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Monopoly Tycoon

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Hasbro Interactive
Developer: Deep Red
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 6
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Impressively, for a game this geared towards the mass-market, Monopoly Tycoon really shines if you have the sort of computer that can push the graphics. After jacking the resolution up high, the game looks fantastic, with the real-time panning between the City Map and the block view occuring seamlessly. The buildings are relatively simplistic, sure, but when there's tons of them on screen, along with lots of little Monopoly-citizens running around, you really can't knock the game's visuals. Yes, the little people are pretty poorly animated, gliding more than walking, but there can be many dozens of them on the screen at once, so some graphical simplicity is understandable. Of course, on a lower-end system the game will look worse, and as the resolution drops, the amount of screen space used up by the interface will increase.

The game's sound isn't quite as impressive as the graphics, but it's definitely passable. The sound effects are strictly standard, with building sounds and the low-key babble of people as they run around the city, from the kids going to school to the adults driving around and walking on the sidewalks. The music is nice, and changes as the game progresses appropriately, but it's nothing particularly memorable. I found myself playing my own tunes most of the time. The 'personal sound effects' that you hear in the auctions are also pretty grating, especially after you've heard them a number of times. Fortunately, sound cues aren't as important in this game, so it's not necessary for you to have the sound effects volume up too high.


When it comes to actually playing the game, though, you'll find that Monopoly Tycoon definitely delivers more than most of the other games in the genre. It definitely has its flaws, the main one being that it's hard to keep track of just how everyone's prices are set, but even such a flaw cannot keep this game from being one of the most original strategy games to come out in recent history.

While Monopoly Tycoon definitely takes a number of cues from the board game, it doesn't limit itself to the game either, which is usually the main frustration with computer games based off of tabletop experiences. First of all, the turn-based nature of the board game has been dispensed with, making Monopoly Tycoon a fiercely real-time experience. And while the various streets from the original game all make an appearance here (albeit in the form of city blocks instead), you don't simply build houses and hope for people to land on your square.

See, the city which Monopoly Tycoon takes place in needs to be developed. At the beginning of most of the scenarios, there are only a few apartment buildings scattered around the city, and perhaps some businesses owned by the city. You need to monopolize (heh) on the lack of services and build up an empire, crushing your competition. You can do this in a number of ways, and while they're all easy enough to understand at first blush, a deeper look at the game gives you an idea of the complex interplays between the various actions that you can take.

The simplest way to make money is to build businesses that the people want. You can poll blocks and find out what the people there desire. If they want clothes, and no clothes store is nearby, you can construct one on any vacant plot that no other player has exclusive control over. Buildings can vary in shape and number of floors, but the larger the building the more 'product' it can hold. You can also change the build quality of the structure, which means that it will attract richer clientele. And, of course, you can adjust the price of the product inside; undercutting your opponents is a key way to guarantee revenue.

At 6:00am every morning, all of the game's fees and payments come into play. Stores restock, paying for new materials; buildings pay their rent; tenents pay their fees. Another way to profit in Monopoly Tycoon is to 'buy' a block of the city. If it has businesses on it, all of the rent that those businesses would pay goes to you, and any buildings you have on the block pay no rent. Similarly, there are four utility companies--the old standby Waterworks and the Electric company, and the new Gasworks and Telecom. Owning one of these gets you free utilities, plus all fees paid by the other players. Owning one of the four railroads (you know the names, don't you?) gets you the profits from the passengers who come into the city.

There's even more than this--getting a monopoly on a particular colour lets you build hotels, which can get you megabucks, and the prestige of various blocks changes both the amount of money you make and who's attracted to buying from them. There's a lot of complexity here.

The core single-player game is a series of scenarios that you complete, one-by-one, to unlock the next scenario. I would have preferred to have an easy/medium/hard 'sandbox' mode out of the box as well, but that's a minor quibble. The game also supports multiplayer with up to six people, and that's where it really starts to shine--humans are much more entertaining to play against than AIs, even if the quirky computer characters (based around the tokens in Monopoly) are quite cool.

The game isn't flawless. The interface is a little obtuse, scrolling around a block is a little more painful than it should have been, and the lack of easy price checks is a real pain in the butt, especially at higher difficulty levels. But none of these problems are insurmountable.


Those of you who expect a simple game simply because Monopoly Tycoon is mass-markety need to look again. On the higher difficulty levels, the computer is an absolutely ruthless player, and it will grind you into the ground if it deems it necessary. The lower levels are definitely more manageable, and the first few challenges in the game are trivial (especially if you abuse the fact that the game finishes once you reach the goal), but it's definitely hard to get all the way through the game on the simplest level, much less the Gold difficulty level. Multiplayer, of course, depends on your friends' abilities, although you can use AI if you desire.

Game Mechanics:

Monopoly Tycoon is entirely mouse-driven, with a common interface on each screen to interact with. The interface is a wee bit kludgy, to be honest--getting the information you want is not necessarily trivial--but it works well enough once you get the hang of it, and the handy tutorials do a good job of giving you an idea as to how the whole thing works. There are a few nagging issues, mainly with managing the prices of your materials and seeing the prices of your opponents, which can crimp the speedy pace of the game. But it's definitely nothing unforgivable. Load times are downright instantaneous, which is nice, and while there seem to be a number of reports of technical issues on the official forums, I never personally experienced any bugs.

Monopoly Tycoon does more with a tabletop game license than any game I've ever personally played. The sharp mix of real-time action and simple-yet-deep strategy will keep you coming back for more. The pricing engine could have been tighter, and it's somewhat frustrating to have to bust your way through a number of the single-player challenges before you can get to the really interesting ones, but any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to check Monopoly Tycoon out. It's orders of magnitude better than the board game (which, honestly, isn't saying much) but, more importantly, it's quite a bit more fun than most real-time strategy games released recently.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/Me, P233, 64MB RAM, 90MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM, Video card w/ 8MB VRAM, sound card

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated