Tycoon City: New York
As a Rule of thumb, games with the word 'Tycoon' in them are about as welcome as gout around here. Airport Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, Tycoon Tycoon... All summarily dismissed with a weary shrug and tossed into the landfill site tliat is tlie shit games pile.
However, when said game comes from a developer with the calibre of genrespecialist Deep Red, we're prepared to listen. We're even prepared to get on a train and travel to the company's rural home on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. And in a staggering break with tradition, we even offered to put in an hour's work helping out with the development of the game. For free. And when I say we, I of course mean nie. Thanks a lot everybody.
First things first though, what's it all about? Have another look at the title and see if you can hazard a guess. Well done, have a peanut. Yes, it's a Tycoon game set in the city of New York. Tliat alone would be an interesting enough concept, but there's a lot more to TC: NY than selling amphetamine-strength coffee and foot-high pastrami-on-rye sandwiches.
Beginning in Greenwich Village, the idea is to start fom scratch and build New York from theground up. When we say New York, we mean Manhattan Island. When we say Manhattan Island, we mean a simplified 'computer game' version of it -this isn't Google Earth by any means. There's plenty to be getting on with though with over 100 types of business to build and 12 distinct districts. Plus, if you're ever in doubt as to what city you're in, you can knock up over 50 landmarks, including sucl instantly recognisable icons as the Statue Of Liberty and the Empire State Building.
So why aren't the surrounding pages littered with dramatic screenshots of such famous landmarks? Because we're not allowed to show them to you. That's right. In what may rank as one of the most cock-and-arse situations we've ever encountered, it's been explained to us that the city of New York will not allow representations of its buildings to be used to promote or market a product, namely this game. Which is of course an absolute absurdity. What about the countless films that are set in New York? Have they never featured a building on the promotional poster? Of course they have. What about Planet Of Tlie Apes, with the shattered Statue Of Liberty jutting plaintively from the sand? That's seemingly OK, yet a computer-rendered image of an intact statue is effectively censored.
I was actually at the Statue Of Liberty a couple of months ago and took some photos. What if I were to print one of those photos in this magazine with the caption 'This looks just like Tycoon City: New York? Would I be arrested? Or what if, while playing the game at Deep Red, I'd accidentally leant on the Printscreen key and in the confusion emailed a screenshot to PC. No judge in the land would even waste their time with it And of course, as soon as we get our hands on early code we'll be taking shots of every landmark you can think of. With the exception of the Trump Tower, that is, as the elaborately-coiffed Donald Trump apparently wanted in the region of a billion dollars just for it to appear in the game.
New York, New York
Anyway, to get back to the original point, the game is chock-full of New York stuff, a mildly impressive feat given that it's being developed in a converted stables off a roundabout near Milton Keynes. As Deep Red development director, Paul Howarth explains: "That's one of the issues we had. We were building Milton Keynes, in terms of some of the architecture. This is where we live."
In order to prevent such an abomination, the artists were packed off to New York (twice), with a pocket full of bollocks and a wallet full of cash, and presumably a couple of digital cameras. As such, the Deep Red studio is plastered with photographs of the city, not just of the obvious stuff, but also close-ups of brickwork and so forth, much of which has permeated into the game.
As such, the various districts should look markedly different from each other. So Greenwich Village will be a bit bohemian, Harlem will have a more urban feel, and the Upper West Side - which is probably where those sloshpots from Sex And The City live - will be a little more upmarket, with brownstone buildings galore. In addition to the numerous generic business outlets, the game I is also set to feature some actual shops, including the NBA store, the Virgin Megastore and the Toys R Us on Times Square. Adding to the authenticity, this is arguably a rare example of third-party branding enhancing the realism rather than detracting from it. A huge part of the New York experience is the people, a babbling mass of hurried humanity wolfing down pizzas and barking tersely at anyone who gets in their way. This has been replicated in tie game to an extent, with an estimated 56,000 citizens wandering the streets search if somewhere to spend their loney. With a functioning subway system, they'll appear and disappear into the ground, or of course jump into one of the city's many yellow cabs.
Each citizen can be targeted individually, and in traditional fashion you can read their various needs and desires and even follow them around as they go about their daily business.
Just Like Hackney
We've done exactly that in the course of playing out the opening part of the game. Beginning, as promised, in Greenwich Village, it's a fairly bleak area, populated largely by drug addicts, the infirm and students. A cut-scene confirms the latter, with a pair of brats on a street corner bemoaning the lack of facilities, such as a cheap bar, an Internet cafe and somewhere for art students to buy materials.
Clicking on an area of scrubland, a list of buildings is offered, and once you've decided wliat you want it springs up within seconds. This is where it gets interesting though, as you're then offered a selection of upgrades, which allow you to personalise your building, and also to increase its all-important Sphere Of Influence.
Say, for example, you've built a hairdressers, but you're scarcely doing enough trade to pay for the old Doris in the comer to sweep up the hair clippings. Try sticking a massive neon sign outside and you'll be tlie next Trevor Sorbie.
Likewise, if your mobile phone shop is struggling, why not pay a couple of goons to dress up as man-size cell phones and perform a jig on tlie sidewalk - the punters will be flooding in. It's this kind of fun aspect that looks like elevating TC: NY away from the micro-management-obsessed titles tliat blight the genre, as ultimately the game mainly revolves around simply dicking about with the city.
Fun Fun Fun
Sure, there are missions in the form of 'Opportunities,' such as building some statues in a particular park. Or you could try to get to the top of tlie 'Rich List' if that appeals, but it's all fairly low-adrenalin stuff. And of course, the sandbox mode is completely freeform.
As Paul Howarth claims: "It's not a hard game. It's about having fun, building a world, playing with it It's not about makinc things tough for the player, it's just about letting you build New York at your speed." Much of the reward of playing the game seems to come in the fonn of graphical discovery, which can take many forms. Tlie landmarks themselves are an obvious one, as they can only be built once you've earnet enough Landmark Bonds. But there are also other minor treats, such as bespoke street parades. So, Chinatown will play host to those nutters in dragon suits and Greenwich Village will have a ticker tape parade. Once all 12 districts have been opened up, the game eventually finishes with the traditional Times Square New Year celebrations. Tliat should take about 30-40 hours, but Deep Red reckons a large number of punters will be content to simply dabble with the sandbox mode.
Happy to admit that the game occupies a similar space to The Sims, Howarth says: "I think we forget tliat there's not that many hardcore gamers in the world. We're trying to build a game that appeals to the average person. I want the person who watches EastEnders to play it There was a phrase we had early on: T don't play games, but I'd play that'."
Well, we play games but we don't watch EastEnders. Hollyoaks at a push. But from what we've seen, we'd still have a dabble with TC: NY. Particularly the excellent Hints & Tips section, which were expertly crafted by yours truly (see 'Will Work For Coke (Diet)', above). Not a deal breaker.
Give a little respect
Ground Zero handled in sensitive fashion
When developing a game that recreates the major structures of New York in detail, the question of what to do with the gaping hole where the Twin Towers once stood is obviously a pertinent one. In reality, Ground Zero is a bleak fenced-off scar in the heart of the financial district inhabited by a teeming mass of hawkers and gawpers.
What to do with the area in Tycoon City: New York was obviously discussed in some depth at Deep Red. At one point there was even a consideration of being able to rebuild the original towers in all their former glory. A further idea was to construct the beams of light that were discussed in the aftermath of the tragedy. Ultimately though, Deep Red decided not to make a song and dance of it and the Landmark Building that you can build in the area is a simple memorial garden.
Download Tycoon City: New York
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode