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Tycoon City: New York Review
by Joe Tracy, Publisher of NEWSdial.com

Rating: 7/10

Tycoon City: New York is the equivalent of watching your favorite baseball player try to steal home plate, with a tie game and two outs in the ninth, only to get thrown out. There's a lot of initial excitement then suddenly, "game over". Tycoon City: New York showed a lot of promise when it hit store shelves in early 2006. Initially it looks like the game scores a home run, but after a few hours you ask the ultimate question that tycoon gamers should never have to ask: "Where's the challenge?" And as you are aware, any game without challenge is a strike out.

After installing Tycoon City: New York and starting it up, you're asked to enter your name. I was tempted to enter "Donald Trump" but opted for "Joe Tracy" instead as I wanted to feel that in fantasy land, I can give Donald Trump a run for his money. Once you enter your name, you can select a picture to represent you or upload your own picture into the game (nice touch). So far so good. You're then presented with the option to Build New York or enter into Sandbox mode. If building New York was any bit of a challenge, then Sandbox mode would be welcome. However, in the case of Tycoon City: New York, it is virtually impossible to lose the game, even if you just build the same fast food place over and over and over and over. When a game gets too repetitive, the challenge and fun quickly disappear.

The elements involved in the playing of Tycoon City: New York are as follows:

1) Build buildings and upgrade them (this is where the game gets redundant as you do this hundreds and hundreds of times.).

2) Earn Landmark Bonds from completing tasks and use those Bonds to build major New York landmarks like the Statue of Liberty.

3) Earn Upgrade Points to be able to continue upgrading your properties.

4) Build enough businesses of a particular type in order to build Chains, which allows you to build skyscraper headquarters in New York.

Where Tycoon City: New York shines is in the graphics and you get the first taste of this after you click "Build New York" and accept the tutorial. The camera zooms in on a Row House right onto a man named Luco. Luco talks you through the process of playing in a well designed, interesting, and personable tutorial. From there you get to start building to meet the needs of New Yorkers. At first this process is extremely fun, although your upgrade abilities are limited. Soon, however, the process becomes extremely tedious. Build. Upgrade. Build. Upgrade. Build. Upgrade. The only thing keeping you from going crazy are Opportunities that usually present you with something new to do (like build a stage in Washington Park for a Punk concert that you get to watch when successful). The Opportunities keep you from pulling your hair out, except when you get one that says "find a female artist and click on her." Soon you find yourself fast clicking on tons of people coming out of the subway until the game says you succeeded. Worse, there was no purpose for you clicking on her.

New York is split into districts. You start by simply building Greenwich Village. Once you've built most of it, you get another district and so forth. The problem with the game is that some of these districts are huge and when you've completed the Opportunities (because you're bored of Build, Upgrade, Build, Upgrade, etc.) you still have to fill in the majority of open land before a new district will open to you. And after you complete the first three districts and get to ones three times the size of the ones you've been playing (like East Village), you quickly become both bored and frustrated.

What does work well with the game, however, is the opportunity to build out a parade route then watch a parade (like the Chinese New Year parade, Greenwich Village Halloween march, or Tickertape Parade in your honor). Also great is when the game has you tackle a task like taking a no name group and getting them booked in Washington Square where they become popular and you get to watch them perform. The news casts add definite interest to the game when you accomplish major goals. TC24 newscaster Darlene Delaney provides live TV reports, but the game gives you a view of this reporter's life just before and after the camera rolls. My favorite is at Chelsea Piers when the cameraman is feeling "ill" from eating day-old Sushi. When the report on Chelsea Piers ends, Darlene comments to the cameraman that he is foaming at the mouth and tells him that he "looks like a Yankee fan after a Yankees loss to the Red Sox." In addition, some businesses (very few), like the Super Car Showroom, allow you to upgrade the inside, which is a nice change from the hundreds of continual outside upgrades you are doing.

Are these additional interest elements enough to overcome the whole gameplay issue? Unfortunately, no. But if the gameplay was drastically improved, then these elements would make the game much more enjoyable.

I think Atari was surprised by the lukewarm welcome Tycoon City: New York received when it was released. As someone who covers the Tycoon game industry regularly, I can speak as to the problems of grabbing initial interest:

1) The theme is "build New York". With tycoon games, gamers like to build their own empires the way they want to and not be limited in their ability to build and expand that empire.

2) Gameplay and challenge is of the utmost importance to tycoon gamers. Real tycoons did not make it to the top without any challenge and tycoon games need to reflect the hardships and rewards of the entrepreneur experience.

