IGN Review of Tycoon City: New York
Few games from its era have stood the test of time as well as Mattel's 1981 Intellivision classic, Utopia, arguably the godfather of all strategy/civilization titles to follow. Like Utopia and so many of its successors during the past twenty-five years, Atari's Tycoon City: New York asks you to plan, establish, and manage the welfare of an entire populace. It does not, however, kick you to the curb if you fail. Nor does it compel you to build a society from the ground up, adhere to a stringent set of rules, or deal with complexities such as power, water, or road construction. Yet if serious competition and authenticity aren't critical and if you prefer working in a relaxed environment and from a predetermined infrastructure, Tycoon City can be quite entertaining for the short term. It certainly looks fantastic, no small feat in a game this jam-packed with visual details.
As the title suggests, the game deals exclusively with the hamlet of New York, New York. You'll start by exerting your godlike power in the artist/musician/hippy/stoner berg of Greenwich Village, which in the beginning comprises just a few buildings and acre upon acre of deserted parks and barren land, You'll then move through eleven more Big Apple suburbs until you've created an entire urban jungle of deliriously upbeat citizens.
And make no mistakethey will ultimately be upbeat. The game is designed in a forgiving manner that lets you take pretty much any route you want as long as you keep building and developing, and it doesn't punish you severely for making wrong decisions. In any case, you'll never lose everything you have and you won't end up on skid row. In this way, Tycoon City clearly appeals less to hardcore entrepreneurs than newcomers to the tycoon biz.
The first place that newcomer will go is the game's brief tutorial, though the concept and interfaces are so easily grasped that such a tutorial is probably unnecessary. Following that, they can choose either "Sandbox" modewherein virtually no parameters or conquests existor move straight on to "Build New York." As even the latter mode is comparatively cushy, all but the youngest or most unsure will want to start there.
You'll open with $500,000 in your pocket, a princely sum indeed considering a measly $20,000 will somehow buy you a clothing store or a pub in this strangely affordable virtual version of New York. By clicking on any of the various residential buildings already in place, you'll bring up a menu system that offers comprehensive accounts of each tenants' current level of happiness or dissatisfaction. Flip the menu page and you'll see a collection of bar graphs describing precisely what you need to do in order to make them happier.
Whether you build additional accommodations, a disco, or a locksmith shop is completely up to you. Granted, you'll want to place amenities where their "sphere of influence" (represented by a handy-dandy shaded circle) impacts the greatest number of residents. And you certainly seem to get more bang for the buck by creating distinct nightlife or shopping zones. But the game plays out as if you could have handled things in one of several ways to achieve the same result.
You'll undoubtedly spend a good deal of time with the game's upgrade menu. Here you'll turn bland eateries into compelling, profitable eateries by adding items such as additional seating, vegetation, menu boards, various degrees of signage, and perhaps even an extra waitress. Yet it seems to be a guessing game whether a given upgrade is really superior to another. A row of potted plants versus a dancing mascot? Who knows. We remember enhancing a park with desirable perks such as a playground, a pricey pool, a wandering minstrel, and a barbecue pit, only to discover the occupants of the apartment building directly across the street still cried out for more "activities." Sheesh, talk about hard to please.
You are not, however, allowed to upgrade the interiors of any of your structures. In fact, the game doesn't even allow you to see inside most of the buildings you construct, never mind walk around and explore. In this way, Tycoon City certainly differs from the see-thru wall designs of its peers such as The Sims or Vega$ Tycoon.
One of your most critical moves is to satisfy the various "opportunities" the game throws your way. In these instances, you're asked to perform a specific series of tasks, often within an allotted time frame, in order to receive the go-ahead for adding a key element to a given neighborhood. You'll need to complete these opportunities in order to move onward, and you'll want to complete them because they're generally quite interesting.
