As a fan of the classic management games from the late ’90s including theme park tycoon, hospital tycoon and one of my personal favourites, rollercoaster tycoon, I’m always on the lookout for a simulation game to inspire and entertain me and Rec Center Tycoon has done just that.
Rec Center Tycoon became available on 6th September to download. It is still in the early stages of development so my expectations of the game itself were not very high. Especially with games released on Early Access, you would expect to encounter many bugs and game crashes, however, so far there have been very few.
View the Rec Center Tycoon announcement trailer below:
The game itself is a typical business management game where, as the title gives away, you build a recreation centre (or a leisure centre to us Brits) from the ground up and manage every aspect of the game including the finances, employees, research and customer needs.
As you enter a new game you can choose the name of your leisure centre and select either relaxing, standard or challenging mode which influences your starting cash amount, your managers experience levels and how much your customers will enjoy their experience. I opted for challenging initially (being an experienced business management gamer) and very quickly ran out of cash so I retreated to the more relaxing level which made my gameplay a lot less stressful.
There’s a helpful list of jobs that you need to complete before you can open your leisure centre including building a room, purchasing various items and hiring a receptionist. As the manager, your sim automatically builds the structures that you lay down and installs the items of furniture or equipment that you purchase, although it is advisable to hire staff to assist with the build as even on the highest speed watching this process can be quite tedious.
Once your leisure centre is open, customers will start to arrive. They will use the facilities available to them and some customers will leave a review. It is worth paying attention to the reviews as improving their experience and catering for their needs will improve your star rating, which increases the number of customers that visit and also the money that they will spend. Customers pay a one-off casual fee to visit your leisure centre, although, if they enjoy their experience, they have the option to purchase a basic or premium membership.
In order to progress through the game, you have to complete a variety of research projects, which is sped up by having your manager sitting at their desk. You can research items to purchase for your leisure centre including gym equipment, swimming pools and saunas. You can research decorations to improve the look of your building and there are features available to improve your customer’s experience including vending machines, ATMs and free Wifi. There are also financial options to research which will help you to cut costs and save you money.
A key element of the gameplay involves the hiring of your staff. Each person available to hire has their own personality and traits, which include loyal, charismatic, flirty, smelly and unreliable as examples. I didn’t pay much attention to this at first but soon discovered that a ‘smelly’ member of staff leads to bad reviews and an unattractive but charismatic receptionist tends to ‘creep out’ the customers. This is a nice feature and adds an interesting touch to the gameplay.
The staff that are available to hire include receptionists, who will collect money from your customers, janitors, who will clean, water plants and refill stock and builders, who will build your leisure centre and repair broken items. A cook and a barista are required to operate your café and a lifeguard is needed to save customers from drowning in the swimming pool and to prevent your leisure centre from being fined.
Employing staff tends to be a huge drain on your finances, so keeping staffing levels tight, at first, is highly recommended to keep your bank balance healthy. However, I can suggest hiring trainers to teach classes including yoga, boxing, swimming and aerobics and by increasing their experience, you can charge more for the classes and give your finances a much-needed boost.
You can manually control your manger to clean, water plants, refill stock and repair broken items, which eliminates the need for a janitor and completing these tasks a number of times allow you to research the ability for your manager to do these tasks automatically.
The most enjoyable aspect of the game, for me especially, is the construction of my leisure centre and planning where my different rooms will be to create a nice flow around the building. Eventually, though, I ran out of space on the map so the option to buy extra land or to have a multi-layered building will definitely be needed in the future to keep players interested long term.
To add to the gameplay, there are daily tasks to complete and the occasional phone call to answer, which informs you of a drug dealer on the premises. You need to find them from the description given and ban them before they manage to leave. Whilst the gameplay at the moment is limited and not sufficient to keep me entertained for longer than a few weeks, the developer has promised new features and gameplay improvements will be available in the future and even at this early stage of the game, the developer has provided daily updates to the game since its release.
As the game is in 2D, the graphics are not of the best quality, as you would expect. Some of the items placed in my leisure centre look nothing like what they are supposed to, especially when they are rotated but I know this is something that the developer has promised will be improved soon.
For lovers of management sims, the overall gameplay is interesting enough to be a positive experience with features similar to those encountered in other management sims yet without seeming like a copycat of any one particular game. As for the future, the promise of improvements, more gameplay options and extra items to purchase, I feel that this game has a lot of potential and has a very exciting future.
Rec Center Tycoon is currently available on Steam as an early access game.
Rec Center Tycoon was reviewed using a digital code purchased by the reviewer.
Publisher: Jarrod Brown Developer: Jarrod Brown Release Date: 6th September 2019 Reviewed On: PC/Steam