Sim City was the game that put Will Wright on the map. Most notably however, Wright is known for his work on the Sims, now the biggest selling gaming franchise in history. They say that imitation is the biggest form of flattery and Wright should feel pretty flattered recently with this game hitting the shelves. Tycoon City is really a simplified version of Sim City, however to place the game in this niche and only this niche would be grossly unfair as the game does bring a lot of originality to the table and is actually easier to succeed in, making it a better first step into the world of city and fiscal management.
Tycoon City is divided into two main game modes; sandbox and main challenge. The sandbox, as the name implies, places the player in a completely empty New York and tasks players with building the city as they see fit. This mode gives you complete freedom and access to everything right from the start. However, this mode can grow boring and does seem just a little too close to Sim City. Basically you build a city, manage it and watch it. If you like Sim City, this will appeal to you but for most gamers, the challenge mode is where the fun is to be had.
The challenge mode is one of the most interesting game modes to come out for quite sometime. Basically, you're tasked with building New York as it really stands today. Now there is some creative freedom, you are allowed to place things such as shops etc but landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building are placed by pre-determined positions. You begin with access to one region and as you build up a successful town, you are given access to further areas until after many hours of gameplay you can build and manage New York. However there is some help along the way.
Clicking on any building will give you a lot of information required to build a successful township. A bit like the Sims, the citizens of each town have needs and wants and it is these that you need to build to encourage people to move to your town. For instance, the first region you unlock has numerous university students so the focus is on entertainment and culture. The game also detects how you're building the city. For instance, if you build a number of shops in an area, the shopping centre becomes a mecca for consumers so just like real life you should plan your city quite well.
If this is sounding a little bit like Sim City, then you would be right, however there are a few major differences. First of all the fiscal management is much reduced in TCNY. You have to manage money to build things of course and turn a profit but you're not the mayor, you're a tycoon so you don't care about electricity, water, public transport and can completely focus on building a business empire. In many ways this is TCNY's down fall. While it starts off strong and interesting, it can become a little boring without the additional things Sim City has. It's quite interesting that most people complain about the complexity of Sim City, but a game without it becomes quite boring after a while.
While there is no real fiscal management in the game, this does not mean you can go nuts. However it is also true it is almost impossible to lose a lot of money quickly. As long as you keep building, you will make money. The management comes from managing the reach and scope of stores. As you upgrade buildings their reach and scope improves allowing more visitors to be advertised to. So rather than managing electricity, you're managing the visibility of your businesses, which in reality is a lot more interesting than a bunch of power lines.
One of the downsides to the game is the fact you're restricted to a landform which mimics New York. It would have been nice if, despite the fact the game is based on New York, the developers could have included a sandbox mode that allows different configurations of land. However the cynic in us does somewhat assume that Atari want to make this a franchise and we will eventually see Tycoon City: San Francisco, Chicago, Paris etc. It does have the potential to become a franchise but the next game will have to be a little more fleshed out.
Visually the game is quite impressive. Depending on the specifications of the PC, you will see a huge level of detail and can zoom in and out of any point in the city. Scrolling right down to street level will show you bustling traffic and pedestrians going about their business but this hasn't been exploited as much as it could have been. You can't get word from 'the man on the street' on what they are thinking which could have definitely improved the game and made it a little easier to build what the people want. To improve the game Atari has included a number of real world brands for advertising but the cynic in us again thinks that this probably helped pay for the game. It's not that intrusive so it's not a huge problem, and to be honest does add more realism to the city.
Tycoon City: New York is an interesting experiment from Atari and really is the first game to take it to the behemoth Sim City franchise. While it is no Sim City, the simplified interface and game mechanics will appeal to some, but it also remains the game's biggest downfall. A little more variety could have had this one a real winner but as it stands it is only for the city management crowd in terms of must buy.