There are plenty of business empire building games out there – Theme this, Sim that and so on. If we had a nickel for every Tycoon game that had crossed our desk then we’d take them all to the bank and get them exchanged into real money – the type with pictures of the Queen on and a worth lower than a Olympic-level limbo bar.
Attempting to stand out in this hugely crowded and mostly unremarkable genre then is Hotel Giant 2, the sequel to the million selling Hotel Giant. It boasts that aspiring Donald Trumps can practice the art of hotel management, taking their hotels from seedy motels used for little more than shady drug deals, right up to palatial skyscrapers in the centre of Paris.
To an extent the game succeeds at this too, letting players micromanage almost every single area of their hotel. You design the rooms, hire the staff (some of them anyway), commission the advertising and choose the city where you want to build your empire. The only thing you can’t do is change the sheets, but if you really think of that aspect of the biz as entertainment then you don’t need Hotel Giant 2 as much as some Freudian analysis and rubber gloves.
Unfortunately though, there’s a split in the way the game has structured itself. Maybe two or three splits, in fact, because Hotel Giant 2 doesn't seem to settle on a target audience very well. On the one hand Hotel Giant 2 tries to be as realistic and micromanaging as possible by putting the focus on individual customers rather than the larger picture. At the same time though, the difficulty of all this is undermined by giving players access to cheat cards to get them out of tricky spots and unlockable furniture.
Hotel Giant 2 tries to be hardcore with one hand, but casual and forgiving with the other and it doesn’t accomplish it with the elegance of other games in that mould, like Prince of Persia. The result is that casual players will just spam the cheat card system, while hardcore players will be pressed harder than an apple in a cider press if they try to continue without them, which damages the game for both parties.
Ignoring some of the more casual aspects of the design for a moment though, Hotel Giant 2 does offer a lot of customisation and management options for players. Starting off with a basic multi-floor shell in the standard game modes, players have to quickly assemble a skeleton of a hotel – rooms, reception, bathrooms and so on.
At the start of the game you have to rely on just a tiny trickle of customers, but as the money rolls in you can quickly steamroll your development and the game soon opens up more and more, letting you build facilities like saunas, beauty parlours and other super-masculine things. In the later stages your unbelievably expensive hotel is more like a microcosmic city than an actual place of lodging; it'll have libraries, restaurants and more spare room than the inside of Paris Hilton's head.
The actual process of designing each of your rooms individually can be hugely repetitive obviously since you’ve got to design twenty of them per floor, but Hotel Giant 2’s got a handy cloning feature to help take the tedium out of this if you want. It’s easy to build a basic template room and then hurry onto the other areas that require your attention, such as adjusting the staff salaries and upgrading the information terminals in the lobby. You've constantly got to chase customer expectations and ensure their individual needs are met.
In fact, this approach of removing the boring aspects of the game are applied to large swathes of the game – you don’t need to hire a receptionist every time you embiggen your entrance for example, fashionably shaggy-haired men in suits come free with every receptionist’s desk you buy!
Likewise, switching the décor of your rooms is done with just few button presses, though the unfortunate side effect is that these early aspects of the game feel massively uninvolved and shallow as a result of this streamlining.