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Mall of America Tycoon looks great when you read the colorful box. It says you are in charge of "the largest and most famous shopping center in the world." It says that you get to design "Camp Snoopy" It says you can click on people to "see how you can serve them better." The game looks real promising. That is, until you play it.
One of the reasons I was anxious to get the game was to build and design Camp Snoopy. I love amusement rides and venues and was anxious to see what Mall of America had to offer. Well, if you like having no control over an amusement park, then this game is definitely for you. Camp Snoopy allows you to select what "attractions" you want in the park. The computer then places it for you. You have no control over where a ride goes. Then you find out that you make no money from Camp Snoopy; yet you are charged large upkeep expenses for it. The rides sit stale - nothing fun to watch and you have no options to ride either. In fact, the very poorly designed online manual states that the purpose of Camp Snoopy is to bring more customers into your mall. That's it!
And speaking of your mall. Perhaps the creators of the game forgot to visit Mall of America before designing the game. One thing you have to put into your mall to keep people happy is grocery stores, something that doesn't exist in the real Mall of America! Furthermore, you can only select from a few stores at a time; the computer randomly displays a small number of different stores you can put into your mall at one time. You can't select the size of the store; it's predetermined. And you don't know how big the store is until you select it to place. The controls for the game are terrible. The tutorials aren't interactive and when you're in a game there is no "menu" for saving. You have to press the ESC key to get there - something not explained until you do some digging.
And speaking of bad controls, you don't have the option of zooming in or zooming out of your mall. And remember how the box says to click on people to see how you can serve them better? Well no box comes up when you click a person. In the bottom menu bar you simply get a small icon of the person's face and a small bar chart with colors that represent their "needs". Start memorizing what the colors mean!
When the game starts, you are allowed to work only on one section of the mall. As you complete a section a new one opens up. Working with the stores can be aggravating. The game requires you to have a "balance" of stores, but you don't have a list to tell you exactly what type of stores you need to add to bring the balance to 100%. And out of the blue some store owners will just move out. There's no warning that they are unhappy and no notice as to what you can do to keep them.
And speaking of people, one of your jobs is to hire a staff like security, engineers, gardners, and cleaners. You can't manage your staff at all, though. There's no individual screens for each staff member, no names, and no way to set where they will patrol. They just wander around until something "comes up". There's no staff facilities, but they are happy to wander into stores and look around.
Wandering guests seems to be the only "entertainment" in this game. The rides in Camp Snoopy don't even operate, so there's nothing to watch there! And that's the inhering problem with Mall of America Tycoon - there's nothing interesting to watch.
And you may experience some frustrating bugs while playing too. I spent hours on the game to prep for this review. After finding the hidden menu to save and saving it, I found that I couldn't load the game again - my computer (state of the art) simply crashed.
Mall of America Tycoon is a wreck, like some of AcTiVision's other Tycoon games, with maybe one exceptions (SeaWorld Tycoon 2). After you buy and play a game like this, you may be looking at the box of future Tycoon games to make sure it doesn't say AcTiVision before purchasing.
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