Tycoon City: New York Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 7.5
Gameplay : 5.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 6.5
Review by Andreas Misund Berntsen
New York is no doubt a great city, and after playing through this game, you’ll know it by heart, it’s just a shame that you’ll probably be bored to tears by the extremely repetitive gameplay.

You play as a newcomer in the tycoon scene. New York isn’t looking too good and people are wishing for quite a few changes, namely buildings. As you start out, there are quite a few other tycoons who also wish to make a buck, but you never really interact with them. With limited funds, you start in a fairly small part of New York. Throughout the main game mode you’re given a long list of objectives; they tend to involve building one of several buildings, locating a certain type of citizen, or upgrading structures you own until a particular meter reaches a certain percentage. Some of these, unfortunately, are completely meaningless and make no sense at all.

There are basically three types of edifices: housing, businesses of various kinds, and landmarks. Houses, being apartments, hotels and huge complexes, generally vary in terms of rent and number of residents. Luxury apartments aren’t favored in the poorer sections of New York, and so on. Tycoon City has a pretty impressive number of stores, ranging from Artist Supplies to Supercar Showrooms. Houses tend to pay about the same dividend once a day, which actually represents an in-game month, but businesses are much more volatile. Supply and demand is everything – or almost.

When placing buildings around New York, you can see the demand for it represented by a circle, where the buildings are colored according to the demand. Green means people want it, while dark red means the citizens are completely uninterested in the structure. Even though you’re told in a cinematic sequence that the citizens will really let you know if they don’t like what you’re doing, that’s just talk. Nightclubs were constructed around a church, and the churchgoers were happy, whereas the clubs made a good deal of money.

Landmarks are built by spending points that you earn by completing objectives, for instance, by reaching a certain population. These attractions look very impressive and whilst not all of them provide income, they do add to the presentation and may even boost the surrounding area’s presentation somewhat.

Upgrading is one of the fundamental game mechanics. To draw more people/customers, you’ll want your houses and businesses looking as attractive as possible. All the buildings that can be upgraded have three meters, such as its circle of influence, its appeal, and so on. Not all buildings have the same upgrades (at all), but you’ll be placing trees, signs, leaflet girls, and more. To improve upon something, you spend a small number of upgrade points, which are accumulated over time and as a reward from completing objectives. If you want, you can spend quite some time making everything look extra pretty, but I found the best upgrade in terms of points and the improvement given to be the various kinds of plants. These are typically small, meaning you can put a lot of them, and they’re also cheap. Holding down the left mouse button, you can practically paint the roof and outside of buildings with plants. It doesn’t really make sense that a great big pile of vegetation on the roof will attract and please more customers than if you make it look visually diverse and pleasing, but I suppose (and appreciate) that the developers wanted to make it easier for those who don’t want to spend too many hours upgrading their shops.

During the earlier portion of the game, you spend most of the time managing a small number of buildings, and at this point, every money-making activity counts, so you’ll be tweaking all your properties, looking at what tenants need, building a few new businesses, and simply admiring the scenery. Once the area you’re limited to is complete, meaning you’re done with most of the objectives and the majority of the ground is occupied by structures, you can then move onto the next area. One of the most charming aspects of this title is how it has, more or less, stereotypical cliché American characters talking about what they’d like, describing new areas you’ve unlocked, and even some kind of TV show where an aesthetically pleasing woman talks at major events like concerts, openings of important landmarks, and so on.

Graphics- wise, Tycoon City: New York is above average for its genre. The developers seem to have done a great job recreating New York city with regards to size, road layout, landmarks, and general buildings. This is great and all, but there’s rarely any reason at all to mingle with the people and the shops, and that’s a shame. Texturing is fairly varied and nice, but you won’t see the most impressive locales until you’ve played for quite a few hours. The cinematic sequences are also a nice touch, as they not only add humor, but also show you the city from ground level. The animations are very good, something I truly did not expect from a tycoon game where you have loads of characters on screen at once.

I’d like to heed a fair warning though, having played through the game at 1280x1024, there were times when the game used as much as 630MB of RAM. At first, it didn’t use too much, but it does increase quickly as you unlock new areas. With 512MB of RAM, I wouldn’t play the game at too high a resolution. At least it makes sure only to render areas that are visible to you, so performance, for the most part, is rather good.

In terms of sound, there aren’t too many surprises here, but fortunately, there’s a few good ones. Most of the time, you’ll only be listening to the sounds of the city, the traffic, and the people, but when you’re at street level, and in particular, close to certain stores, you’ll hear appropriate music, but actual songs are saved for concerts.

So what is wrong with the game? Unfortunately, some pretty fundamental things. If a tycoon game is both predictable and repetitive, you’re not likely to get much entertainment out of it, but in this game, you can’t actually lose any money. You can, of course, spend every dime you have, but it’s always just a matter of waiting until you have enough cash again. There are no disasters, you can buy buildings owned by other tycoons, or the city itself, but they can’t buy any of yours. Sure, it’s not positive if the game “ruins” things for you, but I think you can see my point. There is simply no skill involved in playing this game. It requires no sense, strategy or financial planning.

And what’s worse is the way you actually progress in the game. To finish this title, you have to unlock all the areas and to do that, you have to fill virtually every nook and cranny of land with structures. It’s not that much fun when you feel done with a district and have to build ‘stuff’ just to fill in some remaining holes.

To get to the point where you own “everything” in an area, you have to click a building, go to financial info, click the buy button, and in some cases, do some upgrades. This doesn’t take extremely long, but remember, there are a lot and I mean A LOT of buildings in New York. Unless you’re really motivated, you’re likely to get rather bored, rather quickly. Fortunately, the game comes with a number of filters that’ll show you things like ownership (your buildings are yellow and those you don’t own are grey), profit, tourism, entertainment, and a few others. I played most of the game with the ownership filter enabled, which I assume most people will also do. It’s really the only way to buy everything without going completely mad. To be honest, the game feels a bit like a mix of whack-a-mole (opponents build new buildings and you have to buy them all), and something where you’re sorting a huge amount of pebbles according to size – you don’t know why you’re doing it and it’s taking you a lot of time, but it feels bizarrely pleasing once you’re done.

Aside from the main mode where you’re working with objectives, there’s also a sandbox mode, where the landmarks are already built and you only have to worry about covering the city with buildings. This obviously gives you a lot of freedom, and might even be better if you just wish to customize everything as you see fit.

As you may’ve gathered by now, this game is rather disappointing. Some people will probably find it very enjoyable, and by all means, the graphics and audio are perfectly adequate, but the gameplay is very poor once you’ve played it for a couple of hours and realize that you will be doing practically the same thing over and over again.