PlayFirst's Mall Stars offers free-to-play store management on iOS

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Last December, PlayFirst announced its restructuring to focus more on the casual mobile game space, and we've started to see the products of that switch with Mall Stars, a new mall-building tycoon game that has launched on iPhone and iPad in the Canadians iTunes store. While the game isn't available in the US store as of this writing, we've gone hands-on with this free-to-play experience and can let you know what to expect when you can finally start building your own mall.

If you're a former player of Playdom's failed Market Street Facebook game, you'll feel right at home here, as Mall Stars breaks away from the "Dash" style gameplay that the company is most known for in favor of a slower, more casual experience. Your mall starts small at first, allowing you to place just three main stores and one smaller store and attraction inside it. Each of these can be stocked with items of your choosing, that sell out at different rates and offer different amounts of profits in relation to the time it took them to sell.

You'll be able to send delivery trucks out for supplies so that you can constantly keep your stores stocked with fresh merchandise, and new supplies appear automatically every few minutes so that you're never truly unable to play the game. As for the Mall Stars mechanic itself, this comes in the form of special characters that can be directed around your mall based on their requests. For instance, a fashionista might want to purchase a particular dress from your clothing store, so you'll need to tap on that item to send the Mall Star to the store to purchase it. You'll earn bonus coins for keeping these customers happy, and can even pay Hearts, the game's premium currency, to make them stick around for longer periods of time (therefore spending more money while they stay).

PlayFirst's Mall Stars offers free-to-play store management on iOS
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Along the way, you'll be able to complete a variety of simple quests, asking you to construct specific stores in your mall or help certain Mall Stars find what they're looking for. Completing these quests gives you plenty of experience points and coins, allowing you to level up and unlock new merchandise for your trouble. Ultimately, the only obvious gameplay mechanic that's missing here is a social element, as it would have been great to visit friends' malls.

Ultimately, Mall Stars is a fairly basic freemium iOS game that comes with the expected "set it and forget it" gameplay style. The graphics are charming and the gameplay is polished, but whether or not this will have the same success as any of PlayFirst's other games remains to be seen. You can be the final judge when the game launches on the US iTunes store sometime soon.

Are you excited to try PlayFirst's Mall Stars on iOS? Do you think the company should stick with the dash franchise of games, or do you like this more casual gameplay offering?
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