply put, they are the premium currency in the game, acquired by doing key things, like bottling a batch of beer or reaching various milestones. They can be used to skip time or to unlock ‘premium upgrades’ that let you do things faster or make more money from stuff. One such upgrade is the ability to hold down the ‘Bottle Beer’ button — which is a massive benefit and should be purchased immediately!
Big Beautiful Bottles
As you can see from the screenshots, Brew Town is extremely pretty to look at and play, resplendent in a cartoonish low-poly graphical style. Animations are all top notch too, and the UI is simple and easy to use. Too many games of this ilk feel the need to add clutter and stats everywhere, but Brew Town refrains from this stereotype and is all the better for it.
Your town feels alive with all the cars, birds and trains bustling about; there’s even a boat that turns up from time to time for some reason. It’s all very polished and a delight to interact with. Sounds are all nice, too, especially in the bottling plant. There’s no in-game music, though…
Building Better Business
So what could be improved? I literally have just one minor niggle — there is drone that flies around the screen, which drops cash when tapped upon. It follows a random flight path, then flies away again off screen. When it starts to do so, for some reason it becomes un-tappable — which is irritating as you’re never sure if you’ve just mis-tapped or your device is lagging or something. I really hope they fix this as it taints an otherwise perfect user experience.
On a much more serious note, though, is the replayability factor. Initially Brew Town is intoxicating – I played it constantly, striving for more money and better beers so I could unlock more beers and upgrade those too. I wanted bigger brew houses and a better bottling plant. I wanted a more elaborate bar and a more capacious warehouse. And I was willing to watch many, many ads to get these things, which is great for the developer… but then I realised something — I had all eight beers and had maxed out all my buildings. I had fully unlocked every upgrade and every premium upgrade. I had more than two billion dollars in my bank. What now?
OK, I still had two beers to fully upgrade, which takes hours, so I left it going offline while doing other things. There are some hard-to-get achievements, I suppose, as well as a couple more hops to unlock which will no doubt reset my passion for the game — but once I have those, then what do I do? I also have (at the moment) no need to watch any ads whatsoever, which is bad news for the developers as they will no longer be getting income from me playing the game. There’s an in-game shop which I alluded to at the start of this review, but that simply gives you more caps, which I just don’t need anymore!
In short, I have to question the game’s longevity. I was able to get to this point within two weeks of starting Brew Town. In comparison, I’ve now been playing Clash of Clans on and off for four years!
I was afforded the opportunity to put these questions to Nicoll Hunt, one of the developers of the game:
It’s such a great concept for a game. What made you choose craft beer manufacturing and distribution as your theme?
It’s always been my life’s aim to convince somebody to pay me to visit craft beer breweries and drink beer. This game was the culmination of decades of planning and subtle coercion. I still can’t quite believe it worked.
The label designer is a brilliant feature — was this something you decided to add during the game’s conception, or was it added later?
Back in 2010 I worked on an MMO game called APB. It was sort-of like GTA Online before GTA Online, but worse in almost every way. One of my roles on that game was to develop the Symbol Editor for players to customise elements for graffiti, clothing, and vehicles. The designs players created from the tools we gave them always amazed me, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to write a similar system for years. Brew Town was a perfect fit for enabling wild player customisations, and it’s been wonderful seeing how far players have already pushed it.
Are there any plans to extend the game, maybe by opening up new areas or recipe types, like wines or spirits?
As long as players keep playing and supporting the game we’ll keep adding new stuff to keep them interested. Just yesterday we pushed an update adding new buildings, new hops challenges, and doubling the number of recipes in the game from 8 to 16.
There comes a point in the game — at around the billion dollar mark — when most of the upgrades are unlocked and there isn’t much reason to watch ads. How do you feel the longevity of making money from players will be affected by this?
Balancing a game like Brew Town has been a bit of a baptism of fire. We’ve been taken aback how quickly some players have burned through all the content we spent the last year creating! Of course we’ll endeavour to add new content and unlocks to keep players invested. One avenue I really want to push in the future is leveraging player-created content, the first step of which is Hop or Not — our in-game beer talent contest.
After playing the game for a few weeks, I have a few suggestions if you continue to develop the game:
Would it be possible to add more notifications, such as when research has completed?
It’s certainly possible, and something we’re actively looking into.
Achievement integration with Google Play Games would be a nice addition.
Again, that’s very possible and something we hope to eventually do something quite special for 🙂
In conclusion, Brew Town is a superb casual game, gorgeous to look at and a delight to play. For the low, low price of free, I really can’t complain — and I hope that the developers continue to add more content in the near future, as I can’t wait to play it!