As time goes by, your neighborhood will eventually become a very, very busy place. In the last few real time minutes of gameplay before a new neighborhood unlocks, the sidewalks near your shopping and nightlife districts fill with happy shoppers and partiers. Your roads overflow with traffic. Your egomaniacal brain will be bombarded with news reports heralding your business acumen and newfound wealth. Indeed, the ticker running across the bottom of the screen will flatter you even further. All this peripheral stuff really adds something to the game, though it grows a bit tired after you've seen it all several times over.
Fortunately, the level of challenge does ramp up as you move forward. You're never asked to build roads or power grids, and you'll never truly lose that feeling of invincibility, but your competing magnates will make their presence felt and you won't be able to please everyone as easily.
Considering its scope, Tycoon City is an extraordinarily pretty game. It really doesn't matter if you're gazing down on the proceedings from a mid-air "blimp" perspective, following the traffic along a busy street at pavement level, zooming up tight to your latest Internet caf? or office tower, or just cruising the crowded sidewalks checking out all the beautifully rendered babes (or dudes, if you're so inclined). The variety and quality of scenery and the attention to detail is nothing short of striking.
Dusk is a wonderful time to enjoy the New York world of Tycoon City developer Deep Red Games. At this time of day, the orange hues of the setting sun fill the skies and you can still get a good look at all you need to see, but the evening lights of the city are also on display. That flashing neon "Open" sign you just placed on the window of your French restaurant. The working head and tail lamps of the circulating automobiles. The softly glowing street lamps and high-rise windows, and even the underwater lights of outdoor swimming pools and decorative fountains.
The surrounding architecture is just as impressive. When you develop something even as basic as a low-rise tenement or comedy club, you can expect the full New York treatment. Ground level floors feature wooden fa?ades and protective bars on the windows. Upper floors sport outdoor metal stairwells. Of course, most buildings are made of intricate brickwork and many of the upper floor windows are trimmed with wood. Is it bizarre that a brand new building looks more like a relicalbeit an attractive relicfrom the sixties than modern construction? If you're a stickler for realism, yes, but if you're in it for the entertainment value, no.
We did have some quibbles. It's interesting, for example, how someone described as a "nostalgic grandmother" looks more like a crop-top-wearing, twenty-year-old hardbody than a grandma. Or that most of the game's women are just as revealingly garbed and hardbodied, and the vast majority of guys are similarly young and carefree. Moreover, none of the citizens lead what might be called normal lifestyles. Though they look quite believable walking down the street, taking a table at one of your restaurants or gathering en masse to watch a juggler juggle or a busker busk, they become rather peculiar when studied for more than a few seconds.
They'll enter buildings then leave just a moment later. They'll engage in circuitous little loops that lead to nowhere. And they'll fill the streets just as much at 4:00 AM as they do at 4:00 PM. In fairness, it would be a lot to expect a game to model the authentic behavior of every occupant of a city, so many of these indiscretions can be forgiven.
It's also important to remember that because virtually all you see and do is confined to the outdoor world, the indoor world of Tycoon City is evident only through windows. And even then only in structures that permit glimpses inside such as coffee shops and retail stores.
Working hand in hand with the game's superior visual presentation is a snappy audio engine. You'll hear nothing but the whistling wind when you take a long-range aerial look at your current neighborhood, whereas you'll experience a hip-hop beat outside your trendy clothing store, the clink of drinking glasses and the sound of laughter outside a bar or club, and the melodious strains of bow against strings when you get up close and personal with a hired violinist. Turn or move to your right or left, and the sound in question shifts across the stereo path accordingly.
And man, can those New Yorkers talk or what? Sadly, they don't always make senseoften criticizing a business that's breaking sales records while championing a statistically bad businessso you needn't always take their commentary to heart.
Navigation through the world of Tycoon City is generally smooth. Certainly the free-floating camera is a nice perk, and you can seemingly always summon a list or menu or some such thing to get you immediately where you want to go or to what you need to see. Yet the game isn't always as trouble-free as it should be. We were involuntarily sent back to our desktop on a couple of occasions, and we noticed that some menus tended to "stick" behind the translucent backdrop of others, thereby needlessly confusing the issue.
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