In trying to walk the line between being a virtual-life game and a business management game, Big Biz Tycoon limits itself to mediocrity.
Activision Value's Big Biz Tycoon is a management strategy game that, like several similar games, lets you build and run your own company. But unlike most other games in the management strategy genre, Big Biz Tycoon incorporates elements from virtual-life games like The Sims. While these elements add some variety to the standard business, the game as a whole is only a mediocre alternative to other management strategy or virtual-life games. And Big Biz Tycoon doesn't look or sound terrific, either--its 2D graphics are colorful and functional, but its forgettable music and sparse sound effects don't add much to the game.
The game comes with a handful of different scenarios, most of which contain a prebuilt office environment and a set goal, whether it's to earn a certain amount of money in a given time limit, raise the company's stock price, or pay back a large bank loan. You can also create your own scenarios and set your starting money and goals.
The general goal of the game is to make money either through developing, producing, and distributing products or by investing in the stock market. You can hire employees, assign them to different projects and departments, determine the number and type of products to produce, and set the sale price. You're also in charge of advertising, salaries and bonuses, employee productivity and happiness, and decorating your office. These last two categories are where the game's virtual-life elements come into play.
Like EA's immensely popular virtual-life game The Sims, Big Biz Tycoon lets you buy a wide variety of furniture and decorations to create different kinds of environments. The available items are for the most part office-oriented, although you'll find a selection of beds and stereo equipment along with the expected office items like desks, chairs, shelves, computers, chairs, printers, and tables. The quality of the items you choose will have an effect on your employees' happiness and on your ability to hire new employees or woo them away from competitors.
Each employee has a unique set of attributes that affect his or her ability to perform different tasks. Employees with a low intelligence rating, for instance, won't be much help in developing a type of product that requires lots of intelligence. Projects have minimum requirements that correspond to employee attributes, so if you want to develop a specific product, you'll have to assemble a team that meets the requirements. While there doesn't seem to be any limit to the number of employees you can assign to a project, each employee increases the project's cost, and they can't perform other tasks while working on the project.
Through the course of the game, employees can improve their attributes by completing different tasks, and you can also improve their attributes by giving them gifts, such as DVD players, encyclopedias, ergonomic keyboards, and mouthwash. In order to improve the physical health of your employees, you'll have to take them out to dinner, buy them vitamin C, or give them a membership to a gym.
Part of what makes Big Biz Tycoon unusual is the fact that it has been roughly translated from the original Korean version, which is known as Venture Tycoon. Some of the translations provide unintended entertainment--it's hard not to smile after reading a sentence like, "One day the chief's condition of his health was got worse, so that he got not to be able to do work any more." Other strange elements of the game are annoying, though, such as repeatedly being required to perform a physical activity like golf or gymnastics before hiring an employee or starting a new project.
The tutorial that comes with the game does very little to explain how to play, although most of the necessary information can be found in the somewhat unwieldy 215MB digital manual. The underlying business management game is fairly deep, and it lets you do things like move your office to different locations, take over other companies, and make your company go public. Unfortunately, a lot of the game is hidden behind the virtual-life elements, while other parts of the game seem to have little actual use. For instance, the administration department doesn't seem to do anything more than give monthly reports on rent and salary costs, and there seems to be no use for having an employee in the distribution department unless you plan to sell the rights to one of your products to an outside distributor. Company reputation is based in part on your advertising, but both factors seem to have little effect on your sales. It's also unclear why you cannot manufacture more of a successful product that has already sold out, rather than having to develop an entirely new product to sell.
In trying to walk the line between being a virtual-life game and a business management game, Big Biz Tycoon limits itself to mediocrity. The underlying strategy game has the potential to be an enjoyable alternative to the other management games on the market, but as it stands, it's hard to recommend to fans of the genre. The game's virtual-life element can also be fun for a while, but it doesn't offer the variety in decorative items, characters, and social interactions that makes The Sims so entertaining. Big Biz Tycoon's attempt to combine two very popular game types may be admirable, but the end result is less than successful.