Tycoon City: New York is a tycoon game where you control the development of New York City. It sounds a little like it might be SimCity in New York, but it’s not. The SimCity games were all about setting up transportation and infrastructure for your city, and then watching your city grow and develop. Tycoon City is more of a standard tycoon game. The streets and subways are already mapped out, and all you have to do is build businesses to make money and try to keep the people of the city happy. It’s a system that could have worked, since it’s basically the same system that a lot of other tycoon games have used, but the developer, Deep Red Games, barely gives you anything to do, and so the game gets boring quickly.
Let me start with the good things, or at least what I presume the good things to be. I’ve only been to New York City once, for about two days, and that was 20 years ago. So I think Deep Red Games went to a lot of trouble to make the game resemble New York City, but I’d be easy to fool. Anyway, if you glance at the screenshots to the right you can judge for yourself, but that shot showing the Statue of Liberty looks pretty authentic to me.
Deep Red Games divided Manhattan Island into 13 districts, including Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and Soho. The districts are all a little different in their wants and needs, and you’re restricted what you can build in each district. So in Greenwich Village you might cater to low-income students by building affordable housing and discount stores, and in Soho you might cater to the rich with a lot of art galleries and fancy restaurants.
Building a business is pretty easy. You just click on an empty piece of land and then navigate the menu system that comes up. Assuming you can afford the construction cost, the business will pop right up. You can build housing, retail shops, food businesses, tourist shops, entertainment facilities and more. Once you have a business in place, you can also upgrade it. Upgrading a business is free in terms of money, but the upgrades cost upgrade points. You get some upgrade points when you place a business, and you also get a trickle of upgrade points as time goes by, and as you complete objectives. So you might start off with some basic upgrades (like a fancy sign or more seating at a restaurant), and then add more over time or if people seem to be unhappy with the business.
When Tycoon City’s campaign opens, you only have access to Greenwich Village. But as you build up the city, other districts become unlocked. When you unlock a district, it’s not like you start a new level; the map you have available just grows bigger. That allows you to work your way through New York without getting overwhelmed at the start. Each district also comes with a set of objectives (like building up a chain of businesses or developing a certain part of the city), but as far as I could tell, all of the objectives are optional, and it doesn’t matter whether you complete them or not.
The problem that Tycoon City has is that it’s trivial to plop down a business and upgrade it, and that’s all you do in the game. You don’t set prices or select menus or do anything with the interior of the business. The upgrades modify the fašade of the business and the sidewalk in front, and once you’ve selected the upgrades, the business is guaranteed to make money. Businesses don’t have any upkeep or maintenance costs, so how much money you make is simply a measure of how many businesses you have, and how many people visit them.
When you first start out in the game, money is tight, but by the time I got halfway through the campaign money was rolling in faster than I could spend it, and I was spending it pretty fast. Eventually I just gave up playing the campaign because I had already upgraded hundreds of businesses, I was making way more money than I knew what to do with, the game wouldn’t unlock the next district until I had created some hundreds of businesses more, and I was thoroughly bored. Tycoon City might be fun enough if you’re more familiar with New York City (and if you want to, say, place a comedy club where your house is) but otherwise there’s just not enough to it to be any fun.