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malltyc_box.jpg (16015 bytes)

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by Take 2 Interactive

mall_ss4-01.jpg (11537 bytes)Develop your own mall! Cool. Sounds like a fantastic idea, and the slightly blurry screen caps on the box of Mall Tycoon make it seem like a wonderful realization of that idea. Unfortunately it doesn't work like that. I really hate to start trash talking a game in the opening paragraph of a review, but Mall Tycoon does not leave one with a lot of nice things to say. I have to admit, there are a few aspects of the game that drew my attention for a little while, and even a few things that I found slightly amusing.

The first annoying thing that I noticed is the load screen when you boot the game. It is a very busy and colorful splash screen that depicts, appropriately, a mall. Unfortunately, you see this screen for a long, long time. Even on my 1.2Ghz machine, I had to sit for a few minutes studying the splash screen, trying to figure out if the punk with the mohawk and leather pants is supposed look pregnant or not. Even with all the time that I was able to study the "Pregnant Punk", I wasn't able to come to a decisive conclusion and I was further annoyed. The game took even longer to load on my 950Mhz machine. I would hate to have to play it on the suggested minimum hardware requirement: a PII 300Mhz.

mall_ss3-01.jpg (12077 bytes)The next thing that jumps out at you when you start playing the game is the graphics. The graphics are in a pseudo-3D, pseudo-isometric format. You can zoom in and out and rotate every which way to Sunday, which is a nice option. The drawback to that is the graphics at any sort of zoom level are grainy and choppy. There are a few animations that were slightly amusing: running water, walking customers, and a movie theater with a broken flickering screen. I'm not sure if the movie screen is supposed to flicker or if that's another poor aspect of the graphics engine. Every store has a subset of little animations that pertains to that store: a pizza man tossing pizza or a bikini model showing off the latest lingerie. I found the customers graphics to be a bit plain. There are 3 age groups of customers, Young, Adult and Senior. I couldn't find a single senior citizen that didn't have a walker or cane! And it seems that the young males tend to "hop" a lot. At any rate, I thought I was seeing return-customers to my mall, but it turns out that I was just seeing the same customer graphics over and over again.

The sound in the game wasn't quite as displeasing as the graphics. There are a few environmental sounds, but none of these really sound like a Mall at all. The fountains were the most prevalent environmental sounds; every time that you have a fountain on the screen anywhere, you hear a pleasant running water sound. This was nice at first, but trust me, it gets old very quickly! (I found myself hearing the call of nature unnecessarily.) The alerts in the game are annoying. Alert sounds are triggered by particular events in the game, but seem to have no bearing on the actual event. I've seen events with descriptions like "A zombie has turned one of your mall customers into a zombie" that will have a very pleasant sounding chime, sounding similar to a toned down doorbell. Another event, "The mayor has announced that your mall is an aesthetic asset", triggered a very annoying "BEEP" sound. How could anyone think that this is appropriate?

mall_ss2-01.jpg (12115 bytes)The play of the game is the only halfway decent feature of Mall Tycoon. There are several options for the types of stores that you create and if you create a large enough store space, you can combine stores! So you can add a video game arcade to your pizza parlor, create a piercing and tanning salon, or create a shoe store electronics shop. The possibilities are endless. The Finances of the game are not quite as expansive as I would expect from a simulation of something that is entirely retail. The stores set their own prices and the only thing that you have control over is the stores’ rent and the cut that the mall takes from each sale. Customers sometimes complain about store prices, so the only thing that you can do is lower one of the two options that you have, or live with the complaints. It is not a difficult, or even challenging, game by any means.

The game mechanics take on a "If you build it, they will come" schema. The more stores that you build, the more customers you have and the more money you make. There's some simple economics -- if only that's how it really worked. There are several additional structures that you can add besides stores. These include restrooms, the previously mentioned bathroom-break inducing fountains, trees, sculptures, trashcans and even play areas for the kiddies.

mall_ss1-01.jpg (13215 bytes)OK, so we all know that I wasn't too pleased with Mall Tycoon. It really is a great idea for a game, but with poor graphics, sound and limited playability, it just didn't quite hit the mark that Take 2 and Holistic were aiming for. It had the ability to hold my interest for a few hours, but definitely not long enough to hold up to some of the its rivals in the Tycoon market.

Tim Johnson   (03/20/2002)


Ups: Great concept; ability to combine stores.

Downs: Mediocre sound and graphics; overly demanding on hardware; simplistic gameplay.

Platform: PC