As one of the most realistic business simulations ever made, Trevor Chan's Capitalism II nearly has it all. A detailed tutorial helps entrepreneurs begin building an empire, a host of items are available for sale, and an avalanche of information is presented through a variety of charts and reports. The wealth of details in the manual alone would have most Wall Street moguls nodding with approval. The one element missing, though, is fun. Trevor Chan's Capitalism II feels more like Advance Economics homework than an enjoyable diversion.
The game explores the ins and outs of both micro and macroeconomics like no other game. Capitalistic gamers start with a modest cash cache and must build a chain of businesses ranging from grocery stores to department stores to drugstores, with many more types available. In addition to picking a location, you also have to choose what goods to sell, how much to charge per item, and which supplier you want to stock your shelves. And this is simply the first tutorial in a single city. Add to the mix the ever-changing supplies and demands or market shares, manufacturing of raw goods, ruthless competitors smelling hostile takeovers, and a painfully realistic global stock market, and you have a rudimentary idea of the dizzying depth of the game.
While acclimation to gameplay may take a few frustrating tries, developer Enlight Software does its best to make the lessons less taxing. The tutorials explain every in-game feature available and the manual touches on everything from understanding the firms to personnel management. More than two-thirds of the documentation is devoted solely to the art of making a profit. Though the language strives to be plain and understandable, the equations and terminology will have many gamers seeking an early retirement.
To its credit, Trevor Chan's Capitalism II has no peer when it comes to the nuts and bolts of business on a local or global scale. There are hours of marketing in store for the hardcore detail-minded money manager. If cute and clever is not your idea of how the battles are won in the arena of finance, then this title is worth the investment of time and money. Business instructors might also be able to work the game into their lesson plans -- the business models are that realistic. In fact, they may be too realistic for casual gamers with only a passing interest in business simulations.
Despite a campaign mode, individual scenarios, and online multiplayer options, Trevor Chan's Capitalism II manages to suck the joy from the experience by providing the bare minimum in both sounds and graphics. Other than the basic noise of commerce, a cash register bell, and people milling about, there isn't much worth listening to. Background music would have been nice but is conspicuously missing.
Graphics are marginally better, with the main playing area designed in the style of a SimCity town. The isometric 3D map is filled with animated cars and several identifiable buildings and parks, but the buildings are merely placeholders since the real interaction takes place mostly on charts or on static purchasing screens. The profit chart, with its traditional rising or falling red line, becomes more riveting than scrolling around the map looking for the latest franchise you've built.
Comparing the game to others in the genre, one sees several opportunities. As examples, Monopoly Tycoon offers sly AI opponents in the form of cunning cartoon characters, a city built with 3D polygons, and crisp music playing. The popular shareware game Dope Wars focuses on interesting and illicit "products" while incorporating unusual random events. Even M.U.L.E., the granddaddy of the genre, has a more enduring personality with its simplistic but addictive gameplay. Trevor Chan's Capitalism II obviously went for the most authentic simulation possible at the expense of enjoyment or humor. It achieves its goal, but at what cost?
The simulation is best targeted at mature men and women with an understanding of business world mechanics, but since they're probably already working in the field, it's doubtful they'd want to spend their off hours reliving the workday. For true fans of finance and armchair consultants, the game will feed the need for an authentic simulation. As for the rest of the gaming crowd, avoiding Trevor Chan's Capitalism II in favor of more enjoyable prospects is sound advice you can take to the bank.
Graphics: Basic SimCity-styled environment with brightly colored buildings but minimal animation.
Sound: Bare-bones sound effects are bland. Background music could have helped lighten the dull atmosphere.
Enjoyment: It's capitalistic greed without a hint of humor or a flash of fun. All work and no play makes Trevor Chan's Capitalism II a very dull game.
Replay Value: A host of scenarios and multiplayer options provide plenty of game time for those with a head for finance.
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