Tycoon City New York review

So good they named it once

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Sifting through games reviews must be a depressing activity if you work for NYC & Company, New York's official tourism marketing organisation. Max Payne, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, True Crime: New York City, The Warriors... recent years have seen a sewer-pipe tsunami of games celebrating the Big Apple's seedier (pippier?) side.

Why aren't develepers more interested in the NYC that is America's safest large city, its financial capital and one of its most popular tourist destinations? We think the answer is here, in the beautiful but dull Tycoon City New York.

TCNY casts you in the role of a property developer on Manhattan Island - the wiener-shaped land-sausage at the heart of the NYC hotdog.

At the start of the game there isn't a skyscraper in sight, just an authentic streetplan and a few building sites. Covering this vast empty Mondrian grid with lucrative concrete, brick, steel and glass erections is your primary objective and the aim of the various AI opponents too.

Mission-like 'opportunities' provide structure; complete them and you are rewarded with unlocked districts and armfuls of the landmark bonds that permit construction of icons such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty herself and (God help us) the Times Square Virgin Records Store.

The rat's tail in this potentially delicious deli sandwich is the insulting shallowness of the game's business model. Don't bother buying a strategy guide for TCNY because the only tips you will need to know are contained in the following sentence.

To get Rockefeller-rich simply buy profitable businesses off the AI (easy to spot thanks to a helpful filter) and/or construct your own fledgling firms (type and location unimportant) making sure each is decorated with a fountain or a flowerbed. Financial success really is that simple.

Once you've constructed a new eatery, shop, or apartment block, spent the immediately available upgrade points on improvements, you can effectively forget about it and move on. Tycoon games should involve some risk, some planning and some problem-solving.

Why is Cagney & Lacey's (my Chelsea department store) running at a loss now? Why is the Sedgewick (my plush hotel on West 44th Street) suddenly half-empty? Give me a few headaches like these. I want to manage a business empire, not just acquire one.

Even the 'opportunities' don't require much mental exertion. It's mostly just a case of slinging up the requested structures in the appropriate areas and waiting until a profit level or satisfaction threshold is reached.

Deep Red seems to think we are all eejits. Or maybe the likes of Lacoste, Loews and D'Agostino (some of the real firms featured) weren't too keen on the idea of their virtual outlets ending up bankrupt.

Enough brickbats. TCNY might not give you much of an insight into what it takes to be a real-life real-estate mogul, but it does give you a pretty good idea of what geezers like Donald Trump see when they glance out of their penthouse windows. This is the best-looking and the most evocative Tycoon game ever.

The ability to drop seamlessly from a sun-gilded skyscraper-sentinelled skyline to a pedestrian-eye's view of the bustling taxi-clogged street hundreds of feet below is wonderful (SimCity 4 suddenly seems very dry).

Add a soundtrack rich with the redolent car-horn-and-engine cacophony so characteristic of American cities, and you have everything you need to be instantly transported across The Pond.

We'd be fibbing if we said we didn't enjoy our stay in TCNY, but we'd be negligent if we didn't point out that after a few days we were more than ready to come home.

Unless Deep Red adds some grit and detail to its next TC game, we'll probably be picking Monte Cristo's City Life for our next city break.

More info

DescriptionTCNY casts you in the role of a property tycoon on Manhattan Island. Covering it with lucrative concrete, glass and steel structures is your primary objective.
US censor rating"Teen"
UK censor rating"12+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)