|Alt names||Pizza $yndicate, Pizzasyndikatet, Pizza Syndicate|
|Theme||City Building / Construction Simulation, Comedy, Crime, Managerial, Real-Time|
|Perspective||Isometric, Bird’s-eye view, Free-roaming camera|
Description of Fast Food Tycoon
Activision has recently released two new SIM City -style business management simulation games under its Activision Value label. Both of these new products fall ostensibly into the “tycoon” series of games, if for no other reason than by virtue of their titles. One is Ski Resort Tycoon. The other, which is the primary focus of this review, is Fast Food Tycoon. Does Fast Food Tycoon measure up to the high standards established by previous tycoon games such as Railroad Tycoon, Transport Tycoon, and the eminently successful and popular Roller Coaster Tycoon? For the answer to this and other burning questions, read on. As is the case with other ventures into the “tycoon” arena, the objective of Fast Food Tycoon is to transform the modest amount of capital (bread, moolah, scratch… we’re talking cold, hard cash here) on hand at the outset of the game into a sizable fortune. You initially invest in the restaurant industry and then manage numerous factors regarding your business such as infrastructure, finances, staff, menu, advertising, etc. in order to turn a profit and gradually build a vast empire of dining establishments. Something important to reveal first – Fast Food Tycoon is the same game as the European release, Pizza Syndicate. In all fairness, it is a somewhat common practice to release games in the U.S. with a different title than overseas (Roller Coaster Tycoon expansion, Added Attractions went by the name Corkscrew Follies in the states, for example). I would have no problem with the modified title if it weren’t for the fact that it is considerably misleading – to me, Fast Food Tycoon clearly implies that you will be building and managing a variety of fast food restaurants, including burger joints, fried chicken franchises, taco houses, and more. Instead, there is a conspicuous absence of any option other than pizza on the menu. Perhaps a title such as Pizzeria Tycoon or something of the sort (in fact, Fast Food Tycoon shares many similarities with Microprose’s 1995 release, Pizza Tycoon, although this earlier title is a bit more simplistic, particularly regarding the graphics) would be more accurate and equitable to consumers. You begin by selecting a character to act as your CEO. The various choices each have different personality traits, making some of them more suitable than others to achieve your objectives depending on the type of strategy you decide to pursue. You also select what city to build your establishment in from a list of real world locations. This adds a nice touch of realism, rather than playing in imaginary towns with names such as “hungryville” or whatever. Another agreeable feature is that the various cities each have distinctive style architecture incorporated into the buildings to further the notion that you are actually in Rome, London, New York, etc. The theme of each city is further emphasized by soundtrack music indigenous of the area. As time passes, night and day are simulated, complete with sunrises and sunsets. Time zones are accurately depicted as well, so if you jump from Tokyo to New York, you’ll go from night to day, reflecting local time. There are also three difficulty levels to choose from at the outset, but I couldn’t discern any substantial difference in the computer AI. Competing restaurateurs seemed to behave the same regardless of the difficulty setting. Once you’ve accomplished these preliminary tasks, you are ready to start your business. There are many vacant buildings available for lease. Some are more expensive than others (although I believe the disparity primarily addresses the size of the building only and not whether it’s in a prime location). You then stock the new branch of your franchise with furniture kitchen equipment and amenities such as floor tile, carpet, etc. Of course, you also need to hire a staff and, most importantly, devise a menu that will attract customers. There’s an old adage in business that states, “The customer is always right.” You will need to put this ideology firmly into practice to be successful at Fast Food Tycoon. Just as in the real world, people in this game have a variety of personal preferences. Although there are a number of default “ready made” pizza combinations, but you cannot merely offer traditional pizza on your menu if you expect to prosper. You must cater to the individual tastes of the local demographics. Variety is essential to success. You won’t find any shortage of ingredients to work with, either. There are numerous toppings available, which can be mixed and matched as desired, making a seemingly infinite number of combinations possible. In addition to conventional meat and vegetable toppings, you can create your pizzas with such “delectable” offerings as ants, snake, and maggots. Another element present in Fast Food Tycoon is the influence of “underworld” activities. If you desire, you can align yourself with organized crime (hence the term “syndicate” in the original title). Doing so can be highly profitable but is not entirely without risk. If you opt for a life of crime, you will have to be on the lookout and avoid law enforcement at times. You may also find your pizzeria the victim of a “hit” (rival mobsters will sometimes vandalize your restaurant). If you intend to pursue mafia associations, be sure to take this into account when selecting your character’s personality traits, as some characters are better suited for these activities than others. Fast Food Tycoon is teeming with potential. It could have been quite excellent save for a few troubling issues. The main problems with this title are the laborious gameplay and its cumbersome and confusing interface. Instead of using “pop-up” menus like Roller Coaster Tycoon, you are forced to constantly switch back and forth between different screens. For example, one screen provides data concerning the type of pizza your customers want. This often includes a lengthy list of ingredients that you must either write down or memorize because you have to exit this screen and then access you pizza making screen from the main menu. By the time you are halfway through with your recipe, you may forget one or more of the ingredients and have to return to the aforementioned market research screen. What I really found frustrating though was the lack of clearly identifiable icons to represent the various action screens. I was constantly searching around unsuccessfully for the correct place to click in order to complete a desired action. I think I might have actually enjoyed this game if it wasn’t such a burdensome task. The concept of a food service based “tycoon” game is an excellent one. Unfortunately, Fast Food Tycoon falls below the mark in its somewhat uninspiring implementation of this splendid idea. Hopefully, someone will come along soon and fill the void with a really exceptional fast food restaurant empire building simulation game (that includes more than just pizza on the menu). In the meantime, I guess we will all have to settle for sticking with theme parks, along with planes, trains, and automobiles for our “tycoon” fix.
Review By GamesDomain
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