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iPad  header logo

Sweatshop HD

For: iPad

That's edutainment

Product: Sweatshop HD | Developer: Littleloud | Publisher: Channel 4 | Format: iPad | Genre: Strategy, Tower defence | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Sweatshop HD iPad, thumbnail 1
Whoever said that games couldn't be educational AND fun? Certainly not developer Littleloud, which, based on a cursory but nonetheless scientific glance at the internet, appears to specialise in engaging interactive entertainment underpinned by a healthy dose of social commentary.

Sweatshop HD fits that bill perfectly, offering up a winning combination of tower defence, management sim, and blackly comic provocation, as you set your sights on running an ethically questionable manufacturing facility.

Under the watchful gaze of your morally bankrupt boss, you're responsible for maximising the factory's profits as your production line continues to belch out goods for not-so-subtly named clients like Crymark and TopSham.

Hard labour

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Each stage is essentially a game of tower defence in reverse: a machine spews fabric onto a long, winding conveyor belt and it's your job to station appropriately-skilled workers along it, ensuring all products are properly assembled by the time they reach the other end.

Meeting your often unrealistic targets, and reaping the greatest rewards, demands a certain degree of strategy. Effectively, your goal is to find the perfect position for each worker type - be they experienced specialists or slow, but cheap, child labour - so as to maximise production efficiency.

There's a secondary management layer at play, too. For instance, push your staff too hard without placing a water tank nearby and they'll quickly dehydrate. Similarly, adding radios and fan coolers raises the profitability of adjacent workers - provided you can stomach the initial cost.

There are plenty of other decisions to make, too - do you hire expensive engineers to maintain your equipment, for instance, or do you focus on frugality and risk maiming your workforce as a result?

Get the message?

End-of-stage splash-screens might offer up sobering details on sweatshop conditions but, smartly, the game keeps the moralising to a minimum. Instead, it delivers its message through sharply written, frequently humorous dialogue that simply provides the facts, leaving you to ponder their implications.

Indeed, it's largely up to you to apply your own moral compass to proceedings. There's rarely practical gain in doing the Right Thing - and it's often easier to reach your targets by cutting costs and exploiting your workforce. Instead, the decision to make your factory a better, safer place is more about your own conscience.

But here's the thing: even without the exploitation angle, Sweatshop HD is a superbly entertaining game - one that's captivating, compulsive, and playful in its design. Yet it's made all the more impressive by the fact that it delivers its thought-provoking message in such an engaging, delicately balanced way.
 
Sweatshop HD
Reviewer photo
Matt Wales | 19 December 2012
A superbly crafted combination of tower defence game and management sim that's consistently thought-provoking, yet never heavy-handed
 
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