If you ever want to try your hand at running at Las Vegas Casino, Sierra and Hoyle has a game for you. Dubbed Casino Empire, it tries to give you the sense of owning and operating your own gambling paradise. Along the lines of Roller Coaster Tycoon and SimGolf you try and achieve certain goals before a given deadline. If you succeed you move onto bigger and better casinos or you can continue playing in the current casino without any deadlines. Casino Empire is a valiant attempt at developing a fun and addicting tycoon type game but it ultimately fails in keeping you interested after a few scenarios.
Hoyle’s been a great developer of the Casino series and this is their first attempt at the simulation department. The casinos all have a familiar theme to them. You’ll see knock offs of Excalibur, Luxor, and Stratosphere to name a few. Each one has various objectives that must be accomplished in a certain time frame. Among those goals are generating a certain amount of income, reaching a specific casino rating, and succeeding in achieving a build level to name a few.
You start out with a few table games in blackjack and craps to out fit your casino. You’ll also be able to put down some slot machines, decorations, and other attractions. At the basic build level of 1, you don’t have much to play with but you try and do the best you can with what you have until you can upgrade your build level which gives you more toys to play with. Your casino will look rather bland with just blackjack tables, craps tables, and slot machines so increasing your build level to access more games and decorations will make your casino a lot more attractive to the customers. There are a few games missing from the selection that could’ve given the game more variety.
Along the way certain events will pop up needing your attention. For example, a person might come by and offer you some improvements for your casino at a price. If you do purchase them, they can backfire on you. You might also get an opportunity to purchase equipment at a lower price. Competing casinos will also launch sabotages against you while you can also do the same to them. One time I had a bunch of clowns from the Big Top Casino walk through and harass my dealers. It’s these little events that do make the game a little more interesting.
The standard isometric view of the casino floor is presented to you. Certain areas are colored differently which signify areas you are allowed to build on so you can’t just place machines and games on any part of the casino floor. Walls allow for other attractions such as keno rooms, poker rooms, and restaurants. Wall space is a premium because for some unknown reason Sierra didn’t allow for you to rotate the map. You’re pretty much stuck with one view and one view only, which is a pretty bad design decision. Even the old SimCity games allowed you to rotate the map to view the areas at different angles. So if you don’t have room for your buffet that you want in your casino, you’ll have to sell some of the other establishments that you place against the wall.
Various casino staff is hired to try and keep your establishment clean, safe, and entertaining. You’ll need a good security staff to catch and toss out cheaters. Waitresses will walk around and serve drinks to the patrons. You can even hire showgirls to parade around the casino floor. You can assign a route for each worker to make sure the area on the floor is covered by a specific employee.
Outfitting the outside of the casino allows you to make your establishment more attractive, thus getting more people into your place. You can put up some lights, roller coaster rides, fountains, and other decor. You can’t really do much on placement on the outside, as you will just see your purchases appear in their pre-established areas but it is kind of interesting to watch as your dull exterior become like one of those high profile casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
One of the neat features that I did like was the ability to play in poker tournaments. After building a poker tournament room, you can enter in one of these high stakes games. You’re treated to either Texas Hold’em or Five Card Draw. Once you do enter in one, the game switches to that familiar Hoyle style look complete with recognizable characters if you had played Hoyle’s other games. There are 16 rounds and the one with the most money at the end wins. Some tournaments will let you put the money you win into your total earnings. If only Hoyle expanded this feature in all of the games on the casino floor. Yes you could play the regular games if you have Hoyle Casino and Casino Empire is suppose to just simulate the building of one but it would’ve been really cool to have included the ability to play a craps table or pull the slots in a casino you built.
The graphics in Casino Empire are ok but certainly not up to par by today’s standards. The sprite-based game allows for a massive number of people to be on screen without taking down your system. Details in the characters and games are pretty minimal with but the animation isn’t too bad. You’ll see drunken patrons staggering around and excited gamblers jumping for joy when they win. But the small sprites don’t have that much detail to them. What Casino Empire lacks in the visuals it makes for in audio. Some of the “celebrities” you’ll encounter in your casino have some great voice work behind it. You’ll get a nice little laugh when you encounter the likes of Michael Jackson and Arnold Schwarzennegar. A Hoyle Casino like character representation appears in the bottom left corner when you click on the patron. You can also listen to your own MP3s instead of hearing the casino music that’s outputted from the speakers.
A major problem with Casino Empire is the control scheme. Besides the lack of rotation of the casino, there isn’t a mini map to help you navigate. When events happen in your casino such as an attack by another casino’s spies or a cheater is caught, you can’t quickly go to the area on the map. You have to try and navigate around the map playing where is Waldo in trying to find out where it is. Another problem is you can’t follow a patron around the casino by locking the view onto them.
After a few scenarios, I started losing interest in the game though. Part of it was I was getting tired of scrolling around and trying to find the events that were occurring. Another is the fact that I was annoyed at the interface and lack of various features. I did enjoy the first few times I played it but my interest waned pretty quickly.
Casino Empire is fun for a few moments at the beginning. After you go through a few scenarios though, you’ll probably get bored with it. The control scheme is lacking a lot of what is offered in other tycoon type games. The process of hunting for the events that take place in your casino can be tedious and annoying. It’s not a bad idea and I hope that Hoyle expands on their initial attempt and improve on their execution. I wouldn’t say that this is a $40 game but rather a $20-$25 at best. It will offer some fun for those looking for an easy tycoon type game.
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Casino Empire showed promise but in the end itâ€™s just another run of the mill tycoon game. Itâ€™s got a good base to build on though. Graphically, the gameâ€™s behind the times and the control scheme definitely needs some improvement.