Your pizza place is flourishing, customers love you, and money is rolling in faster than you can bank it. As you go through the daily checklist of food to restock, a scream pierces the establishment. Rats are swarming around the customers' feet, woodworms are eating away at the chairs, and they're crashing to the floor! You've been invaded by the competition with their underhanded tactics.
Fast Food Tycoon places the fate of a pizza franchise squarely on your shoulders. The short tutorial masks a very complex experience. You must build, stock and maintain pizza places, generate profits, advertise, deal with syndicates, hire security and make good pizza that sells. Customers won't like your product immediately -- you begin at the bottom of the pizza chain and have to hire chefs to create tasty pizza but you're limited by your beginning budget.
A manager will make the operation run more smoothly, but it'll cost you. Just as important is hiring a top staff of people and determining proper work schedules. If your cook is on the job but you have no waiters, say goodbye to the customers. You can track public opinion of your staff from the staff screen display.
Each of the characters (you select one at the start of the game) has a certain amount of starting money and skills. His or her initial assets vary a great deal, ranging from Dickie Dosh's $23,000 to Fran Friendly's $8,579. The less money you have, the higher the degree of difficulty. You start from a tough position -- each month requires you to pay rent and employee salaries. At a minimum, you'll shell out at least $8,000 dollars which is more than some characters have at the beginning of the game.
Simply making the rent is taxing enough but you also have to get your business to turn a profit if you're going to become the world's most successful Fast Food Tycoon. Think of the game as building a colony, only many of the resources you have to build are invisible. In games like 1602 A.D., you begin with a port and build your colony gradually with more buildings and resources. This game works in the same fashion but your goal is to build pizzas and attract customers while balancing your budget.
After establishing one successful operation, you can always build more since many empty buildings are available around the world. Location is one of the most important issues of the game but advertising can change things. You can check on who lives in each building by clicking on it and often find that employees inhabit the flats in some areas. It just doesn't make good business sense to build a pizza place in an area where there aren't any customers.
In some cases, you can build near another pizza chain and feed off of their residual traffic before going out on your own. This is often a good idea if you've never played the game before as you can get ideas from your competitors. For example, look at their interior decorations and study how each item is placed. How your restaurant looks can play a major role in your success, especially with upper class customers. Conversely, if you're starting out in an area with few people, television or other advertising will draw them to your establishment.
You can earn dirty money by doing chore jobs for a syndicate but this aspect is somewhat limited and uninspiring. All the jobs entail the same duty -- drive to a designated circle. Each underground job may have a different title and explanation but, in essence, the end requirement is always the same: drive to the circle without getting caught by the cops.
To be successful in all areas, you must study the game to determine the best strategies. The tutorial is not comprehensive and omits several important aspects. For example, it doesn't give instructions on the underground scene but does explain how to open a branch, join a bank, create an advertisement and make pizzas. You must figure out how best to do the rest of the activities.
The game has no manual -- it's a complex game with few instructions beyond the tutorial. Small gameplay items such as the meaning of the icons above the customer's heads are left for you to figure out. Some gamers will undoubtedly welcome this tough challenge and the game is certainly colorful and fun. It's not realistic, though, and leaves room for a better pizza outlet simulation. Don't be deceived by the funny voices and cartoon characters -- becoming a Fast Food Tycoon is a demanding experience.
Graphics: The graphics adhere to a basic cartoon format but some of the characters, like the male cook, look very lifelike (in a cartoon sort of way). The customers are grouped generically and a specific body type represents each type.
Sound: Each city has its own music such as Venice's Italian flavor and Chicago's rock oriented sound. Some of the dialogue is very amusing and fits the generic group. For example, a teen might say something to the effect: "Like, go away man."
Enjoyment: It takes a while to figure out how to run the business properly with what little instruction the tutorials give you. Once you do, the game can be addictive. It's fun to experiment with the dozens of different toppings (even ants or maggots)!
Replay Value: The custom game mode is fun even after you've beaten the campaigns since you start out with plenty of money and can be much more creative in how you build the business.
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