Vegas Strip City is a casino sim with pretty low odds on fun

Vegas Strip City makes some big promises about the excitement of being a high roller and even a “casino mogul” in Sin City, with a string of your very own exotic casinos on the Vegas Strip of your dreams. But with just three games to play, an ownership mode that goes nowhere and one major design oversight that’s bound to leave players baffled, the reality of this game isn’t nearly so thrilling.

I sometimes worry that I’m playing a game “wrong” somehow, and that the reason I’m having difficulty is that I’m overlooking something so obvious that it’s right in front of my nose. There’s a part of Vegas Strip City that gave me that feeling in a very big way, so after struggling to puzzle it out for awhile, I called in a friend who’s a lot smarter than I am and let him have a go. I felt better, if still not entirely at ease, when he couldn’t make any more sense of it than I did.

Vegas Strip City

But first things first. “Try your luck at Blackjack, Mini Baccarat and other table games, all in a stunningly beautiful casino setting,” the game’s Android Market description says. It’s a little misleading, as there’s only one other game in the package: Three Card War, which will be familiar to anyone who played the War card game as a child. The only difference is that instead of the high card winning each draw, the Vegas Strip City version deals three cards each round, with the highest total winning the bet. Repeat ad nauseum.

Mini Baccarat is essentially the same thing, albeit with a slightly more complex set of rules. But the gameplay is identical: choose the amount of your bet, then tap “deal.” A winner is determined instantly and automatically; tap “deal” again until you run out of money or interest, or want to change the amount of your bet. It’s a reach to call either of them “games” at all, as they play more like slot machines, pushing the button and hoping that money comes out. In fact, I’d probably feel better about the whole thing if they were slot machines – but Vegas Strip City doesn’t do slots.

It does do Blackjack, however, and that’s the game’s one upside. It’s pretty hard to screw up a blackjack videogame and Vegas Strip City manages not to, with a simple, straightforward but attractive rendition of the casino classic. Most of the standard Blackjack options are here, with the rather odd exclusion of insurance, and it’s strictly player vs. dealer, but the action is fast and most Blackjack fans could probably have some fun with it.

The trouble is that there’s just nothing else to see here. The “Strip” mode purportedly lets players become a big-time Vegas casino owner, but that’s really just a matter of blowing huge piles of chips to buy various pre-made casinos that generate a fixed amount of daily income and, in some cases, add bonuses like reduced losses or a extra percentage on top of each win. There are no options to modify them, expand them, pick the games they operate or do anything else that might make the casino ownership angle an interesting bit of play. They’re just expensive ways to bring in a few extra chips and soften the blow of a tough losing streak.

Vegas Strip City

And then there’s the baffling part. The game is free-to-play and a small number of chips are provided each day (plus a tiny amount of “comped” chips for busted players) but serious high-rollers can purchase bigger stacks with “MobaCoins,” which are available in amounts ranging from 500 for $4.99, all the way up to 13,150, which will set you back $124.99. But how many MobaCoins does it take to buy a stack of chips? No idea. The game simply does not say. It’s impossible, at least as far as I and my friend could figure out, to tell how much money chips, which are needed for things like buying casinos or financing Leaving Las Vegas-style mobile gaming binges, are actually going to cost. It’s a ridiculous and frankly inexcusable omission.

The game makes use of the Mobage social network, although the two function almost entirely independently. You’ll have to switch out of the game to access the Mobage features, and then leave Mobage to play the game. Not that it really matters; the social component is poorly integrated but the game itself is so two-dimensional and dull that it would hardly make a difference if it was tied into the second coming of Facebook. Even as a free-to-play game, Vegas Strip City really just isn’t worth the time.

Unless I’m doing it wrong, that is.