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Mall Tycoon

Score: 55%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Take - Two Interactive
Developer: Holistic Design
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

After I put Mall Tycoon into my PC's CD drive, and watched the intro, I was very appreciative of the way the introductory screen looked. It was colorful and sharp. Shadows were perfect and everything was 3D. Unfortunately, that is where my vision of grandeur ended. The in-game graphics are mediocre at best. Lines are broken and blunt. Colors are dull and monotonous. You have to look very in-depth at the stores to even know what merchandise the store is selling. I'm sorry, but a tattoo parlor should not be confused with a bank. Granted, the graphics are good enough to pass for a Mall-building sim, but I was disappointed nonetheless. While Holistic made sure that multiple aspects of building a mall were covered, they seemed to have rushed through what makes a sim successful. Sure, it's nice to have elements, but not if they don't look sharp. There is no real difference amongst the customers, except that females have long hair. The little atriums in the middle of the mall also were a great idea, changing with each season (provided you researched that particular promotion) but it could have been better graphically. Suffice it to say that everything looks good enough to serve its purpose to the game (icons, stores, merchandise, promotions, etc.) I'm really trying to rationalize here. Considering today's graphical capabilities though, AND the other stellar games that Take-Two Interactive has put out, MT was a bit disconcerting on the graphical side. Could I go to the food court and buy an ice cream to console myself? Nope, because I couldn't tell which was the Dairy Store and which store was the Pizza Parlor!

Again, from the intro, I thought the sound was going to be great. The introduction screen had some great polka-esque/ballroom swing music going. It was loud, crisp and very impressive. As soon as you get into the game though, which is where you'll be spending the majority of your time (unless you have an infatuation with introductory screens), the music stops... completely. Don't even bother looking for an option either. All you are left with is a slight murmur that stays the same whether you have 10 or 1000 people in your mall. You also get to hear the same announcement about Barbie seemingly slurred across the intercom system one minute after the other. That's it. Every now and then, you'll hear a chime indicating something good like the mayor likes the mall, or such and such store had the highest profits. If you're lucky, you'll hear a sort of alarm that indicates a punk is in your store, or a customer had a complaint. That is the gist of what the sound is all about. Again, a LOT more attention could have been paid to this part of the game. Music anyone? More than 7 sound effects? While the idea of the game definitely had potential, it seems like little attention was paid to the physical details of this game. Now if it were 1993, then this game would be cutting edge, but it's not, and I was left in a graphical/aural desert with no oasis to be found.


This is pretty easy. You are to build a mall. There is a wonderful Tutorial Mode that has you ready in no time. I actually enjoyed the tutorial a bit, and it's one of the few that I've ever sat through and participated in from start to finish. There is also a Scenario Mode which pits you against Easy, Medium, and Hard scenarios. They range in everything from cleaning up a mall that had a jailbreak crew rummage through it, to connecting your four dead uncles' malls together on opposite sides of the city to make an enormous mall. However, the place where I got most of my thrills was the Free Mode. This starts you off with a foundation, some money, and a lot of aspirations. You must build the floor, the walls, the stores, and everything associated with a high-dollar mall. With over 250 stores and 200 pieces of scenery, trust me when I say 'everything associated with a mall.' You decide what merchandise the stores sell, and if you don't see something you like, rest assured you can research that something and it will be made available to you. Things like more efficient employees, seasonal promotions, marketing campaigns, leather apparel, piercing salon, and etc. can be researched. You also set how high the stores' rent will be, and how much of a profit's cut you get. Be wary, because too much of a cut for you leads to higher prices and disgruntled customers. You can also make your mall multiple floored, which is kind of realistic. Even the department stores will span the amount of floors you build, making them a great investment later on down the road. Stores also can work well together, or can work against each other.

If you build a department store and put his, her, young and infant clothing together, you've got yourself a recipe for success. Yet if you have some low-minded scheme to put a tattoo shop, music store, pretzel factory, and calendar market together...you might not find yourself so profitable. If you want profits though, put a jewelry store together with leather apparel. How about a makeup/perfume store with a lingerie shop? You bet that will pull in some nice cash. You can set a few options like what percentage of child to adult, adult to seniors you want. Also things like poor, middle and rich patronage can be tweaked with a little slider bar. You also can choose whether you want Easy, Medium, or Hard that basically dictates how much money you start with. In the Scenario Mode, money is predefined and a scenario is only graded Easy, Medium, or Hard based on what objectives must be accomplished in the individual scenario.


This one is based on how much patience and attention to detail you have. Your mall WON'T make a lot of money off the bat, and it does put you in a little bit of a bind when all you have is a department store, a few kiosks, and a tree or two. But as you research, and tinker with what the stores pay you (ultimately setting prices in the store), then your customer base builds. The more customers in that base, the more you get paid. If you do find yourself going into the red, you can take out a loan. The interest rates are outrageous, but if it gets your mall up and running, then the loans aren't so much of a beast to pay back after all. The Free Mode, while being unrestrictively fun, really isn't that rewarding in the long haul, as you spend so much time building up a bankroll, only to have researched everything and reach a mental limit to how much boring store placement you can actually put up with. Then there's the constant droning of the senseless announcer lady; so while I felt less restricted with Free Mode initially, I got bogged down real quick. Scenario Mode is more of an objective based thing that really has altering difficulties. Some of the easy scenarios are child's play, but some of them tagged 'easy' are quite challenging. Another great thing about Scenario mode is that you don't get bogged down if the scenario isn't difficult because realistic time restraints are on each scenario. Right when you feel like you're going to pull your hair out, BAM, time for a new scenario. I just liked building my own mall though, thus Free Mode was what I spend a majority of my time in.

Game Mechanics:

The Tutorial Mode is a cornerstone to playing Mall Tycoon . You should run through it once. The manual is extremely short, and any questions you have can be answered in the tutorial. The controls are fairly decent and complemented by a user-friendly icon interface. You can zoom in and out of your mall making any camera angle possible, but I spent a greater portion of my building time zoomed out due to the graphics. Last but not least, exiting the game takes forever. I don't know why, but you will spend far too much time after exiting MT wondering if your machine locked up until you hear your hard drive furiously trying to close the game out.

Riot Rundown : If building malls is your thing, then Mall Tycoon is your only option. If you're into sims like I am, then this is a good game until you make one successful mall, and never want to go through the mundane process of building another one again. The Simulation Mode is a bit of a saving grace, but not enough to excuse some obvious oversights in the game. If you've bought a copy, then you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't bought a copy, try and play it at your friend's house because there are far better looking, sounding and engrossing Tycoon games out there.

-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

Minimum System Requirements:

PC Compatible computer, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium II 300 MHz or higher, 64 MB RAM, 8x CDROM, 300 MB Hard Drive, 16 MB Direct 3D video card with Directx 8.0 support, DirectSound sound card.

Test System:

PC Windows 2000 Pro, Athlon Duron 1 GHz., 320 MB RAM, 42x CDROM, 15 gig Hard Drive, 64 MB GeForce4 MX 420 video card, Hercules Fortissimo II sound card, keyboard, mouse.

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