Ever wonder if you have what it takes to own a casino? You'll have to start small and work your way up to the big leagues in this "Sin City" simulation. Las Vegas Tycoon puts you in control of every aspect of the casino, including the placement and payouts of slot machines, gaming tables, video poker kiosks, and other attractions, as well as the decorations and fixtures of the building and the management of the staff. To keep your customers satisfied, you can tweak their moods with booze, extra oxygen, or even luck. Work toward specific goals in the mission-based "Challenge" mode, or develop your dream casino on your own terms in the "Free Play" sandbox mode.
Having never been to Las Vegas, all my impressions come from other media sources, like the movies Casino and Mars Attacks! and the TV show Las Vegas. While there's less drama and violence than those examples, Vegas Tycoon turns out to be an engrossing experience nonetheless.
At its core, Vegas Tycoon is about building an amusement park on the Vegas strip. Besides building the ever-important casino and theme hotel, you can build a wide variety of shops, attractions and services to bring people in and make sure they leave your lot with only lint in their pockets. Related to this is making sure you place your sidewalks efficiently and make sure there's enough foliage and glitz in the area to be appealing as possible. This should be familiar to anyone who has played a Tycoon game. Where Vegas Tycoon departs from those other games is the control you have over your casino, the only building type that you can enter and customize to maximize the amount of dollars you pull in. This might be the most engrossing part of the action - designing your casino from slot machines and high stakes poker games, to the more mundane necessities such as washrooms and security. It's all done in an effort to keep the highrollers coming back (or attracting whatever demographic you'd like to target). But designing the interior of your casino is made a lot tougher than it needs to be for a few reasons.
Not being able to "undo" anything is quite aggravating. You have to be extremely careful where you place things because once it's on the floor; it's there to stay. At least you can sell an item to remove it, but at half the price you paid it's not something you want to do often. (If there is an undo button it may be buried somewhere in the chunky interface - it takes three or four clicks to do anything.) Another problem has to do with the micromanagement involved, in the casino especially. You can affect everything in one way of another, and sometimes it's not readily apparent how your choices will affect the things around it, namely, the flow of people.
Like most other Tycoon games, Vegas Tycoon is all about bringing in money to expand your operations so you can make more money (and so on). Vegas Tycoon is an unforgiving bastard when it comes to cash flow. There's no option to acquire a loan to add a multiplex so you can attract more guests - Vegas Tycoon leaves it up to your savings account! If you run out of money... well, that's Vegas for you (and a quick ticket to the "Load" screen). One major slip-up can completely mess up your strategy or chance of success in the campaign missions.
This is what makes Sandbox mode more appealing since you can set global variables such as starting cash and population. While this doesn't have the directed action of the Campaign mode, some will surely appreciate it, because some of the Campaign missions are hard - jumpin'-mackeral-on-a-Tuesday hard.
I'm told that the Vegas strip at night is a huge glitzy affair. Vegas Tycoon does a fantastic job bringing that glitz home with an extremely versatile engine. You can view the world from a blimp or zoom in on floor tiles - all in one continuous motion while you appreciate the light and constantly moving sea of people and cars. You're even treated to weather effects and time of day changes. It's good-looking game and the accompanying sounds are top notch, too. (While you're in the casino, close your eyes for a minute and you can almost taste the pumped-in oxygen or at the least feel like you're in the middle of a casino.)
Overall, Vegas Tycoon is well above average for a Tycoon game (although not quite as accessible as a game like Railroad Tycoon 3) and can stand on its own as a regular game. It has its own learning curve, no undo button and a buried interface, but the creative aspects and polish makes Vegas Tycoon a recommended title for fans of Tycoon games.
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