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Tycoon City: New York

Andrew takes a hands-on stroll through Big Red's Big Apple...

New York is often considered the most amazing city in the world, a city founded by immigrants with a penchant for coffee and a place visited in its time by figureheads including King Kong and the Marshmallow Man. Such is the city that never sleeps' reputation, that Deep Red Games and Atari thought that we all might like to have the chance to virtually knock down and rebuild such a fine metropolis in which ever way we choose. Following in the footsteps of Rollercoaster, Railroad, Zoo, Airline and Fast Food tycoon to name but a few, Tycoon City: New York aims to offer the ultimate experience in both authenticity and entertainment by allowing players the freedom to map out The Big Apple from its skin to the core.

Sensibly, you're not just given a massive, baron plot of land only to be left to your own means - that might make things a little unfair, not to mention difficult. Instead a friendly New Yorker will greet you in order to teach you the basics, the very basic basics. Before he rushes off for his fifth cappuccino in an hour, you'll learn how to control the camera, construct your first building - a coffee shop, surprise, surprise - and how you might go about upgrading it so to make it more attractive to potential customers. From then on in-game guidance is provided by many an onscreen prompt. The frequent pop-up boxes recommend you begin first by providing facilities for the hippy student types in Greenwich Village. The residents' main needs are communicated to you through a short cut scene of the people themselves, two of the worst American student stereotypes you're ever likely to encounter. They want kitschy clothing outlets and some rockin' bars to chill in. The acting at this stage is cringe worthy but at least your objectives are clear.

Managing your ever-growing community is made easy by the simple mouse clicking and camera pivoting that allows access to every angle and view of the sprawling 3D environment. The interface for building, managing accounts and all other matters is both uncomplicated and uncluttered. The menus are, admittedly a little daunting at first, but a few minutes of exploration should settle your nerves. Tycoon City: New York wants you to enjoy yourself, not bog you down with complexity from the off. As mentioned, tending to people's needs is the name of the game if you want to progress, then it's a case of watching, waiting and tweaking to see if all your hard work pays off. Many types of building are available from the start, so placing them in proximity to their target audience is essential. A convenience store, for example, (except for the pub) is the nucleuses of any student's local spend, so a central location within Greenwich Village is ideal. The shop's potential customer base is shown via a large circle that lays on top of the map, so interlinking several businesses 'circles of pulling power' is a great way to gravitate the population to your establishments - and keep them there! The happiness of any area in general or even its individuals can be, again simply, monitored by a few clicks that bring up progress bars and simple charts so that you can see that everything is hunky dory - or not, as the case may be. Tycoon City: New York

What really marks Tycoon City: New York out from the opposition at this point is its full 3D design. By the time you've unlocked every area of the city, you'll have something that resembles the real New York, complete with the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building and the Brooklyn Bridge. And from the tops of the buildings to the people on the ground thousands of feet below, everything is under your control. The AI does, however, build rival businesses, but it is the way you deal with competition that will be the difference between success and failure. As things stand, the 3D environments are looking vibrant and detailed. Deep Red Games have gone for a cartoon look rather than something totally realistic, in an attempt perhaps to further exemplify the pleasure of the game, not the stress of something like a professional town planner's program. From the air everything looks great, though at ground level, the hectic pace of city life can sometimes seem to get to New York's inhabitants. Their movements and actions are nearly as wooden as their acting and they often pass right through street furniture as if it didn't exist. Hopefully this will be ironed out before release. However, the sheer number of them and the detail of each is nothing to be sniffed at. The collision detection is at the moment the only really obvious gripe about the graphics, something that can be easily tweaked before the game's release.

There's something about the authority that videogames allow their players that they can't get enough of. Whether it's controlling an army of men, a group of hapless lemmings or the running of a modern business, it's always nice to know that you are in control of the destiny of the onscreen sprites inside of your telly box. In this respect, Tycoon City: New York is onto a surefire success, allowing anyone who's anyone to erect one of the staples of modern civilization in an astonishing amount of detail, and most importantly in a way that anyone can grasp after a short amount of playing time. There's plenty of opportunity for individual decision making and in all, a game to which you can dictate the pace, not the other way around as is often the case. They call the USA the land of opportunity, and you should certainly look forward to this one when it arrives from across the pond.

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