Political Tycoon is a game of political satire to be played with tongue planted firmly in cheek. If you have any doubt about the developers' intentions, note that the game's manual claims that its target player is a "high-handed, domineering, frustrated megalomaniac with the sexual morals of a Latin American president."
The game is funny, both in subject matter and treatment. Being a political tycoon means staying in power by using any and every means possible, including spies digging for scandals for blackmail, skimming slush funds from the national treasury, bribing personal staff to keep them in line, propaganda campaigns, and the Big Red Button.
On the more serious side, your fake country's economic structure includes numerous goods and services (including intercontinental missiles) you must produce and sell to other nations to generate a positive trade balance, or buy when trying to prevent street riots. As in real life, there never seems to be enough productive capacity to fulfill every need. The diplomacy and espionage systems provide many interesting options that heavily influence trade.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many strategy games of high complexity, understanding the effects an action may have can be difficult to nail down. In fact, fixing commercial shortages through international trade, which should make the populace very happy, yields advantages that barely justify the effort. Further, the accomplishment can be easily dwarfed by the impact of purely random events, such as a reporter finding out about your interior minister's mistresses.
The interface is nicely designed and effective, though somewhat cluttered since so much happens simultaneously. Country landscapes and buildings are painted in attractive isometric detail, with some installations warped, curved and animated to support the game's overall comedic feel. The soundtrack is minimal, with some sound effects seemingly drawn from the same libraries as those used in Age of Empires. Reading the manual is highly entertaining, not to be missed, and the tutorials are quite effective.
Political Tycoon, while very entertaining, isn't without faults. There are only five single-player scenarios, though each is playable from the perspective of three different countries with unique victory conditions. In multiplayer, the goal is always to overthrow an opponent's government, offering little in the way of diversity and making many of the features irrelevant. Even more troubling is the lack of control over difficulty settings, except for the simulation's speed. With multiple foreign partners firing trade proposals, embargoes and war threats simultaneously, a novice can get lost quickly.
While hardly classic material, Political Tycoon offers a nice diversion of fun and fancy into the world of political intrigue and maneuvering, with enough unsavory muckraking to keep it interesting.
Graphics: Graphics are sharp and funny, with flawed characters taking on many attributes of real politicians. Deliciously disgusting.
Sound: The few existent sounds are rather dry and uninspired.
Enjoyment: Not a lot of staying power, but a game that offers fun, some depth and enough variety to be entertaining in the short term.
Replay Value: The limited number of single-player scenarios and the fixed victory conditions in the multiplayer games aren't promising for long term replay.
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