reviews\ Oct 21, 2001 at 8:00 pm

Moon Tycoon - PC - Review

In the year 2021, Earth is faced with the greatest threat it has ever known. No, not the release of another Mary Kate and Ashley game. Earth's greatest threat is a global energy crisis, one that is causing many problems for our beloved planet. The world's obsession with technology and the can't-live-without-it attitude is finally catching up with them. Now our global oil reserves are nearly empty. All of the energy needed to power the online multiplayer worlds of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 10 and Quake VII haven't helped much either.

There are alternate power sources, but none of them will suffice. Nuclear power plants are being used to stop the immediate energy needs, however, the radioactive waste produced in these plants is far to dangerous to continue using them. The only solution is Nuclear Fusion. Being a clean source of high energy, Nuclear Fusion is exactly what the world needs. Unfortunately, Helium 3, one of the necessary fuel components for Nuclear Fusion, is very rare on Earth. Helium 3 is most abundant on the moon though. This leads to the formation of the Space Agency, a gathering of the top scientists, engineers, military personnel and politicians to colonize the moon, mine the fuel components needed to make Nuclear Fusion and send them back to Earth. While building mines and warehouses, you soon realize that with all of the amazing technology you have, the moon could easily be made into a second Earth; a new home for a new generation; a tourist attraction for people looking for adventure, etc. And best of all, you're the one at the helm of this marvelous frontier.

But the moon is a bumpy place. You can't expect to bulldoze a few hundred trees and immediately begin constructing the ultimate colony. For one, there are no trees on the moon. Second, you can't build anything in a ditch or on top of the mountains (except for Connection Tubes), so you'll have to raise and lower the ground until it is even. This isn't cheap either, but who cares about the expenses, you're a moon tycoon! Money is no object. Eventually all of this frivolous spending will catch up with you though, forcing you to come up with a way to make some quick cash. Otherwise you won't be able to continue your mission and the game will be over.

Choosing the right industry can be tough if don't have (or aren't willing to spend) a lot of money. Since the reason you came here was to mine Helium 3, you might as well start there. Before you can begin, you must first determine where the best place to mine is. Place a few Mining Probes around your colony and left click on them to find out how high the percentage of raw materials is. Once you've found a good space to start mining (I recommend no less than 60% Helium 3 and Uranium. If you have any patience, don't start mining until you find an area with 70% of each material), build a Small Mine on top of the probe.

A few minutes later, the mine is built, but for some reason it isn't working. Left click on the mine to check its status. See the numbers in red? That means you don't have enough of that particular necessity to run the mine. In this case, you're low on oxygen, electricity and personnel. To get the mine up and running, you'll have to build a few solar plants to generate electricity; build some inflatable homes to bring more people to the area (who will then come and work at the mine); and most importantly, build an oxygen plant so that the miners can breath. Note: all of the utilities you build (solar plants, water converters, etc.) must either be placed next to the building(s) you want to benefit from them, or attached using Connection Tubes.

Now that that's taken care of, it's time to build a Small Warehouse to store all of the materials in (Large Mines and Warehouses become available later on in the game). Next, a landing pad, beacon tower and radio tower are needed to transport the materials back to Earth.

Tourism is another good way to make money. Shopping Malls are the only tourist attraction available at first, but later on you'll be able to build Lunar Hotels, Amusement Centers (similar to Sony's Metreon. Coincidence?), casinos and even a golf course. It is very important to build a large number of tourist attractions to keep the morale up and encourage Earthlings to visit often, which in return will greatly increase your funds.

In-game advisors (more like in-game pests) give you tips every now and then and promise to alert you when any problems arise. But they're almost always late when it comes to giving you important information. The new apartment complex I had built was low on water, yet the advisors said nothing. It wasn't until about thirty seconds AFTER I had constructed a water plant and solved the problem that an advisor decided to let me know what was going on. "The colony needs more water," he says, even though it no longer did. The advisors were similarly clueless whenever a new building became available for construction. It's not that big of a deal, but for someone who calls himself an advisor, I expected Brad McGann and the other advisors to be more helpful.

The sit-and-wait nature of Moon Tycoon may not have as broad appeal as other strategy games, but I think that anyone who gives it a try will thoroughly enjoy it. There's usually something to do while you wait for the construction of another building to finish. And if that still isn't enough to keep you busy, the speed controls at the bottom of the screen will help move things along.

#Reviewer's Scoring Details

Install: Medium
Moon Tycoon isn't hard to install, but it does take up quite a bit of space on your hard drive. That shouldn't be a problem for gamers with a huge hard drive, but others may be bothered by this (I certainly was). You can run the game without having the CD in your drive though, a major plus.

Gameplay: 8.6
It's hard to pin down what I liked most about Moon Tycoon, mainly because there was so much to like. It has its flaws (as all games do), but despite the annoying music, useless advisors and the at times frustrating money management, I had a hard time pulling myself away from the computer screen. That made writing this review very hard because I every time I went to write something down, I'd ignore all of my responsibilities and continue playing instead.

Graphics: 7 
Moon Tycoon is far more pleasing to the eyes than most Tycoon games. But the polygonal buildings, space ships and shuttles, although free of pixelation, don't have the graphical beauty we've come to expect in next-generation games.

Sound: 7.5
The default soundtrack is exactly what you'd expect -- fast, repetitive techno music.  By going to the options menu, however, you may change the soundtrack to something much more enjoyable; quiet ambient music.  If that's not your cup of tea either, then you can off turn the music and play in peace.

Difficulty: 4.5
Moon Tycoon gives you the option to increase/decrease your starting funds, the percentage of Helium 3 and Uranium on the moon, your buildings’ service life and change the terrain level, making this game accessible to gamers of all skill levels.

Concept: 7.9 
This game is like Gundam without any mobile suit battles: all you do is build colonies in space. Saying that's "all you do" may make it sound worthless or unimportant, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Moon Tycoon was a great idea and I think other game developers could learn a lot from it.

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 8.1
Whether you're a fan of strategy games or not, Moon Tycoon should hold your interest long enough for you to realize just how good the game really is. When you're not building a monument or a military base awarded for doing a good job of running the colony, you're managing your expenses, listening to advisors babble and keeping an eye on your utility needs. It's complex, but simple enough so that all gamers will understand it. Some strategy games force you to play them a few hours before you finally get to the good stuff, but you get to Moon Tycoon's "good stuff" only a few minutes after play.


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