Donald Trump has a history of slapping his name on anything that could potentially make him money.
Buildings. Beauty pageants. America. And even video games.
He liked to stick his tweeting fingers in every pie (and other places) long before he became President, including a foray into the gaming sphere in 2002 with Donald Trump's Real Estate Tycoon.
It was actually the second time that Trump had attempted to get on the gaming train. The first was in 1989 with a self titled tabletop offering that seems suspiciously reminiscent of Monopoly:
In my last year of high school I thought it would be funny to bequeath Real Estate Tycoon to my non-gamer best friend for her birthday. I had no excuse other than a poor sense of humour and the fact that we maybe watched The Apprentice.
I assumed that it had been thrown out years ago, but in a recent move she found it ... and thought it would be equally hilarious to send it back to me for my birthday earlier this month.
I knew what I had to do.
I went into this ready to be amused. It was funny that someone so detached from the world of games had a crack at one.
I mean shit, Britney's Dance Beat came out in the same year. A decade prior, Mark Walhberg released Make My Video on the Sega Genesis. Why not let Donny-T get a slice of the embarrassing action?
Sure, it was probably going to be crap. Sure, I could play something else instead. But old mate had the gall to double down on his cover head shots and make himself the logo. That takes commitment. Besides, what's the worst that could happen?
A clear attempt to capitalise on the popularity of the Sim City franchise, Real Estate Tycoon challenges players to, well, become real estate tycoons. You do this by buying, building and selling real estate across five different cities.
You begin with cheap, underdeveloped blocks with you can transform into condos, offices and shops for sale or rent. You control the quality of the buildings, as well as the build time — all of which determines how long until you'll see a pay day.
Surprisingly, you cannot build walls.
If Trump is impressed with your progress, you get promoted. The end goal is to challenge and dethrone the king himself.
Sound simplistic? It is. The lack of nuance and varied game play gets old fast. Even as you rise through the ranks as a real estate mogul, it remains repetitive and uninteresting. Despite working across different time zones, you spend a fair chunk of time waiting for offices to open so you can do business.
The controls and interface aren't particularly helpful. Considering that the bulk of the game play revolves simply around sliding bars up and down, it's almost impressive how counter intuitive they are.
The whole point is to make as much money as possible. There was a lot of guesswork involved, and there's no way to predict how well a location might be suited to shops, offices or condos.
The lack of forethought in this detail was so frustrating that I gave up on caring about the prices I was selling or renting property for — it was too much of a pain to be precise. "Close enough" became my perpetual mantra.
I shouldn't have been surprised really. The back cover challenges you to "Take on the KING in 5 International Cities" — and three of them are New York, LA and Atlantic City.
Why did I expect precision?
Similarly, navigating the map was a nightmare. Instead of being able to freely move around the screen, you had to click or drag on specific locations in the mini map. You also can't rotate the camera, which is a pain in the arse when you own buildings in close proximity.
And on the locations — the graphics were pretty good for the time. I can't deny that some money has been injected into the visual polish. But really, there was little differentiation between one city and another.
A slight change in architecture and throwing in some quintessentially French sounding music isn't exactly diverse. Everything begins to look the same pretty quickly.
The tutorial was also lacking when it came to teaching you the basic functions of the game. It only gives you a rudimentary framework of information before throwing you into the first mission. You have to discover the rest for yourself.
I suppose this could be entertaining if the whole thing wasn't so god damn dull. Honestly, I would rather it have been a spectacular garbage fire than this monotonous drivel.
It's the antithesis of Trump.
Happy Thanksgiving to all—even the haters and losers!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2013
Where is this guy? Piss me off. Offend me. Just don't bore me.
Even the Trump voice over sounds bored when he occasionally deigns to permeate the soundtrack.
Just see for yourself and wonder why I recorded for as long as I did.
One could blame age and context on how the game could be perceived by a modern audience, but I honestly don't think that's relevant.
Sure, sim games aren't the most riveting genre in the world, but even Sim Tower, which was released almost a decade before Real Estate Tycoon, was fun. Sim City 3000 was also released three years prior and was a huge success.
When a mobile version of Real Estate Tycoon hit the market in 2004, contemporary reviews also warned of the tedium, though did praise the production value.
I think part of the problem is the lack of interaction. As a player, and the lord and master of your real estate empire, you have nothing to do with the people you see around you.
You just sit in your tower buying, selling, renting, borrowing money from the bank, going bankrupt — all whilst remaining ignorant to the happenings in the cities you're fiscally dominating.
Part of what makes other games in the genre interesting is that your actions have consequences. You're supposed to care about the ordinary folks in your world.
Real Estate Tycoon is utterly devoid of this. As long as you're turning a profit, everything is peachy. It's all numbers and no heart. It wasn't inherently bad, but naive, simplistic and a misjudgement on the complexity of video games. But worst of all: it was boring.