It’s that time of year again. Sunny skies, warm weather, kids playing out-of-doors, the sound of canned music in the air. Yep, you guessed it. The ice cream truck is headed this way. Fudgesicles, ice cream sandwiches, cones and other frozen treats await!
However, though almost everyone enjoys ice-cold treats (too much, in fact), maybe you’ve always dreamed of creating an ice cream empire. If so, Ice Cream Tycoon lets you give it a whirl.
As the name suggests, Ice Cream Tycoon lets you operate your own frosty business. Starting with a simple pushcart, your goal is to rise through the ranks of this chilled industry to become a management magnate. Choose the right treats to stock and neighborhoods to work, and beware local bandits and the health department. If you’re successful, you can freeze out the competition. Just don’t eat up all the profits!
Ice Cream Tycoon begins on foot with a lowly pushcart. To get started, choose the Easy or Normal difficulty setting and name your company. Then, fill your cart’s freezer with 50 yummy treats from a selection of 10 indulgences (an additional 14 are unlocked as you progress). The first time out, you pick goodies individually. But afterward, you can use the Restock button to quickly fill your cart. Just remember to stock up every day before you hit the streets with your sweets.
Play begins with Mission One and a tutorial. The goal? Build a reputation rating of 10 percent over the course of 30 days. How? Your reputation rating increases with each satisfied customer and decreases when a customer is missed or you’re out of a desired item. Run out of month, before you reach 10 percent, or run out of money, by taking in less than you spend, and you’re out of business. However, reach day 30 with the required percentage and you unlock the next neighborhood and three new icy treats.
Play consists of traversing each locale, beginning with the Suburbs and advancing to the Marina, Beach and Downtown. As your on-screen persona travels through each neighborhood, children run out excitedly to meet him. When they do, a thought balloon appears depicting the desired delectable. If you have it, you’ll see a blue smiley face above the kid. If not, a frowning red one.
But, where do the “tycoon” elements emerge? Well, to expand your enterprise, you have to manage your ice cream supply and money well enough to earn a decent profit. That involves tracking the tasty treats that sell best and keeping a sufficient number on hand. You’re also called upon to manage factors such as setting the Sales Price for your treats, investing in Advertising, hiring Security for tougher neighborhoods and paying a Cleaner to maintain your gear.
Equipment needs to be upgraded, too. When funds permit, you can replace your pushcart with a Tricycle, and later move up to a Joystar Van and Startruck. You should also plan on adding a small fridge, refrigerator, ice cream tracker and, eventually, a factory. Stats are monitored before or at the end of each sales day, with weekly and monthly totals graphed by profit, customers satisfied, overall satisfaction and customers missed. Game speed is adjustable, as well, from normal to 2x and 4x.
Ice Cream Tycoon is, at first, an enjoyable romp with a refreshing concept. 3D isometric graphics (three-quarter top-down view) are pretty and the music is playful. However, monotony quickly descends. In spite of its management features, interaction is almost nonexistent during daily runs. Basically, you watch your little vendor traipse around town dispensing ice cream, occasionally changing his direction of travel. After several days, it simply gets mind-numbingly boring, reminiscent of a mouse running through a maze stopping every so often to eat a piece of cheese. Cute the first few times, but wearisome thereafter. The chief problem is having no direct interaction with your customers, no involvement in making or giving out ice ceam and no interspersed mini-games to make play more interesting.
Guiding your persona is problematic, too. Cursor keys direct him forward, backward, left and right. But, with the isometric perspective, control is confusing. When your vendor changes direction and moves toward you, the controls invert with him (left becomes right and right becomes left). Moreover, bad weather affects sales. Kids don’t want to buy ice cream in the rain. You can skip the day, but you lose all potential profits. Finally, instructions are woefully weak in relation to hiring protection, setting the sales price multiplier and knowing when to advertise. It all boils down to a great concept that’s poorly executed.
So, where does that leave Ice Cream Tycoon? Unfortunately, with little to get excited about. Like melted ice cream on the pavement, it’s simply disappointing.