3) Producing a game that has no accounting for expenses is bound to fail when put into the hands of tycoon gamers. For example, I can hire a waitress for my French restaurant, but I don't have to pay for her. My only expense is buying the building. From there it is pure profit which equals pure dissatisfaction (unless this is how real life operated. Then we'd all be millionaires).

Here's what I would have done to make Tycoon City: New York the success it could have been:

1) Instead of allowing the user to buy any business he/she wants, only allow them to get businesses that are "for sale" (for sale signs can even appear on such businesses). Then when showing an interest in buying it, sometimes have it so that another competitor is interested too, thus starting a "bidding war".

2) Allow more options in regards to "employee management" like training of employees for better performance.

3) Make it so that businesses can "fail" and the person can lose money. This makes it so that the user has to carefully select and manage what he/she builds and where the business is put.

4) Allow for the development of Coney Island, complete with amusement park rides. One of the things that makes Roller Coaster Tycoon so successful is that you are not just staring at stiff buildings. You are watching the land you create come to life with activity, wonder, and excitement.

5) Allow advertising. For example, my helicopter pad took forever to pull in the 200 required guests to complete the mission (I even built hotels near it to increase the attraction). Allow businesses to buy TV, radio, and newspaper advertisements in order to increase business.

6) Instead of "Upgrade Points" simply charge money for "Landscaping Upgrades" along with monthly fees to maintain them.

7) Avoid too much repetition by allowing a user to develop a chain of stores that are placed throughout the city by hand (or by computer) which can be all upgraded equally at the same time (by selecting upgrades from the HQ that is applied to all franchise stores). This helps alleviate the pain of building so many individual stores and applying endless number of upgrades to each one.

8) Allow the user to develop his/her own home in New York. But make it expandable. Every time the user reaches certain financial or development goals, he/she can add an element (additional floor, Penthouse, pool, etc.) to his home. One thing that makes the Suikoden series on Playstation 2 so popular is the user gets to build his castle and expand it as the game goes on. This highly personalizes the experience and increases the reward factor to make it more enjoyable. Make the home someplace the gamer can escape to with additional things to do there in order to pass the time. Consider this - building stores to unleash more upgrade points and landmark bonds is boring. Building stores to unleash more additions to your mansion and land is more exciting and enticing.

9) Create a more personalized and rewarding ending (see final paragraph of this review).

In conclusion, Tycoon City: New York is a game that had and has a lot of potential. The fun factor and replay value are very low, but the graphics and some in-game concepts (news broadcasts, opportunities, graphics) hit the mark. With some tweaks and a better focus on gameplay, this could be a dominate Tycoon series in the marketplace. As such we give Tycoon City: New York a review rating of 7 out of 10.


Sidenotes:

» The developers built a memorial at the site of the World Trade Center. It is simplistic, honorable, and you have no control to change it.

» Even though I completed every single Opportunity, I was still 95 landmark bonds short in order to build all the New York landmarks. Apparently you must also get a population of more than 50,000 and over $30 million to get all the remaining Bond Points. But the game can end before you accomplish this. My game ended with a population of 41,000 New Yorkers and I had over $318 million (yes, million) dollars.


Pros:

» Excellent graphics.
» Nice tutorial.
» Ability to view parades, music concerts, etc. when completing goals.
» TC24 News reports - fun to watch when you make major accomplishments.
» Chelsea Piers is fun to develop because you get amusements versus "buildings". Same goes for Central Park and the hot air balloons.
» Ability to "move" stores (horizontally) without penalty.

» The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is extremely well done and an absolute delight to watch. The team did a great job with it.

Cons:
» No printed manual (this is unforgivable in any game selling for $39.99 or more).
» No challenge. Too easy.
» No replay value. Once you've done it, you won't want to do it again. And after a few hours you may not even want to continue doing it the first time.
» No micromanagement. You can build a store, but not set the prices.

» No ability to upload bug fixes from within the game. You've got to search for them online and manually download them (shame on Atari for this).
» Lots of bugs in original version (game crashes, icons not showing, elements being built on skyscrapers not showing up, texture errors where pictures are supposed to be, etc.)

One final note, the "ending" of Tycoon City: New York is not nearly as personalized, long, or rewarding as it should be. Perhaps they should have saved the parade in your honor until the end and then had a fireworks show in your honor at the site of the Statue of Liberty.

» Tycoon City: New York Tips and Strategies

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