Tycoon games have been around for years and it’s fair to say that they’ve had a long, and varied, history. You have some real classics, like the original Zoo Tycoon and the Rollercoaster Tycoon series. But you also have some really strange ones too. I’m looking at you, Toilet Tycoon.
This type of game holds a special place in my heart, but few ever came to console. In recent years, we’ve had a new Zoo Tycoon and little else. Well, now we’ve got another one – Mad Games Tycoon. First released on Steam in 2016, it’s now come to Xbox One. It’s essentially a game all about making games. The only question? Is it a good game about making games, or a garbage game about making games?
In true tycoon fashion, there is no end goal. The focus of Mad Games Tycoon is instead placed on making as much money as possible. And how you go about doing that is entirely up to you. There are so many paths to success, and you’re never locked into just one. You can develop your own console or build an engine. You can become a publisher and fulfill all types of contract. If you’re feeling particularly dastardly you can even buy out your competition and shut them down or force them to make games for your console.
But the main focus of Mad Games Tycoon is making games. And this is where you’ll be spending most of your time. It’s just as well then that there are so many options to experiment with. There are hundreds of topics to research, from fairies to football and everything in between. All the most popular genres are included. And there are close to 40 features that can be researched in order to make the best games possible. Playing around with all this stuff makes for a great time. The amount of variety really allows you to make any game you can think of, no matter how mental it sounds. Games that combine the apocalypse and dating, or American Football with animals, are par for the course in Mad Games Tycoon and it’s brilliant.
Of course, a great idea doesn’t always translate into a great game. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was onto a real winner, only to be destroyed by the critics and given Worst Game of the Year. In that sense, Mad Games Tycoon encourages experimentation and learning from your mistakes. Finding which topics fit together, and exactly how much attention you should pay to factors like graphics or gameplay, takes time. This differs for every genre too, and it stops the game from ever becoming too easy. Just because you’ve nailed the formula for the perfect RPG doesn’t mean you can automatically go on to make a best-selling FPS.
All-in-all it’s a remarkably deep simulator. The only thing it’s missing is a decent tutorial. You’re told a few things at the very start, before being dropped in at the deep end and told to get on with it. You’ll have to find out pretty much everything on your own. It’s worth spending a good chunk at the start of the game clicking everything you can just to see what it is. I didn’t do that, and ended up not realising I could even buy other companies until 20 years into the game. It would have been nice to have known that that was an option from the start, instead of just stumbling across it by chance.
Tycoon games always seem to be better suited to mouse and keyboard, and that applies to Mad Games Tycoon too. It’s clear that nothing has been done to optimise the game for console. The controller simply doesn’t offer enough precision, and it becomes a real problem when the large clickable icons that represent rooms begin to overlap each other in busier offices. Misclicks are common. Too often you’ll end up selecting the wrong room, or picking up random objects and staff members; it quickly becomes a real annoyance.
More issues can be found with the game-making process. Game titles can only be a certain number of characters, and it’s a ridiculously low amount. It’s made even worse by the fact that your AI competition don’t suffer from this and can name their games whatever they want. You can’t back out of certain menus if you click on them either. And then there’s the fact that you can only have one save game at a time, and that one achievement – Monopoly – is glitched and won’t unlock.
The presentation is poor too. Unfortunately, Mad Games Tycoon looks incredibly dated – and it sounds even worse. Sound design consists of a few beeps and the same horrendous looped soundtrack. Play this one on silent. You’ll thank me later.
I imagine Mad Games Tycoon on Xbox One to be a rather polarising game. The issues are numerous and will likely put some people off. Still, these don’t spoil the game entirely. And after getting to grips with Mad Games Tycoon I can say it’s actually a rather fun and addictive game. It gives you plenty to do, and it’s something that you could easily play for hours at a time. Anyone who is a big fan of simulation games should definitely give this one a try.