Tycoon City: New York
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Developer deep red is starting to make quite a name for itself in the much maligned tycoon genre, a reputation that it's been hoping to cement with the release of this ambitiously sprawling tycoon game. But has it pulled it off, or is this money-making, skyscraperconstructing sim - in which you're tasked with building up the Big Apple (well, Manhattan Island) piece by gridlocked piece - just another 'lead you by the hand patronise-othon' destined for obscurity, like the majority of the genre's offerings? Well, if truth be told, it's a bit of both.
Tycoon City, as Deep Red has readily explained, is a game directed at the less hardcore gamer, which probably means the kind of part-time virtual entertainment enthusiast who dedicates the odd evening between candlelight soirees and Conservative party meets to playing The Sims and Puzzle Bobble. And, as Deep Red is no doubt hoping, Tycoon City: New York.
Y'see, this game is about as taxing as duty-free, the kind of title that any hardened gainer could play in their sleep. Broken down into bite-sized chunks, Tycoon City divides New Yoik into a series of manageable portions, which you must build up to a certain standard before the next one is unlocked. In order to complete a section, you must construct accommodation, businesses and educational establishments to satiate the needs of the city's citizens. After this you can kit each building out with an array of signs, plants, billboards and other decorations to increase its public appeal and aesthetic qualities. And that, I'm afraid, is about as complex as the game gets.
A City With Character
Of course there are some excellent features injected into the game's mix, too. After all, we don't award 70 per cent to games that have been shat straight into a DVD box and put on a shelf reeking of amateurism. And it's these fun features that manage to transform a fairly run-of-the-mill gaming experience into something a little more, well, satisfying.
The game's most noteworthy and entertaining moments come in the form of character-based missions that drive the otherwise sandbox-like campaign (there's also an undiluted Sandbox mode should you wish to just build up your city without interruptions). Every so often you'll be transported to hotspots where characters -be they penniless students looking for a place to get pissed up, or disillusioned poets looking for inspiration in the park - deliver well-written and highly convincing segments of exposition that encourage you to cater to their needs.
What follows are a collection of objectives (or Opportunities as they're called) that urge you to construct certain buildings and improve them to the point where they satisfy the mewling denizens. This might involve improving a park so that people can take a stroll during their lunch break, or building up a stretch of road so that it's aesthetically pleasing enough to stage a Halloween parade.
Deep Red has clearly done its New York homework, perfectly capturing the cosmopolitan and cultural diversity of one of the world's most exciting and ethnically diverse cities. Chinese New Year is celebrated by a giant street carnival, Little Italy is packed with quaint pizzerias while Soho is full of pretentious twats blathering on about Gucci and pretending to appreciate modern art, rather than scoffing at the talentless child-like doodlings that it so usually is.
Build what is required of you to the correct standard and you'll be rewarded by amusing news reports extolling the virtues of your ever-growing empire. You'll also be treated to visually luscious events such as the aforementioned parades and carnivals. But while these scripted tasks do add a wealth of character to the game, they also betray its most major flaw. Just like many other tycoon games before it, New York suffers from a chronic bout of 'lead you by the hand' syndrome. Mama wants her son to build up a pizza empire, so you build three pizzerias and a Pizza headquarters. Some punks want somewhere to party, so you build a Punk club and stick a burger bar nearby for good measure. People are hungry, so you build restaurants. They're bored, so you build some bars... And so it goes on, ad infinitum.
It's all there in black and white, straightforward instructions and tasks solved by simply building exactly what you're being asked to. Add to this the fact that there's no building degeneration, virtually no city maintenance and zero natural disasters to concern yourself with, and you suddenly realise that all you're doing from one hour to the next is erecting exactly what you're being instructed to.
But wait, surely building placement and supply and demand play a part? Well yes, they do. To an extent. V'see, the beauty and the problem with Tycoon City is that whenever you place a building on a plot of land, you're immediately shown exactly how in demand it'll be in the surrounding area. If the majority of buildings light up green, then you're good to go. Yellow is OK, while red is bad. So if you're thinking of building an Italian restaurant in Chinatown, only to realise it won't be very popular, all you have to do is keep clicking on the other eatery options till you find one that'll suit that section of the city. If it lights up yellow, you're good to go. Simple and sadly, utterly repetitive.
With the game sussed and with the somewhat clunky interface mastered, it becomes only a matter of time till the malaise sets in. Before you know it you're raking in so much money you're wiping your arse with 50 dollar notes just to clear out some space in the local bank vaults, buying every major rival business and repeating the same trial and error building process time and time again. Don't get me wrong, it is fun for a while, but if you're a hardened strategy game veteran (or even a partially solidified one), you're likely to feel less challenged than a genius in a kindergarten. What's more, your Al-controlled competitors simply aren't aggressive enough to cause you any major problems, and before long, you're sitting pretty at the summit of New York's rich list.
Fortunately, there's enough substance and sheen here to paper over the cracks. For starters, the city is immense, especially later on in the game when you're left juggling the needs of over 60,000 demanding citizens (all with their own unique names, desires, likes and dislikes).
Hordes of people mill around the streets, travelling to work, heading out for lunch, strolling in the park then rushing home to get ready fora night on the town.
Zoom into the streets and you can watch people interacting with their surroundings (though these interactions aren't particularly detailed and not always that regular), and click on an individual and you can follow them around like some kind of voyeuristic stalker.
My It's Big
The sheer scope of Tycoon City sets it apart from many of its competitors and elevates it to heights that almost approach a Recommended award. Almost Because the simple fact is that the game, despite its enormity, is just too damn simplistic, meaning that the fun factor begins to wane within a couple of days.
If you like building and beautifying then you'll be in your element here, but for everyone else, that's unlikely to be enough to warrant an outlay of 35 British pounds. Tycoon City: New York may be big and colourful, but under its ostentatious, shiny surface and character-driven tasks, it's ultimately just another by-the-numbers tycoon game.
Seeing The Sites
Building the landmarks that made New York great - but not the ones below...
"Show them what the Statue of Liberty looks like! Go on! No wait show them the Empire State Building!" So came the cries of my fellow game journos as I started writing this boxout.
But you know what? I'm not going to do it.. Why? Because the moments when you unveil these stunning landmarks to your gawping citizens constitute some of the game's most satisfying moments. Showing you them all now would simply dilute the sense of satisfaction you gain when you erect a famous landmark So instead, here are a couple of lesser-known ones to whet your appetite for the towering delights that lie ahead...
Each segment of New York comes with its very own space for a monument which can be built once you've accumulated enough Landmark Bonds. These are earned by completing Opportunities and by reaching financial milestones. Thankfully, with both of these tasks proving fairly easy, it won't be long till you're looking up the Statue of Liberty's toga and wondering what kind of pants she's wearing.