It's "Sin City" -- Las Vegas, Nevada -- and players assume control of a 1970s casino. Shrewd club owners will tailor different areas of their "pleasure paradise" to different types of customers. Teenagers, for instance, prefer video arcades, while more wealthy customers desire high-stakes poker tables and roulette. Owners can adjust payouts, track profitability, sell concessions, and remodel. As players grow in power, they can attempt to interfere in the business of competing casino owners by harassing them with Hitmen and Troublemakers.
Almost every major publisher has jumped on the tycoon bandwagon since the amazing success of Rollercoaster Tycoon. For those of us who love the genre, that's good as it means lots of choices, but so many of the games are rushed, unexciting, and just plain dull. Sadly, such is the case for Casino, Inc., the casino management sim from Hothouse Creations and Konami of America, Inc.
The first problem is that "true" management of your casino is minimal. Sure, you can set the payout of your slot machines and games, hire experienced employees, and buy plenty of different games. You can even hire a limo service, decide the routes your shuttles take, and pay for advertising. But you'll only spend a little time doing that, because the rest of the time will be spent trying to get your bouncers to stop criminals and convincing your janitors to clean up the excessive amount of vomit that your guests are heaving onto your floor before other customers start complaining. While I'm sure that casinos have to deal with the occasional guest imbibing too much and not making it to the restroom in time, I doubt any casino in the country has to deal with as much spewing as the average Casino, Inc. casino does. Perhaps if the developers had included restrooms for the guests, this wouldn't have been as much of a problem.
Aside from your janitors, one of the most useless employees is the doorman. His supposed role is to keep out unsavory characters, such as high rollers, trailer trash, teens, or whatever you designate. In reality, you'll find those people have no problem getting in, even if you assign a highly skilled bouncer to work with him. Even worse, the doorman does nothing to stop hitmen, so your first sign of trouble is when someone gets shot. This causes the floor where the shooting occurred to be closed by the police, meaning a fine and a serious loss of profits for a while.
Customers causing trouble or cheating are one of the main management issues you'll have to deal with. Some are simply unhappy, while others might be working for a competitor. If caught, these troublemakers and cheats might offer their services to you, if they aren't already working for someone else. Problem customers can be ejected or disciplined by a bouncer, which involves a pretty heavy beating in the basement. It's amusing, if a bit disturbing, to watch a big bald man beat up on a little old lady walking with a cane.
Unfortunately, your bouncer will only take care of problem customers if you make him, so most of the game is spent racing from one area to another, trying to find bouncers to stop fights and troublemakers, even if the problem is occurring right beneath their noses. It would be nice if you could tell bouncers to take care of all of a particular type of problem without you having to do it.
Unhappy employees are another of the many problems you have to deal with in Casino, Inc. The only thing that motivates them is more money, and it doesn't matter if they're making four times as much money as any other person in their field, they'll still get unhappy over the slightest incident and threaten to quit. Perhaps it's the twenty-four hour working conditions that get to them, since they never go on break. Once, in a fit of pique, I fired everyone who was grossly unhappy (that's red frowny-face unhappy). Showing incredible loyalty to their coworkers, almost every other employee quit, too. Fortunately, rehiring is simply a matter of dropping new employees onto the floor, so in the end I got cheaper labor and happier employees.
One of the biggest downsides with Casino, Inc. is the limited number of decorations available. You can select one-of-six styles of casino, but all of them have the same decorations: a lava lamp and some plants. You can also set down columns and walls, but all they do is waste precious real estate, even though the walls are supposed to help control noise between areas. This makes every casino look the same on the inside, and ignores one of the things many people like about tycoon games.
Despite the limited decorating options, the 3D look is nice, but Casino, Inc. doesn't include the ability the rotate the camera freely, or use the mousewheel to zoom. You can use the interface buttons to rotate only in preset increments, and only two of the zoom options are really useful. The characters are amusing to look at, from hosts whose smiles take up most of their face to suave Bond-like high rollers. Casino, Inc.'s music is nice, but the voice acting of the characters is both poor and incessant. After hearing a drunken voice slur, "I'll put this on expenses," for -- literally -- the thirtieth time in a row, you'll start imagining all sorts of tortures for the developers and publishers. If you turn the sound effects off, it turns off everything, including the casino sounds and the music, which makes it impossible to play the game, as you don't even get the warnings from your narrator.
A casino management sim seems like an obvious choice for the tycoon genre, and in point of fact, it is. But if you're dying to play a business sim in which customers regularly toss their cookies, you'll have more fun with the Rollercoaster Tycoon series than this game.
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