Description of Ski Resort 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 Fast Food Tycoon. The other, which is the primary focus of this review, is Ski Resort Tycoon. Does Ski Resort 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 foray ventures into the “tycoon” arena, the objective of Ski Resort Tycoon is to amass great wealth, in this instance by investing capital in a mountain ski resort and then building and managing numerous aspects revolving around your business endeavor such as infrastructure (including ski lifts, ski runs, and ski jump ramps), lodging, dining, entertainment, landscaping, maintenance and safety staff, guest amenities/customer satisfaction, etc. in order to turn a profit. The interface in Ski Resort Tycoon is very reminiscent of the system utilized in Roller Coaster Tycoon, although there are fewer menus and the construction aspect of the game is not quite as intricate. In fact, as a veteran Roller Coaster Tycoon player, I had no trouble jumping directly into the game without even reading the manual (which is a good thing because one of my complaints with this game is the lack of any substantial printed documentation). Visually, Ski Resort Tycoon offers pretty standard fare, consisting of the isometric graphics typical of SIM City, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and other similar titles. Buildings and other objects can only be placed in certain, unobstructed locations. You have the ability to rotate buildings to face whichever direction you desire. If there are trees blocking your way or if the topography is not acceptable, you can use the terrain editing functions to make alterations. Land can be raised or lowered and trees can be cleared to make room for structures as well as to define the paths of your ski slopes. There are some other nice added touches such as periodically falling snow. Trees are peppered with the white powder and it even gradually melts away. The falling snow is even displayed with real snowflake shapes of various sizes. The audio leaves a little to be desired. There is some ambient music, but it’s mind-numbingly repetitive and only plays consistently when you are zoomed out to view the entire mountaintop. When you zoom in (there are three zoom levels, by the way) to get a better look at certain areas of your resort, the audio is extremely sporadic. You will only hear sounds coming from buildings, etc. when the cursor (which is appropriately represented by a pointing ski glove) passes near certain structures. For example, you might hear crowds of people talking in the café, crackling fires coming from the cabins, cash registers ringing in the ski rental shop, or the wonderful sound of flushing commodes emanating from the restrooms. It would have been nice to include more ambient sounds such as the “shoosh” of skiers making their way down the slopes. Ski Resort Tycoon can be played on one of three difficulty settings. The only discernible difference between these three levels (as far as I could tell anyway) is the amount of venture capital you start off with. You are given $50K when playing on easy, $20K on medium, and $10K on hard. I didn’t notice any other changes to the game’s artificial intelligence, contours of mountain slopes, layout of trees, or addition of other obstacles such as rocks, cliffs, and ravines that might affect gameplay by increasing the level of challenge. Ski Resort Tycoon features several modes of play. There is a tutorial mode that guides you through each step necessary to accomplish your goals. This tutorial details the various functions, menus, and procedures used and serves as a good starting place if you are not familiar with this type of game. In that regard, I can partially forgive the non-existent printed documentation. Although the information is accessible from this in-game tutorial, many people still like to have a printed manual as a handy reference. You can at least go to or print the “read me” file for a thorough description of the various functions. The “challenges” mode supplies a number of scenarios, each with specific mission objectives that must be met in order to successfully complete the scenario. The scenarios in Ski Resort Tycoon incorporate a variety of desired outcomes ranging from straightforward and clear-cut goals, such as increasing your establishment’s quality rating into a five star resort, to constructing a resort with specific facilities (within a strict time limit) in order to win a bid to host an Olympic-style winter games events. In one scenario, your ultimate goal is rather tongue in cheek… to build a Sasquatch preserve and capture the legendary Bigfoot, thus preventing the creature from abducting skiers who stray too close to the tree line while shooshing down the slopes. It is quite a humorous spectacle when Bigfoot emerges from the forest, grabs an unsuspecting skier, and drags him or her back into the woods. My one complaint about the scenarios in Ski Resort Tycoon is that they are far too few in number. There are, in fact, only four scenarios. You can also play in “instant action” mode. This mode is somewhat of a “sandbox” that allows you greater freedom to build your resort without the constraints of specific scenario objectives. You are essentially given the broad goal of making money, increasing your resort’s rating in the process, and have fun. One thing that I found confusing was the fact that you are given six mountains to choose from in this mode. Unfortunately, except for some negligible differences in the arrangement of trees, they are all the same. One would have sufficed. I have (appropriately, I believe) compared Ski Resort Tycoon to Roller Coaster Tycoon several times already. Now I’d like to offer one distinct contrast between the two. In Roller Coaster Tycoon, one of the principal functions you must manage is research. Certain rides are not available for you to build until they have been researched, designed, and undergone final testing. You are allowed to set your research priorities in order to expedite adding certain types of attractions if you desire. In Ski Resort Tycoon, however, there is absolutely no research element introduced into the game. Instead, you cannot build certain items until some other requirements have been met. Initially, there are a limited number of structures available to you, including a tow rope, ski run markers, coffee stands, first aid station, and a “port-o-potty.” Only after you’ve built the tow rope and established some bunny slopes can you add a ski lift to access higher portions of the mountain. As you progress further into the game, however, things start to get more complicated. For example, you cannot construct a bed and breakfast hotel until you have staff lodging, a bistro restaurant, and luxury townhomes in place. But in order to build the staff lodging, you must first open a grocery store. Similarly, in order to construct the luxury townhomes, you must already have luxury cabins and a pancake house at your resort. The requirements for the rest of the buildings branch out in like fashion, often making it a complicated undertaking to plan and manage your resort. Astute readers may have noticed an abundance of references to bathrooms in this review. That’s not unintentional and thus brings me to my final complaint with Ski Resort Tycoon. It seemed that, no matter how many bathroom facilities I built, numerous guests departed my resort in search of restrooms. At times it seemed like almost the entire guest population of the resort was thinking, “I need to go pee!” (that’s actually what the caption in their thought balloons read). Now I understand that it’s cold on top of that mountain (not to mention that I’m selling my clientele espresso to warm up) but I’ve never played a business simulation where managing the restrooms seemed to play such a large role in the game. In my opinion, Ski Resort Tycoon is a title that could have rivaled the gold award winning Roller Coaster Tycoon had it not been for a few glaring flaws and its extremely abbreviated length. Surprisingly, however, while this well-intentioned effort is not a truly superior offering in the genre, it still manages to provide some unadulterated (albeit brief) fun. If you are a novice to the “tycoon” genre, I would definitely have to recommend other games, such as Roller Coaster Tycoon, over this title. If, on the other hand, you find yourself enamored of any and all management simulations or have a specific affinity for skiing, you may find Ski Resort Tycoon to be a pleasant diversion.
Review By GamesDomain
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