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Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: Any Version

Airline Tycoon Deluxe
June 23, 2006 | Nuno Alves

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Running around
You surely have seen dozens of similar sounding titles somewhere in your local computer stores, odds are in bargain bins. Well, tycoon games have fallen on hard times. Regardless of how many terrible titles have been released over the years, developers still continue to create them, in hopes of returning to the high point of gaming history when everyone loved tycoon games almost eight years ago.

This tycoon mania all began back in the early 90's when the mastermind behind the Civilization series, Sid Meiers, released Railroad Tycoon. The simple premise was taking the reins of a small railroad company, managing it, and making it big. Railroad Tycoon was a tremendous success, and almost a million copies of this classic were sold throughout the world. Tycoon games then became the in thing, and every company released some type of business simulator. We had classic games like Theme Park, Pizza Tycoon, Rollercoaster Tycoon, and Transport Tycoon released over the years. The height of this genre was probably reached some point around 1997 with the release of Theme Hospital, from the British developer Bullfrog. Ever since then many tycoon games have followed a downhill trend. Recent titles such as Mall Tycoon and Prison Tycoon are so terrible that they are on the thin borderline between malware and breakfast cereal computer games. Who buys these things?

Airline Tycoon
The game under scrutiny here is Airline Tycoon Deluxe, a slightly expanded version of Airline Tycoon, released clearly in the declining phase of the tycoon genre (1999). Despite never reaching any top-ten position on game sales charts throughout the world, it sold surprisingly well. It did so well that the developers, a tiny German company named Spellbound, promptly released two expansion packs (First Class: Jan. 2001, Evolution: Sept. 2002), each one marginally expanding the original game with things such as new airplanes and additional scripted missions. Airline Tycoon Deluxe is a compilation of all the expansion packs in addition to the original game, brought together in one handy package.

If Airline Tycoon was already quite dated in terms of graphics, sound, and gameplay when it came out back in 1999, nowadays it seems like two college roommates have programmed it in their spare time.

You will surely agree with me when you take a peek at the screenshots. It is impossible not to feel that this game came from a small independent company. Spellbound was founded in 1994, and has thus far released six games, the latest being Desperados 2, a real time strategy game based on the wild west. Besides Airline Tycoon and the original Desperados, most of their other titles (Robin Hood, Chicago 1930 and even the recent sequel to Desperados) are little known, and besides the overall terrible reviews I've read online I couldn't find much additional information. The diligent gamer is encouraged to try out their luck with their Mac OS X playable demo of Robin Hood available here. I did try it and my G4 iBook crashed miserably. For a computer that, in two years, has never crashed, I took that as a bad omen and did not delve any further.

What is Airline Tycoon all about?
You are the manager of an airline, competing against three other tycoons. As in any tycoon game, your purpose is simply to hoard massive quantities of cash by making your business profitable. For that you must schedule your flights, buy new airplanes, manage personal finances, keep your customers happy, and keep your planes in good shape.

It seems like a lot to do, but it all combines together quite well. The main part of the game consists of selecting different charter flights and assigning them to your available planes. Certain gigs give you more money than others, and the more money you get, the sooner you can expand your fleet. However you must match your charter flights to an appropriate plane. You simply cannot have a 1960s biplane carrying 300 people all the way to China. Once you agree to take on a certain flight you must carry it out. Failure to do so may result in a nasty fine. To make things slightly more interesting you may also transport cargo.

Unfortunately, for 90% of the playing time you are either collecting charter flights over the phone or at your local travel agency, and then running back to your office to assign them to your plane flight schedule. Once you have enough money you may start renting routes, which means you no longer have to leave your office, as the computer will automatically create flight schedules for you. By that time, any challenge in the game is over with, and you can just sit back and be bored while massive amounts of wealth accumulate in your bank account.


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