In the 1980s, math classes throughout America introduced a computer business simulation entitled Lemonade Stand. Purveyors sold one item, lemonade, and had to decide how many glasses would sell, dependent on the day's temperature. It was a low-resolution affair with simple beeping songs, but loads of fun. Two decades later, Monopoly Tycoon rediscovers the capitalistic charm of this simple forefather.
Although there are dozens of items to sell, real estate issues to consider, and much better music, it is still powered by the basic concept that made Lemonade Stand a fun way to learn. Monopoly Tycoon is sophisticated enough to be used in math classrooms today and be enjoyable at home as well, if players are willing to learn the ins and outs of complex consumerism.
Gameplay centers on the metropolis of Monopoly City, a town with blocks named after the famous locations on a classic Monopoly board. Players move from the famous American properties to locales from boards around the world. The streets are busy day and night and filled with people looking to purchase basic needs and luxury items. The simulation runs in a dynamic environment; day passes into night, and players have to constantly be aware of the clock to succeed.
Suffice it to say, Monopoly Tycoon is not an easy game. The in-game tutorials help start you down the path of success, but turning a profit becomes a matter of surveying people, undercutting the competition, and carefully adjusting stock to sales ratios to avoid shrinkage. Obviously, this will not necessarily appeal to the all-action shoot-em-up set; the game becomes taxing without sufficient thought and planning.
For those who invest the time, Monopoly Tycoon provides a serious test that is rewarding and enjoyable. In addition to deciding where and what to sell, players can choose to lease blocks in classic Monopoly-styled auctions. Random events, in the form of Chance Cards, add an element of luck to the mix. Finally, the game tosses in utility, railroad, and residential management for good measure. Just like the board game, there are several ways to win the scenarios, running the gamut of being a slumlord on Baltic Ave. to specializing in high rent/high pay businesses on Boardwalk.
Characters are based on the tokens from the board game, ten in all. Racecar is a hotheaded investor dressed in classic racing gear, proudly honking a horn after making a bid. In contrast, Shoe is a meek looking cobbler and careful planner, not risking nor losing much. Each AI is unique in style and personality, providing a variety of smart opponents to battle.
Although the computer doesn't cheat, it knows the rules of commerce well enough to build quickly, and sometimes ruthlessly. You must devise a solid business plan and stick with it, or else the game will dissolve into frustration and reloads. This is the rare occasion where finding a human opponent helps you learn about the game and develop a sound market strategy prior to playing the computer.
Such a complex business simulation requires a host of charts, menus, and graphs. Navigating is a snap, despite the enormous amount of data to consider. City maps are represented in two and three-dimensional forms. Players can swivel around their 3D blocks and watch buildings go up, shoppers walk into stores, and cars drive past. As day fades into night, street lamps come on and fun seekers begin to search for entertainment. The graphics are fun and informative when trying to decide where to build your next franchise.
Additionally, the music and sounds are enjoyable. Classic jazz and spry tunes featuring some excellent clarinet work provides a nice backdrop to the sounds of commerce and the street. More than once, however, the game hung up while trying to switch from one song to the next.
The game demands attention to details and knowledge of commerce models, which will put off some gamers lured in by the comfortable, familiar Monopoly logo. Those who take the time, learn the ropes, and rise to the top, might find themselves wanting to open a real lemonade stand or some other venture. Ultimately, Monopoly Tycoon is fun for corporate gladiators seeking a serious challenge in the cutthroat business arena.
Graphics: Very comfortable menus to navigate. The 3D blocks are attractive and full of activity.
Sound: The music is excellent, but the game has a tendency to freeze when moving from one song to another. Character sounds add to AI personality.
Enjoyment: It takes time and patience to develop a winning business plan, which may annoy some players wanting instant action and success. Provides several deeper levels to the basic Monopoly model.
Replay Value: Scenarios have three levels of difficulties. After winning using a slumlord approach, try taking the high road, or vice versa. Internet play provides realistic opposition.
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