Preview By: James Kinnear
When Global Star Software announced they were working on a sequel to their rather flawed mall sim, I wasn't sure what to expect. Sure, the previous game has lots of room for improvement, but was the second installment really going to be any better? Well it seems that Global Star have indeed listened to the rants and raves of those who bought the first Mall Tycoon game, because it looks as if this game is actually coming along quite nicely.
As an introduction - if you hadn't guessed, Mall Tycoon 2 gives you a second opportunity to build and manage your own shopping centre, in it's full 3D glory.
The first thing you are faced with when you start a new game is an intro screen. There are a number of customizable options for the player to choose from. For example, they can choose the level of difficulty, the proportion of male and female mall-goers and even the crime rate. The choice is great, but you have to wonder whether you are given TOO much of a say. For example, surely the gender of the visitors would be determined by what types of stores you put in your mall... And of course, the most important things are the shops. There are many different stores to choose from, with 8 main groups: Clothing, electronic good, health and beauty, public services, food and drink, entertainment, household and sports. In addition, you can also fill your mall with cinemas, atriums, restaurants and bars, and a large selection of decoration items. As it stands, all you can do is choose which stores you want in your mall, but you have no control over the layout of these stalls. In my opinion it would have been nice to be able to customize your stores.
And don't worry, you are not totally alone, even with the mall left only in your hands. You can also hire staff to patrol your mall and make life easier. Instead of the usual 'click a staff down and watch them get to work' idea that comes with many Tycoons, this game lets you research different staff types for your mall. So if you want a mall manager, he must be researched.
As well as a freeform mode, the game comes with over 20 scenarios. The problem with these missions is that they are not very customised. For example, the first mission asks you to double your balance in 100 game years. It is all well and good to give this a go, but you may as well just do it in a freeform game. Apart from the "well done, you have completed the scenario" message you get at the end, it is exactly the same as a freeform game. The missions could have been more creative and offer something different from the main gameplay mode.
Visually, Mall Tycoon 2 is much better than it's predecessor. For a start, the mall visitors move much more smoothly than before. The guests are not overly detailed but nicely animated, and at the very least they don't slide across the ground. The visitors don't just appear from nowhere either. They will visit your mall by foot, bus, car and train. A radically enhanced graphics engine has been introduced, and it shows. Players now get the opportunity to rotate and zoom freely and smoothly. This can be done with both the mouse and keyboard, and it is pretty easy to navigate around your mall.
The area in which you build you mall in looks nicer too. There are lakes, hills and factories surrounding your plot of land, giving it a more real-world feel than with some management games where you are faced simply with an empty patch of grass. The way in which you build your mall has been totally redesigned, and makes it a lot easier for the player compared to the first game. A simple select and drag system is used to create the floor and walls.
The sound and music in Mall Tycoon 2 seem pretty good compared to the first game. The in-game music is sounding good and works well as a background track. It is the kind of music you would expect to hear in a mall, and not too distracting or repetitive.
Like any decent management title, expect to offered lots of facts and figures.
If you right-click a visitor, you can know how hungry, bored and happy they are you. This is clearly one aspect of the game that shows how Global Star have improved the original. It's useful to be able to find out about the needs of each visitor, and something which could've be done easily with the first game.
You can also find out how much money each visitor has, and how many items they have bought. Another nice feature which is actually pretty hidden away is the ability to have a first person view of the mall from the eyes from each visitor. It would be nice to be able to walk around yourself, rather than following the path of a mall visitor, plus the detail in first person view is not amazing, but it will be interesting to see if they make more of this first person feature in the final game.
As you might expect, there is also lots of financial info on offer. Loans, salaries, research and maintenance are all there to explore and this large amount of data helps you to understand generally how your status is looking.
It is clear that Global Star have made a number of improvements with Mall Tycoon 2, and listened to what players of the original had to say. Whilst it still has it flaws it by no means will be a bad game; if you are waiting for a worthy mall-sim game, it will probably be worth checking this one out when it's released.