Share.Pretty on the outside.
I think it's no secret that RollerCoaster Tycoon started something huge back in 1999. Ever since then, every major (and not so major) publisher seems to have gotten into the tycoon act. Unfortunately, the results have been decidedly mixed, with the majority of the avalanche being pretty forgettable. That hasn't kept them from soldiering on, however, and these things sell like hotcakes no matter what us scruffy games journalists say. Hence the third installment of Mall Tycoon by Cat Daddy Games, who have quite a tycoon pedigree of their own.
When the series started out in 2002, things were a little rough around the edges. Textures were blurry, and the overall visual detail left something to be desired. This time around, though, everything is much sharper, and the art style for each of the shops is downright painstaking. Not only that, but you can customize shops for things like wallpaper, flooring, and even individual racks. You'll be able to zoom in incredibly close, but, like an RTS, you'll want to have a wide-ranging viewing pretty much all the time in order to keep things running smoothly. The shoppers have detailed habits and animations, too. They'll sit down and try on shoes, carry shopping bags and balloons, gesture wildly when they're upset, and other activities. You can click on each one of them and get a RCT-style breakdown of how they feel, what they're thinking, and what they're needs are (if any have occurred to them). You can also get a demographic breakdown by month, year, and overall, determine what transportation they're using, and other odds and ends. Mall Tycoon also has lots of personality, which is a good thing because it has some pretty frustrating mechanics sometimes.
Unfortunately, determining what makes a store boom or bust is still frustratingly murky. Is it bad location, low demand, or something else that makes things fluctuate so wildly? A more expensive store doesn't mean one that will bring in more money. Placing it right next to the entrance doesn't seem to be a clear advantage either. You can adjust rent, your cut of the profits, and the quality of the employee, but managing traffic is a little like voodoo. You can't advertise for a specific store (which makes sense, since you own the mall and not its individual stores) but it sure would be nice to give one a boost when it needs it. Because if the store loses money too many months in a row, it will pack up shop and leave you to eat what it cost to build it.
There are frustrations with the mall staff as well. You can customize these folks as well and improve their skills through research, but they patrol set grids instead of areas you paint like in RCT. Improving their skills makes them work faster and increases the variety of things they can deal with, so that's good. And you'll have to promote them and increase their pay to deal with the evolving challenges set before you (no fewer than nineteen scenarios across two difficulty levels, and a sandbox mode set in three different locations across three difficulty levels). But the maintenance employee feels pretty superfluous. The game has tables, billboards, staircases and other items breaking down all the time, and you'll need to have a mechanic patrolling a table-heavy area pretty much constantly (as you'll very likely be playing the game on maximum speed -- everything slower feels glacial).
This has got to be the shoddiest furniture ever put in a public place, and if the tables in the food court break, no can sit down, they throw their food on the ground, and they get angry and decide not to buy anything. Eventually, you'll be able to build restaurants with their own seating, which I strongly recommend, as you no longer have to provide seating, trash cans, a janitor, or a mechanic to keep it running smoothly. Small items are tedious to place anyway, as you can't copy and paste them. Instead, you have to click through three menus for each table you want to set down.
The staircase shoddiness, for better or worse, is academic because I couldn't seem to make anyone go up to the second level of the mall, although that may have been some bone-headed problem on my end. Either way, the PDF documentation doesn't discuss multiple tiers. The tutorial dedicated to this issue works fine, but things don't seem to click when doing it in sandbox mode or during a scenario.
The most puzzling things for me is in comparing the screenshots on the retail box to what I experienced in-game. The stores on the retail box are jam-packed with people, whereas I would consider myself lucky to get one customer in a single game day. My mall was still pretty successful -- I think -- but the stores weren't nearly as populated. Most people seemed to want to eat and then get out. Although there are several tutorials, they only touch upon very specific and brief aspects of gameplay, leaving the divination of the game's economy to the player. While some might enjoy this challenge, I like knowing what the rules are before I sit down or shortly thereafter, instead of continuing to scratch my head after sitting for hours in front of the computer with the game speed cranked all the way up.
Another problem I have with the screenshots is that the malls are built wall-to-wall with stuff, whereas your starting budget on default difficulty will start you out with three stores, maybe four if you're lucky. You can squeeze out another store -- of you don't mind not having a bathroom, security guard, janitor, mechanic, et cetera. I don't feel like a mall tycoon when my cavernous space has a discount clothing store, pretzel shop, a few tables and chairs and maybe a music store. I just feel like I have a long way to go before it actually looks like a mall. Granted, other tycoon games start you out in the same position; start modest and work your way up. But there's something wrong with the scale of the economy, because the only way I could get something resembling a mall, after hours of play at maximum speed, was to take out loans. So I ended up with what looked like a mall, but I was in debt up to my eyeballs.
Mall Tycoon looks a lot better than previous installments, and is a good-looking game in general, with lots of color and visual charm. The upbeat, jazzy soundtrack is great as well -- it's propulsive without being too noticeable. There's a ton of visual detail in the stores and the shopper's animations as well, although you probably won't have much opportunity to appreciate things close up. You can customize each store with a surprising amount of depth and variety. Unfortunately, the game's grip on economic simulation feels relatively loose and a little too randomized. I don't get a sense of shoppers flowing from one direction to the other, and therefore I can't attempt to divert foot traffic to where I want it to go. Instead, traffic seems determined by the demographic, which appears to be determined by transportation options and the types of stores I put in. This makes sense, but changing the demographic appears to take forever. As you can see, it's pretty hazy, and the game doesn't do much to explain how you make money. It will probably provide you with some distraction for a few days. Then you'll play Civilization 4 and wonder where Sid Meier has been all your life.
Our Mall Tycoon 3 +1 trainer is now available and supports RETAIL. These Mall Tycoon 3 cheats are designed to enhance your experience with the game.
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October 22, 2005
Windows 7 and below (may be compatible with additional versions)
This cheat has been scanned and is virus and adware free. Some trainers may set off generic or heuristic notifications with certain antivirus or firewall software.
October 25, 2005
Enable cheat mode by typing IAmACheater (case sensitive) at the main menu or while playing. Then use any of the following cheat keys:
|M||Increase Money by $5000|
|U||Increase Tier to Top Tier|
|3||1 Young Male|
|4||1 Young Female|
|5||1 Middle-Aged Male|
|6||1 Middle-Aged Female|
|7||1 Old Male|
|8||1 Old Female|
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