Car Tycoon

Car Tycoon

Auto-making 101
Developer / Distributor: Vectorcom Development, Fishtank Interactive
Release Date: 4 Jan 2002

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Rating: ESRB – Everyone

Introduction

I’ve always liked tycoon games that bring to you a seldom seen aspect of life, be it an area delving in business or pleasure; I get a kick out of discovering new things about the subject area, and it is always heartening to see how the game works out.

In case you didn’t know, I have done quite a number of reviews of tycoon games, here’s the list – Wine Tycoon, Shrine Circus Tycoon, Locomotion, Big Oil: Build an Empire, Hard Truck Tycoon, Casino Empire, Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 – Triple Thrill Pack, and Transport Giant – Gold Edition. As you can see, it’s quite a large list already.

Well, let’s add another to the list, Car Tycoon. Developed by Vectorcom Development, (their only release) Car Tycoon is in a niche area that has has seldom been seen back in 2002.

And you may like it to! That’s if you truly love business simulations and cars.

A car for every purse and purpose

A car for every purse and purpose

Game Play

Fast forwarding to recent times, you might remember hearing about car makers recently, although the news has not all been that rosy, especially in the United States. There was the 2009 automotive crisis where both General Motors and Chrysler had to file for Chapter 11 restructuring, while Ford had to secure for themselves a line of credit just in case they ran into the red. Perhaps somebody in the Big Three must have learned something by playing Car Tycoon.

I learnt something different instead.

Twenty scenarios and twenty open-ended games

Twenty scenarios and twenty open-ended games

What I learnt is that Car Tycoon is not too spectacular for a game when it comes to content. You get no multiplayer mode at all; you can’t even play it on a local network, let alone the Internet. All you’ll have is a single player game mode containing 40 different maps, and there’s not even a campaign with a story to tell.

The maps are of two categories – scenarios with set objectives, and open-ended games that use the same maps you saw in the scenario category. The scenarios will take take you from 1950 all the way to 2006.

Harrumph! The game better be good, right? Well, let’s explore what’s under the hood…

At least the tutorial is decent

At least the tutorial is decent

The tutorial teaches you the basics of the game. The eight buttons at the bottom left will first be introduced.

You’ll learn how to scroll around the city and zoom in/out your camera view. There’s no rotating the map since the game presents everything from a fixed isometric view. Next, the game teaches you how to select your factories and manage their production. Then, you’ll click on dealerships and figure out a plan for selling your cars at each individual location. Finally, you have to enter garages and select the extra services that every customer yearns for when buying cars, that way more people will buy from you.

The building icon changes your view to centre on the city hall. Here, you’ll learn how to outbid the competition at the auctions that are conducted quite regularly. With this skill, you can quickly grow your empire by acquiring more factories, dealerships, and garages.

Going once, going twice, sold!

Going once, going twice, sold!

Next, we move on to the centre bottom row of buttons. The first, featuring an icon of a bolt (as in nuts and bolts), allows you to research new car designs; there are supposed to be at least hundreds of car design combinations arrayed among seven categories waiting for you in the game. The second button, in the shape of a dollar symbol, is where you are taught how to manage your finances. You will also learn how to get a loan from the bank. The file button is third; this is where you learn information about your company. The fourth button seems to be out of place. It’s represented by a bull, as in bull run. Right, it’s the stock market; you’ll love buying shares from this menu.

The last two buttons are what I’d call the “naughty” features. There’s Espionage and then there’s Sabotage. In either mode, you choose a spy and get him to perform a dastardly deed upon your chosen competitor. By the way, the maximum number of AI competitors you’ll face in Car Tycoon is three.

Here, I'm researching a new sports car chassis

Here, I’m researching a new sports car chassis

Let’s now talk about the typical experience while playing Car Tycoon.

You can access your objectives via the F1 key. Most objectives are the sell x number of cars by y number of years, or achieve r bundles of moolah (cash) by s number of years, or own a number of factories, b number of dealerships, and c number of garages. I think you get my drift…

Whenever you click on the buttons located at the bottom, a window of information will pop up. You don’t have to close it to open another. In fact, it would be good to keep several of the windows open because something done in one window may affect another window down the line. As you can tell from the screenshot below, the game’s presentation of important data is quite poor, and the design of the interface doesn’t help to make things better.

The “news” at the bottom right show you how well you are doing compared with your competitors in all areas. Again, not too much help there either.

Five windows open and I still can't get the big picture

Five windows open and I still can’t get the big picture

Graphics

Ok, the game’s quite a mess. So perhaps we should enjoy the graphics instead.

I think it’s fair to say that the graphics is above average for an isometric only look. The buildings are quite detailed and nice, the cars all whizz by like busy worker ants, the tiny stick figures of people keep themselves busy gallivanting the streets, and the occasional appearance of a plane helps to break the monotony. Now, if only everything was in 3D, that would have been something.

The interface hugs itself at the bottom of the screen and uses up a small space of screen estate. However, some of the windows are quite huge and will obscure your view of whatever is happening behind it (not that it matters). There’s also a pathetic video of a lady who updates you with news that often leaves you guessing at what she’s trying to imply.

Audio

At least there’s some reasonably nice music selection in the game (nothing like Phil’s music though). I don’t remember much about the sounds, guess I’d call them… forgettable. Here, let me vocalize the most common sound effect – “Click!”

As for voice over, yeah, sure lady… “news” has never been more interesting than this.

Pros:

  • You get 40 missions; some of the scenarios can be quite challenging to play.
  • The game’s niche area may be of interest to the player looking for something different for a change. If that’s you, add 1 point to the final score.
  • You are set if you can figure out the relationship between factory, dealership, and garage. Essentially, you first design your car in the factory, then you produce them, and finally you select which dealership they should be delivered to. Next, at the dealership, you decide the discount bonus to apply, and whether to run any promotional campaigns. Finally, you select the garage to choose the freebies you wish to award your loyal customers.
  • There’s some interesting features – such as research, the stock market, espionage, and sabotage.
Time for some deviousness

Time for some deviousness

Cons:

  • My game (that came on a CD) cannot be played in Windows 7 without first applying the 1.28 patch.
  • Car Tycoon is challenging not because the AI is smart. It’s challenging because you are spending all your time piecing the puzzles together from all the disparate information found on the many windows.
  • What’s the point of implementing a zoom-in feature when all you get are enlarged pixels and a blurry image? Beats me…
  • Not much incentive to play on the open-ended maps since they are essentially scenarios without objectives.
  • There’s some obvious clipping of car sprites at the factory.
  • There’s no multiplayer mode in Car Tycoon. The developers must have planned for it since there’s an unused picture in the game that shows evidence of this.
  • If you think it all reeks budget, then I must say I’d tend to agree with you.
Hmm... who are we connecting to?

Hmm… who are we connecting to?

Conclusion

If you are on the fence deciding whether to get Car Tycoon, you must realize that it is quite playable and may sometimes have it’s fun moments. That is, if you can bear with the lacklustre attempt at making a game out of a niche subject without providing proper feedback and information, getting you to make decisions that require access to multiple windows, and leaving you a city of buildings that is practically a huge collection of wasted potential.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

And on the flip side, I hope you like playing with Car Tycoon… for the next ten minutes. You’d be glad to know that the uninstall button actually works swell.

In case you were wondering, here's the overhead map

In case you were wondering, here’s the overhead map


The Verdict

4.5Poor

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