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Tycoon City: New York

Coincidentally, I just returned from a week long vacation in New York City to find Tycoon City: New York stuffed in my mailbox. It's interesting to have a point of reference for comparing the real experience to the simulation that the developer, Deep Red Games, has created. Simply put, Tycoon City: NY is a strategic jaunt at rebuilding the high priced borough of Manhattan, one neighborhood at a time. This game focuses on management of profitable businesses and improving quality of life for the residents rather than building a city from the ground up like in the Sim City series.

The game begins in the low rent, student populated Greenwich Village where a stereotypical New Yorker launches into a heavily accented speech on how to play the game. These mini cut-scenes are sparsely populated throughout each neighborhood and are usually triggered to provide hints on what to build next. Tycoon City does a fairly decent job acclimating the player to the intricacies of building a successful city. Beyond Greenwich, you will progress through several neighborhoods in order to become the ultimate property owner in the Big Apple.

As mentioned earlier, the primary objective is to continue build and develop new property throughout the city. When choosing a structure to create, it's wise to check out what nearby people are craving by clicking on them. After surveying a large amount of folks, you should have a good idea what business is most likely to be most profitable in the area. Unfortunately, the game is far too forgiving if you make a poor choice. Hypothetically, you could build ten coffee shops side by side and they would all be slightly profitable. There should be a far more stringent penalty for uninformed building choices.

In order to maximize a building's return on your investment, there is an upgrade system in place to increase three factors: Satisfaction, Beauty, and Appeal. Many times, an upgrade for one area will also influence another section. For instance, shrubs and trees will raise the Beauty level, but also the two other categories ever so slightly. Upgrades are not purchased through your stack of cash, but through a point system. Each structure has an allotted amount of points that can be used to maximize value. Points are awarded for purchasing property as well as completing the impromptu game tasks that appear sporadically.

The "opportunities" usually have to do with achieving preset goals involving monetary gain or overall success. For instance, a task in Soho was to build a bookstore, create an advertisement book table in front of the store to promote a certain author, and sell $500 worth of said author's book. After completion of the latest task, a new task will appear. These tasks accelerate the process of production within a neighborhood and ultimately unlock the next neighborhood upon completion. In addition, tasks will unlock certain key events such as the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village.

In addition to the building/upgrade tools, there are also two other toolbars on the screen that play a minor role in your rise to the top. One toolbar has a selection of preset filters such as profitability. These filters will provide a slight help when deciding where to place a new business or when it's time to sell a failing one. The other toolbar offers a collection of statistics. The most helpful is a wealth comparison between the various moguls in the city. While these A.I. driven multimillionaires will be competing for property around you, they will not be much of a threat until the late stages of the game. Competing with the top three on that list can be aggravating, especially when attempting to manage an entire city.

Visually, the game is incredibly stunning considering the enormous scope of the city. The scenic skyline of a freshly built neighborhood is delightful, especially in the later evening when sunset occurs. At night, the city appears more at life due to the lovely lighting effects appearing on the street and in the surrounding buildings. In the daytime, you can marvel at the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired architecture that seems to be the prevalent theme in the design of the building textures. The character models for the people on the street are fairly varied when surveying the city. While many of their faces and body shapes are nearly identical, their clothing gives each resident a unique look and captures the hustle and bustle of the actual city.

Unfortunately, not everything is as beautiful as Times Square in the evening. Deep Red Games left out textures for several of the various upgrades to a business. For instance, several of my clubs have bouncers, but the texture for the bouncer is an ugly yellow block instead of a bulky muscle-head. Also, there are clipping issues prevalent when a section of the city becomes too popular. Packs of the city residents will wander around and appear to shake violently as if they are all having a collective seizure. These are minor annoyances, but they harm the overall experience.

For a basis of comparison, this game was silky smooth at 1600 by 1200 with my 9800 pro. The required specs for running the gorgeous graphics engine in Tycoon City are wonderfully forgiving.

Beyond the pounding music in the opening menu, the game is without a soundtrack during actual gameplay. Fortunately, the ambient noises of the city are far superior to any musical score that could have been included. Using the zoom control on the camera, the amount of typical city sound increases as the camera gets closer to street level. The sound effects range from idle chatter on the street, cars honking, and auditory eruptions emanating from the surrounding apartments and businesses. Also, clicking on a roving New Yorker will usually trigger a humorous response as a result of the interruption. Deep Red Games effectively captured the loud nature of New York City streets and incorporated directional effects impressively for players with a 5.1 sounds system.

How does it compare to the real thing? Tycoon City really seems far too clean to be representative of New York. There is no trash piled up on the street, no graffiti lining the walls, or any crazy bums littering the sidewalks. Also, there is no where near the amount of automobile traffic that populates the NYC streets. Tycoon City only illuminates the best qualities of the city and fails to capture the true chaos of the city. In many ways, it feels like an unfinished tech demo of a utopian metropolis rather than a strategy game based in a true-to-life NYC.

Honestly, there is nothing in this game that requires any strategy. Any decision you make will be profitable and without any major penalty. It's next to impossible to purposefully lose a campaign, only to increase your profits at a slower rate. The repetitive nature and the ultimate ease of the game simply eliminated any amount of entertainment the developer attempted to create. The hollow victory at the end of the lengthy campaign mode is unsatisfying and doesn't provide incentive to re-visit the game at a later date. I can only recommend this title for people entranced by the lure of New York City or those looking for an extremely basic intro into the vast library of strategy games available for the PC. Everyone else should look to the Sim City series for a challenging experience.