Review by RockyRan
"Authentic Italian pizzas. Mafia included"
Fast Food Tycoon 2 is another member of the "Tycoon" family. These games focus on making running businesses fun, and although these games were mostly made by different developers, the basic gameplay scheme remains largely the same. Unfortunately for Tycoon-lovers, this "business sim" game explosion has long since died, though this could largely be attributed to the alarming amounts of shovelware populating this genre. Fast Food Tycoon 2 remained largely austere throughout 2001, and in a short time the game was forgotten. Upon further inspection, though, this title is quite possibly one of the strongest games of its genre.
Fast Food Tycoon 2 (called "Pizza Connection 2" in Europe) focuses exclusively on the building and running of pizzerias. Players employ and train employees, furnish locales, rent and build restaurants, headquarters, warehouses, etc., and even get their hands in the dough and make custom pizzas. The game is surprisingly robust and deep with its multi-layered factors affecting nearly everything about the game. Other games in the same caliber tend to have a few superfluous albeit "neat" features, but everything in Fast Food Tycoon 2 plays a role in the success of your enterprise, from the symmetry of the ingredients of your custom-made pizzas to even what music plays in your restaurants. Players must be careful about the location of their establishments, which times of the day they remain operational, how many employees should be in the building at which times of the day, etc. While it might seem overwhelming the sheer amount of micromanagement required, this depth in gameplay is largely cushioned by the slow pacing of the game. Watching employees and customers walk around and perform their daily activities might seem excruciatingly slow at first, but with so many things to keep track of players will undoubtedly be glad the game is as slow as it is. That said, however, there are times when you will merely sit and watch the restaurants operate, and while this isn't a particularly common occurrence, when it happens the game certainly seems awfully slow.
An aspect about the game that is certainly interesting is the pizza creation system that was mentioned previously. I'm not entirely sure if the game's instructions over exaggerated, but apparently even the placement of the ingredients in a pizza can affect whether or not certain demographics will like it. That said, the pizza creation system is another deep addition that will keep you occupied for a while, at best giving you an edge over competitors with a superior menu of your own and at worst serving as a tool to fool around with while waiting for time to pass.
The game also strikes a good balance between micromanagement and "macromanagement", or rather, certain "invisible forces" that change slowly over time. Among these things are influences such as advertisements that can slowly change the city's perception on your restaurants, the mayor who can give awards and influence certain favorable buildings to be built near your restaurants as long as you keep him pleased (i.e., bribe him), and other smaller "macromanagement" aspects. The main issue with such aspects of the game is that they often go unexplained, sometimes causing confusion as to what you as a player can do to change the course of these events.
Another interesting aspect about the game is the authentic presentation. The game HUD provides rustic Italian architecture embedded along with the game's buttons with a few bugs and spiders crawling about. Menu music consists of soothing Italian-inspired instrumental music and even the narrator of the game's missions and tutorial sports a heavy (and endearing) Italian accent. This attention to detail is very much appreciated in a game of this type, providing a unique experience and mood that is unparalleled with other games of its type.
Once you as a player "get the hang" of the gameplay, the game decides midway through to completely turn it around, providing one of the most unique and fun twists that the Tycoon genre has ever seen. With delicious Italian food comes the not-so-delicious Italian Mafia, which you or other players can (and will) use to sabotage the fragile balance of their competitors' restaurants. For a fee you can send rats, cockroaches, stinkbombs, thugs, punks, gangsters, and other undesirables to commit all kinds of havoc in the restaurants of your competitors, and if you're feeling particularly malicious you can even sneak a bomb into a building to blow it to smithereens. If you're on the opposite end of the feud, you can defend yourself by purchasing buildings and replacing them with police stations in key locations of the city, hiring guards, upgrading their equipment, etc. With this addition of aggressive gameplay very rarely seen in Tycoon games, the game adds an enormous layer of strategy that causes the game to propel itself to a much higher caliber, providing yet another level of depth that will keep players entertained for hours.
With a game this complex and deep, it was imperative that the developers explain with great detail how the game works. In several aspects such as the simple game mechanics, the developers do succeed in explaining the ins and outs of the game. With the more complicated aspects, however, the game either very vaguely hints at what to do or downright completely neglects to explain certain aspects, some of which are crucial to completing scenarios. Detailed information about the game's icons, citizen types, buildings, etc. all come in a comprehensive mini-encyclopedia placed in the game. The problem is that this source of useful information is hidden VERY deep in the title, tucked away in a tab in the middle of the extremely-boring business charts and graphs of your enterprise (which ARE useful, but not all that necessary to play the game). It wasn't until several hours into playing this game that I personally discovered this mine of information, and while it was useful and very much appreciated, it should have definitely been placed in a much easier-to-access location.
Like I previously said, some aspects of the game are completely hidden from the players, some of the imperative to complete the game. Gourmet Stars, for instance, are awards required to complete several game objectives (they first appear in the third mission of the main campaign). However, the game completely neglects in explaining what players need to do to actually get these awards. Several seasoned players who have acquired stars hypothesize that restaurants need to be in their largest size, with superior furnishings, and have very high appeal to Hot Shots (a certain citizen type in the game). However, nobody knows for SURE how to get these vital awards, and the developers' refusal to explain things like these highly detracts from the experience. These things can be figured out, but this lack of information seems like a large oversight rather than a conscious game design decision.
Whatever the flaws might be, Fast Food Tycoon 2 remains to be one of the best Tycoon games to have been made during the "business sim" game "movement" of the early 2000's. A very underrated title that provides multiple layers of depth and strategy, this game will keep you entertained for dozens of hours on end. Although a lack of explanation of certain important aspects certainly detracts from the experience, but it most definitely does not ruin it. If you're in the market for a deep, compelling business sim, track this game down, for this little pizza pie is a delicious one indeed.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/07/03, Updated 03/11/09
Game Release: Fast Food Tycoon 2 (US, 10/09/01)
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