Game Name: Airport Tycoon
Publisher(s): Global Star Software
Developer(s): Sunstorm Int.
Release Date: Available Now: Apr 25, 2000
In this title, gamers are charged with the monstrous responsibility of building a fully functiona
In this title, gamers are charged with the monstrous responsibility of building a fully functional airport, and then running that airport successfully to attain some announced goal. Players must choose their location, buy land, construct their facilities, maintain a working schedule, and deal with various disasters using a host of menu-driven and picture-based toolsets. The concept should appear quite familiar to anyone who has embarked in any of the "manager sims" mentioned above, but sadly it is nowhere near as simple as it sounds.
After watching a graphically decent yet wholly unexciting intro movie (which incidentally is about 20% of the 300MB installation), the less than mediocre manual suggests that new players begin their adventure in entrepreneurship with a run through the included tutorial. Welcoming this feature after reading through the print instructions and still not knowing how to play, gamers are unfortunately in for a disappointingly low amount of assistance. The tutorial is more of a video sequence, since the computer performs all onscreen actions, and badly I might add. The demonstration is beyond incomplete, showing only the most basic of functions at some points, and none whatsoever at others. Players read a simple, concise message at the bottom of the screen (which covers up part of the interface), and are then forced to wait for the computer to believe they are done so it can follow up the text with a grotesquely idiotic display of how to accomplish the assignment.
Take for example the demo of the rather menial task of placing a second runway onto the newly purchased airport grounds, which actually made me laugh out loud. The text stated that a runway needed to be built, and after the usual 10 second delay, the cursor selected the appropriate button on the interface and was dumped into an options screen full of structures that could be constructed. The cursor then proceeded to systematically travel around the screen, highlighting each item that was listed (even ones that weren't runways) until finally making that big decision and choosing a strip. Once the stretch was in hand, the computer then attempted to place the object several times, but was unsuccessful. This is most likely due to the fact that the programming code denied our friendly instructor the right to place his runway where he thought it should most logically go...on top of the taxi pick up. Further placement efforts were also thwarted on the roof of the terminal, but after around 2 minutes of searching it finally figured out that it didn't have enough money to do it anyway and aborted the procedure. Way to go computer, and thanks for showing us how it's done!
After wrestling with the 30-minute tutorial, which could very easily have been engineered to take half as much time, it was then time to start a new game. The option of whether to choose a standard or scenario-based game exists, but if you choose to play this game, starting off in scenario is largely suicidal. The regular version begins with selecting which continent your new airport will occupy. After browsing around a bit, I opted to begin my pursuit of caviar dreams in "Australasia" (more commonly known as Australia, but hey, we'll let them use those nifty names if they want). After muddling my way through the first few object placements, the game's helper messages advised that I needed to build a control tower. This was no surprise since this little backseat driver of sorts tended to yell at me after I completed each assignment, nagging that the next one be done immediately.
Tragically, the control tower step proved to be just a tad harder than any of the previous ones. Upon looking for the icon to build this structure, I was most distressed to discover that it in fact did not exist. Menu after menu of searching proved absolutely futile as I watched the reminder message come up every 30 seconds telling me to build it. I was completely dumbfounded for a good hour by this, convinced that I was just not looking hard enough for the magical control tower. After all, the game can't even really begin until the airport is complete, so surely they wouldn't make something as fundamental as a control tower inaccessible, right? Well, logic is apparently in the eye of the beholder, as is plainly displayed by the developer, Krisalis. It turns out that the option to build this thing only presents itself after several other buildings have already been placed, and the airport has been opened for business. Leaving aside the point that most airports do not open without a control tower, this still strikes a disturbing chord since until this structure, the helper messaging window indicates every single thing to construct, in the order that it needs to be done. Then, without warning, it assumes you are blessed with divine knowledge and proceeds to skip a few steps, almost as if it were trying to tease you. "Ha," says the helper, "I have you now."
Moving away from the gameplay aspect, the graphics, sound effects, and music leave equally as much to be desired. While not quite on the bottom rung of the ladder in the visuals department, a lot more than this can be done with today's technology. A game that recommends a 3D accelerator should look far more impressive than what you see in these screenshots. Even games in the same genre that don't require such hardware, such as the aforementioned Roller Coaster Tycoon, look significantly better. Furthermore, keeping your ears as open as your eyes will induce just as much drowsiness, as the sounds and music put forth by Airport Tycoon/Mogul/Incorporated/Whatever are less than passable. Uninspired airplane noises against a backdrop of repeating tones just don't help to accentuate the package here.
The list of complaints can go on and on, but you get the idea. This was a decent, original idea marred by unforgivable execution and presentation. There are far better simulations of this type on the market, and there are even more to come. So do yourself a favor by picking one of those up, and leave this game buried in the bargain bin where it belongs.