We took a look at Social Gaming Network‘s iPad and iPhone shooter, EXO-Planet Elite, back in June. For its next release the mobile, social developer moved into more traditional social gaming with a virtual space release: MiniTycoon Casino, available on both the iPhone and iPad.
Similar to TeamLava, who brought standard Facebook-style games like Restaurant Story, to mobile devices, SGN has brought virtual casinos into to Apple’s mobile platform, topping the free game app charts a little over a week ago. Simple and familiar, most MiniTycoon Casino’s mechanics are borrowed from Facebook games, with a heavy reliance on virtual currency even in the early stages of the game.
You start Tycoon with a casino and the task of turning it into a successful business. In order to do so, you need to purchase various casino games, like slots, to claim the coin of gamblers. You pay a set amount of money to run the game for a set amount of time, and after the time has expired, collect the earnings.
Attracting patrons is done with both casino games and the decorations. Decorations have statistics such as “beauty,” “wow,” and “gamblers,” that all attract new customers into the casino in their own way.
Once purchased, new items take a set amount of time to deliver their yield, but perform little action otherwise. They will sometimes need repairs. Fixed with just a tap and the cost of energy, the damaged item will take a certain amount of time to repair.
If the casino games need repairing, that’s a different story because gamblers can’t use them. But so long as you have enough games, this will not be much of an issue. Also, items will periodically become dirty, and require a little energy to clean. Cleaning is the same as repairing (just a tap) but happens instantly. And there are other random things to tap, such as sad customers who need cheering up so they don’t leave, or those that wish to give a tip.
Of course, every action requires energy, so to replenish it you wait for it to recharge or visit friends. With the SiGN social network enabled (as well as Game Center), you can visit friends and play their casino games in order to replenish lost energy. You can also participate in the game’s various leaderboards and achievements.
The other social element of significance is again familiar. As you level up, you will be able to purchase casino games such as roulette or blackjack that require employees. To run these, you can hire non-player characters for a price, but if the you hire friends, they will work free of charge. However, one of the few more original aspects if MiniTycoon Casino is that when your avatar works is a friend’s casino, you collect a “salary” each time.
One potential weakness for Tycoon is the game’s monetization. Because the game is free, it’s understandable that a number of casino games and items would cost the virtual currency or “Tycoins.” However, a majority of the items cost money. For context, when we first unlocked new items, we could purchase about five in-game currency items while the other couple dozen cost Tycoins.
Players have virtually zero variety available to them without spending money. For example, if you want a new door, without spending anything, you get a red screen door or a blue screen door; the rest cost money. You might get to chose between two plants, or maybe a chair. Eventually, you level up and more variety will become available, but there just isn’t enough to really allow you to truly get hooked and enjoy.
In the end, MiniTycoon Casino is pretty similar to social casino games on Facebook. This means that it still suffers from the less complete social features of the iDevices. If you don’t have real friends that own an iDevice and you don’t want to invite random users, you can’t make use of many of the mechanics — unlike the TeamLava apps that automatically allow every user to visit any other without adding them as friends. With a so many of Tycoon’s core elements dependent on virtual currency or visits, this game could use further optimization to reach its full potential.