Part business management, part social sim, this release from Enlight Software puts the player in charge of a large hotel. Building one of 19 blueprints from the ground up, players have great control over the layouts and looks of their lodgings and steer all aspects of its operation, from room rates to recreations. Over 600 choices of interior design are available to create a wilderness hunting lodge, a honeymoon paradise, or a high-tech hotel with lots of casinos. Of course, a well-designed hotel doesn't guarantee an enjoyable stay, so players are also given the opportunity to observe the actions of guests from a familiar, isometric third-person perspective.
Following the abundantly proven success of Maxis' breakthrough The Sims, Hotel Giant allows players to follow their individual guests on a personal level while monitoring changes in character attributes such as spending habits and overall satisfaction. The player can watch for positive or negative reactions to certain hotel features and make adjustments for a better guest experience. Players are also welcomed to satisfy their "inner voyeurs," following a particular guest as he or she moves about the hotel in public areas and private rooms.
I don't often stay in hotels, so most of my experience is derived from repeated viewings of Fawlty Towers and reading Arthur Hailey's Hotel last summer. Based on those two sources, running a hotel is either a royal pain in the ass or one step above running an insane asylum. When Maximum Capacity: Hotel Giant landed on my desk I neither groaned nor applauded - basically because I hadn't heard of it until that moment. But I did have some suspicions that it was a cleverly disguised "Tycoon" game, which I attempt to avoid.
Hotel Giant is more than a Tycoon game, but several concerns appear early on (and more later on) which subtract from the enjoyability that games are supposed to have.
The first is the incredibly thorough but entirely boring tutorial that seems to last forever. It took me longer to get into Hotel Giant than any other game I've played - including Morrowind. Although Hotel Giant borrows heavily from the look and feel of The Sims, it lacks the same kind of complex simplicity The Sims captured so well. Hotel Giant is one complex game, at least in its execution.
Hotel Giant allows you to build a hotel from the ground up. No, this isn't entirely accurate. You choose from a roster of prefab hotels after selecting a building site. You're in charge of creating the interiors - maximizing the possible number of rooms and therefore increasing profits, which is your basic goal for every campaign. The design tools are fairly complete but there is one particularly glaring restriction.
For example, to design a bathroom you must build it within another room. I had the perfect guest room layout but neglected to include a bathroom. Instead of just placing a toilet in the corner of the room - which is an extremely utilitarian use of space - I had to revamp the entire suite to have enough space to have a bathroom big enough to hold a shower, toilet and sink. This is to illustrate that you can't place things willy-nilly. You can't have exercise equipment in the lobby or a swimming pool in a boardroom - each object has a specific room they're restricted to (though there are some common object). If you're used to The Sims method of interior design - put anything anywhere - you'll have to break that habit and learn Hotel Giant's method, which rides on Difficult until you really get a handle on things. (And it doesn't help that there's about three clicks for every action and host of drop-down menus to move through.) To help out you don't have to design every single room. Each layout can be saved as a template then stamped out all over the floor - much like modern hotels. Then every time you change something in one room, it's changed in all the rooms that use that template. This goes for any variables you change in the template, such as offering pay-per-view movies.
Hotel Giant's heavy Sim influence also limits it scope. It's not possible to create more interesting lobbies with escalators or sweeping staircases or waterfalls or slot machines. Everything is floor-by-floor and connected via a set of elevators.
Of course, not all hotels are going to be five-star affairs. You get the chance to operate a chain of cheap hotels, which is why I found it so strange that an advertising option wasn't included. After setting up your hotel you can wait quite a long time before you get more than a handful of guests. You can do some market research to find out what potential customers want in a hotel, but building what they want doesn't necessarily mean they'll stay at your hotel. Advertising (specials, trying to attract conventions and whatnot) would make it feel that you're doing everything possible to attract customers to your restaurants and bars and guests to your rooms instead of just sitting there twiddling your thumbs. There is a business side to track, loaded with stats and graphs, but you can play without bothering to check them.
The guests themselves border on brainless automatons. This isn't The Sims. You have no control over your customers - they go about they're business at all hours of the day and night. Some like to stand in their bathrooms looking at the wall until 4 AM, others like to do the stutter step on whatever corners they can get caught on. You can "bribe" them to perform actions like "go to the restaurant" but strangely you can't order them to "get into fist fight with guest in room #102" which would be much more interesting. These bribes come at a cost, but it's so negligible as to be unnoticed. Besides that, they take their sweet time to actually do what you tell them, if at all. The problem is that these guys just aren't interesting enough to bother with. Finding out what they like, what they hate, where they are, etc. is simple enough, but they just aren't interesting enough to follow around.
Unlike the Sims, Hotel Giant is completely 3D so you can zoom in and out, and pan left and right. Top down and a first-person perspective are also available - both essential to better room design. There is also the option to lock onto a guest and follow them around. (Rarely do they do anything interesting. I watched one guy play pool for five minutes whole minutes then go to his room, sleep for an hour, eat in the restaurant, and then leave the hotel. Boring! Why not go to the bar and hit on women?) All of it moves at a pretty smooth clip no matter what your viewing preference. The graphics themselves are pretty good with a more than 600 objects in the game (some of which can be further modified) and lots of different textures for your floors, ceiling and walls. They aren't bad and compare favorably with the Sims.
Some other big problems I had was with the narrow campaign goals: build up hotel, make more money, build another hotel. What about fires? What about cases of food poisoning? Guests dying during the night? (In real life this happens with a frequency that might surprise you.) Hurricane damage? Earthquakes? A thief loose in the hotel? Staff that are dipping into the till? These challenges would have done more to keep me interested. Fulfilling the menial requests of characterless guests didn't do anything to keep me playing. And the inability to take out some of this frustration on your hapless employees just isn't possible. Beating up on Manuel-type waiters would have been a welcome addition. I guess what I'm trying to say, Hotel Giant bored me after about 5 hours.
Maximum Capacity: Hotel Giant is more than the average tycoon game with a better design interface (and more complicated) than the average Tycoon game, solid graphics, and Creating and building the various rooms can be engaging provided you take the time to learn all the options open to you and don't mind some of the restrictions. But the drone-like guests don't offer any spice, there are no real pressing concerns like fire or floods, and boredom is your greatest challenge. If you like this kind of management and enjoy interior design, you might find some interesting hours of gaming.
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