For our latest round-up of budget titles, we figured we should make ourselves some cold, hard cash. Since the days of Transport Tycoon, Railroad Tycoon and – yes! – even Pizza Tycoon, turning computer gamers into virtual millionaires has become a staple diet of the PC gaming scene.
GSP has recently released three such titles into its budget range. Sadly, none of them is actually worth getting excited about, even if that does let the cat of the bag without you needing to get to the bottom of the review. But nevertheless, you’re still welcome to join us on a 400-word journey explaining way, even if it ain’t going to make you a bean. Bah.
Cinema Empire positions you as a modern day Oscar Deutsch, where you’re tasked with building up a chain of fleapits. This, naturally, comes with problems. How do you know which are the right films to show? How can you accurately pitch your prices? It’s decisions, decisions, and these come wrapped up in a cartoony-style, accessible little strategy game.
On one hand Cinema Empire is perfectly competent at what it does, and a complete Tycoon-esque novice may enjoy tinkering around with it. What hampers it, though, is that its subject matter is so restrictive, and no amount of creative thinking can imbue sufficient excitement into cleaning up more and more discarded undergarments from the back row, for example.
Marine Park Empire? That’s slightly better, although it’s not going to give Zoo Tycoon and its mini cottage industry of add-on packs much to worry about. Running on the coat-tails of the likes of Theme Park, the idea here is straightforward again; you need to build a marine park and fill it with animals (28 species are provided, the packaging assures us), and various scenarios then test your skills.
Given that content from Zoo Empire is merged in too, this isn’t a bad little pack, all things considered. Particularly for younger, patient players, who aren’t put off by doing battle with the occasionally-clumsy interface, there’s some fun to be had in the early stages. But as you build up your park it becomes more frustrating than entertaining, rarely letting you relax and enjoy your creation as you go and plug some problem or other that quickly crops up.
The final title in this particular round-up is the weakest. Ice Cream Tycoon Deluxe wants you to run your own business again. This time the variables are differing flavours, the weather, targeting the right neighbourhoods, watching out for enforcement agencies and avoiding crime. It’s a bizarre concoction when you sit back and actually think about it, but that’s still more fun than leaning forward and playing the thing. It’s true that undemanding, younger gamers may get something out of it, but even then it’s treading territory that’s been covered by others many times before.
In summary, there’s nothing really terrible about this particular trio, but nor is there much to get excited about. Gaming innovations are very much absent, short of applying a fairly standard formula to three different walks of life. Anyone with any experience of games in the genre will rumble that suitably quickly, leaving these three titles very much in the remit of the casual gamer.