Summer Overlord: Tycoon City: New York

Waiting patiently for his final year at college, Declan is in the midst of a four-month summer holiday. He is quite bored. Unemployed and at home, to stave off insanity, he is playing through fifteen management/tycoon games from the last decade in a series of articles in which he will attempt to become the ultimate Summer Overlord, master of routine and efficiency and pro hirer of vomit-sweeping janitors. Join him every Saturday on a journey which will take you through some of the best and the worst that the obscure genre has to offer.

* * *

So much promise.

The Big, Rotten, Soggy, Worm-Infested Apple

Dull, dull and dull: Those are the three words I use to describe Tycoon City: New York. In fact, immensely dull is more suitable. Infinitely dull, perhaps. In fact, I’m fairly sure that as soon as I started playing this Big Apple business-‘em-up, I had a sort of dullness-induced aneurysm which led me to lapse into a coma that I have scarcely recovered from. So, Tycoon City should not only come with a grey “Caution: Dull game” sticker affixed to the box (which I’m surprised is not simply white Times New Roman print on black), but also a health warning.

As if I were being cruelly punished by a god or receiving a ten-thousand-ton freight train of bad karma to the face, Tycoon City: New York was designed, coded and coloured in by the same folks who made me suffer through Beach Life, that accursed party-island building sim which stands as a testament to everything that is rubbish about management games and nearly compelled me to put my head in an oven. I get hypertension just thinking about it. But bloody hell, Deep Red Studios, what is it with you guys? How do you consistently make such insipid computer games? Indeed, that is the most bizarre thing about it. Tycoon City, like Beach Life, isn’t a terrible game, nor is it broken or buggy; it is simply so incredibly mediocre and so immeasurably boring that it actually makes me want to let out a horrible, primal scream and spasmodically flail my limbs about.

Capital of the World indeed.

In fact, with Tycoon City, Beach Life and two of their other exotic management titles in mind, I’ve developed a theory about how the studio works, or rather what it wants. It wants holidays. Lots and lots of holidays. The lead designers suggest a title with a setting very far away from their dingy Milton Keynes headquarters (like Ibiza or indeed, New York), everyone gets awfully excited, books their seats on a British Airways 747 and then jets off for principal photography where they can sightsee, take pictures of buildings and pretend to work. Of course, reality bites when they return home to sit in front of a computer screen for a year or two, but a fortnight in the Four Seasons makes it all worth it.

Yes, I’ll admit it, I am packing this week’s Summer Overlord with debatably humorous filler to avoid talking about the actual subject matter. It wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, if I could wax philosophical on the virtues of a cold-water shave or a  brisk morning walk before breakfast, I would, but alas, the powers that be here at BnB keep me in this windowless dungeon and feed me the bones of children, so I am essentially forced to write about these damned management games every Saturday. Besides, I couldn’t possibly spoil what is no doubt a very important weekend event for many millions of chirpy-faced families across the planet.

Deep breaths. Here goes.

Tycoon City: New York tasks you, a budding mayor in possession of fathomless patience, with building an NYC business empire from the ground up. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Well, goodbye!

Gasp! I can barely contain myself!

I Don’t Want to Be a Part of It, Thank You

Aieee! Unhand me, you monsters! Fine, fine, I’ll write the damned article. There are two modes in this fantastic game: the first, “Build New York”, let’s you do precisely that, albeit with all but one city district locked from the start; the second is a sandbox mode which gives you the entirety of Manhattan from the off, a tempting lure for the creative sort, but one that rapidly loses its charm when you realise hand-placing every single building in a city will take about four centuries, a great deal of time I’m sure you’ll agree, time probably best spent on more constructive things like cake baking or arguing on the internet.

Be not charmed by Tycoon City's visuals, for she is a most conniving temptress.

Because probably three people globally played the sandbox to any great extent, or indeed Tycoon City, I feel the real reflection should be on its main “career” of sorts. Starting in Greenwich Village (which the game leads me to believe is populated exclusively by potheads), you begin your path to mayoral enlightenment by accepting “opportunities” from the locals, all of whom get their own cute and hilarious unskippable cutscenes! “Yo dude, how about a place where I can buy some cool new clothes? Yo, how about a place where I can party?” Yo “man”, how about I put a Glock to your head? I’m sorry, I’m over-reacting, but I’m not sure why my dear friends at Deep Red included this; perhaps it was a last-ditch attempt at administering CPR to a lifeless game? Anyway, because you are, after all, a curious monkey, you build your virtual friend a “street clothes” shop and a nightclub on a plot of empty land, then cheer very enthusiastically as your hard work is rewarded with upgrade credits and landmark bonds (which can be used to build the likes of the Empire State Building and friends). Exhilarated? Good! This is what you will be doing for the rest of the game.

There are some curious design novelties in Tycoon City. Strangely for a management game, your businesses’ finances cannot be tweaked manually; instead, you spend these odd “upgrade credits” on physical additions to your supermarkets and your cafés’ shopfronts, like signs, potted plants, extra seating, mascots and so on. The idea is that these increase your business’ appeal, attracting patrons from further afield and encouraging them to spend more. Build a row of businesses and their combined spheres of influence will grow as each one boosts its neighbour’s.

I usually spent my plentiful upgrade credits arbitrarily prettifying my shops and apartment blocks as opposed to adhering to any sort of management strategy. Truth be told, Tycoon City is really rather easy. In fact, within half an hour, I had already made it to New York’s top ten rich list, and that was before I’d laundered any money on Wall St. (Ho ho, you little rascal, Declan, with your tired current-affairs jokes.) The sad thing is that I tend to love games that give me lots of money so I can build without pressure and pretend that I am disgustingly wealthy in real life, but in Tycoon City, there’s very little impetus. Though completed opportunities unlock more buildings (and there’s a huge variety) and go towards poofing into existence new districts like Little Italy, Midtown and Chelsea,  you will most likely already be in an eternal slumber.

I've never been to New York, but it surely can't be as boring as Deep Red makes it.

Save or Delete?

Look, I don’t like Tycoon City, okay? In fact, I’m really quite bothered you made me write about it. I won’t lament “potential” because I find myself doing that far too often; developers simply need to stop making slapdash games. All that, and I’m in a bad mood.

So, you get it: Tycoon City is as boring as a black-and-white documentary on the Swedish paperclip industry, teeth-grindingly repetitive and just generally quite bluuugh! Though I will concede its very handsome good looks, I am afraid its smile and pretty face do nothing to deter my sentence of interminable condemnation to the doldrums of hell; there, it shall wither and weep bitterly. My lords and ladies, thank you and goodnight.

<- Last week: Startopia                                                                                               Next week: RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 ->

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