Written by  :  Kasey Chang (4617)
Written on  :  May 26, 2004

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When the 3D view has nothing to do with the 2D view, this tycoon title can't be that good...

The Good

Nice airport animations inside and out, rare subject, contract negotiation

The Bad

The animation has nothing to do with the simulation running underneath, there is no matching timescale equivalence, overall a lack of positive feedback

The Bottom Line

Airport Tycoon is a management sim that has a bunch of 3D animation that is not really related to the sim that lies underneath the pretty skin, and as a result, this feels very disjointed.

Airport Tycoon shows promise. You can start from scratch, or you can play one of the several scenarios included, with goals varying from improve your airport's rating and ranking to gain enough cash to meet a goal to be the first to sign up X number of airlines. If you start from scratch, you can choose a location in the world (with varying amount of traffic) and choose between near, medium, or far from the city itself. The farther you are, the cheaper the land, but the harder to get to. The closer you are, the more expensive the land, but people are less likely to complain about traffic. Also, if you're close to some cities, the skyscrapers in the city can become a problem (only on paper).

After buying some land, it's time to lay down the runways and the taxiways. Add some hangars, a terminal, and some maintenance and turnaround facilities, and you're ready for business!

Once the airport is open, you have to wait for an airline to sign a master contract with you, which basically sets initial fee, per landing/takeoff fee, hangar fee, and such misc. items. Depending on the size of your airport and runway, you will sign up small operators with single and twin engine propeller jobs at first, and eventually move your way up to international carriers that operate jumbo jets and supersonic airliners.

Once master contract is signed, you will then periodically get individual flight contracts, which you can slot into your landing/takeoff schedule. You can accept or reject an offer. If you reject, you can send back an counter-offer, but don't reject them too many times or they may not offer again!

When your airport grows, multiple bidders for service, such as airline food, fuel service, and so on will show up. You want a reliable operator that doesn't cost too much. Cheap operator may not be as reliable and timely to service the planes, which can lead to airline complaints.

You also need to staff the airport police and fire departments in case they need to handle emergencies, from plane fire to terrorists.

When you're big enough and have enough traffic, build metro station, train station, and bus stops, as well as parking lots (both short and long-term), and even some taxi stands for the commuters. Soon, hotels and gas stations will offer you terms to be able to build their place nearby.

You can build cargo-only airport, passenger-only airport, or dual-use. If you want a passenger airport, you will have to design the terminal interior, unless you use one of the pre-built terminals.

Building a terminal is not that simple, as you can choose between single or double story terminals. You must make sure no one will be able to go BACK through security. Only cleared passengers should be able to access the planes, and this requires lining items up properly. You get to place everything, from those "arrival times" signs to baggage carts, from baggage carousels to vending machines, even bathroom stalls and check-in desks. Customers will get mad if they can't find enough of anything, and they will let you know. Airline will also let you know their displeasure if the passengers are being delayed.

Airport cost money to run, so your prices better not be too low.

While all these sounds intriguing, when you play it's a different story.

First, in a normal tycoon game, there should be equivalent timescales. For example, in Railroad Tycoon, one "day" of 24-hours, you seen the train run, it also is equivalent to 1 year in the world. So if a train can make 2 stops in a day, the money it "earned" for both stops will be multiplied by 365 to come up with the earning per year. That's all built-in. There is no equivalent timescale in Airport Tycoon. When you set the speed higher, animation moves a bit faster, but that's about it.

Second, the 3D world does NOT match the sim being run underneath in any way. You may see planes arriving at departing in the 3D view, but you can't click on them, nor would you know which airline do they belong to, is it late, how much money has that flight made for you, etc. NONE of that info is available in the 3D view. You must go through the menus, and that is frustrating!

Third, there isn't much action once you set things up and running. It's all expand, expand, expand. Add a new runway to accommodate new traffic, add a new terminal to handle new traffic, add a parking lot, add more check-in desks, dedicate more desks to a specific airline, add more bathroom stalls, add more more cargo terminal... etc. etc. Business just keeps coming in as you don't really need to do much, if anything. Pretty soon, you have reached the limit of the game (4 runways) and you just stop and watch the money roll in. That does not provide fun at all.

All in all, Airport Tycoon is a interesting change of pace as it deals with a rare subject. However, the overall game design needs some serious help. If you can get it for like $5, give it a try.