At some point people are going to run out of ideas for tycoon games, but until then we’re going to continue to get odd titles, like Trailer Park Tycoon from Jaleco Entertainment. Now, I’ll say this for Trailer Park Tycoon: the premise has potential. Unlike some other tycoon games that put you in charge of airports or hotels -- things that might be difficult but not necessarily fun to control -- trailer parks have all sorts of trashy, humorous appeal. Unfortunately, Jaleco managed to capture none of it, and Trailer Park Tycoon is more a test of patience than anything else.
Trailer Park Tycoon has the two fundamental objectives of most tycoon games: making money and keeping people happy. You make money in the game by charging rent and by placing “amenities” (such as a “shootin’ gallery” or a “lackluster video” store) in the park, and you keep guests happy by decorating the park in a way they like and by making sure the amenities meet all their needs. In theory the two objectives work pretty well. Starting trailers are shabby and only allow you to charge so much rent, and so you have to decide if it’s better to add more trailers or upgrade the ones you have so you can gain more money. And Jaleco puts a funny spin on the decorations. They can either be “flashy” or “trashy,” “old school” or “cool.” So if residents want their part of the park to be flashy, you might put in a tree house, and if they want it to be old school, you might put in some flamingo lawn ornaments.
But the theory breaks down quickly once you play the game. Residents change their needs all the time. Trailer Park Tycoon isn’t one of those tycoon games where you build something, get it working how you want, and then move on. If residents want the park to be flashy, then as time goes by they’ll want it to be flashier and flashier. They’ll make up for this a little by also allowing you to charge them more rent, but it means you’ll endlessly have to check on your residents and change the decorations and rent prices. Even then it might be fine, except there isn’t any sort of information screen to help you out. The only way to check on the happiness, rent, and decoration needs for the residents is by clicking on their trailers. So once the park gets big enough, that’s all you’ll do -- click on a trailer, make adjustments, move on to the next trailer, and then repeat ad nauseum. A lot of headaches would have been removed if Jaleco had allowed you to pause the game and make changes, but they didn’t and you can’t.
Furthermore, while Trailer Park Tycoon has nice enough graphics, it isn’t especially fun to watch. Jaleco was good about adding variety to the game, so there are lots of different trailers and amenities and decorations, but none of these things do anything. They just sit there. If you add in a barbecue decoration, not only do the residents not have barbecues, they don’t even register the barbecue is there. And if you add in a shootin’ gallery amenity, residents simply walk up to it and suddenly their entertainment need has been met. They don’t actually go inside and shoot anything. In fact, about all the residents do is wander aimlessly around the park and “talk” to each other. Ho hum.
Obviously, I didn’t like Trailer Park Tycoon at all. The game comes with two campaigns (one “easy,” one “hard”) with a total of eight scenarios, but I only played four of them before giving up. The gameplay was just too repetitious and annoying for me to play any more than that, and, worse (or perhaps inconsequentially), the gameplay probably isn’t even what fans of tycoon games would like. I can’t believe Trailer Park Tycoon is being sold for $40, and I hope nobody is fooled into thinking it might be an entertaining ride, and waste their money on it.