Ever since RollerCoaster Tycoon's phenomenal success in 1999, PC game developers have sought to cash in on that game's popularity by following the same formula: developing modestly priced management strategy games that let players run a specific kind of themed business, such as a zoo or a shopping mall. British developer Hothouse Creations has tried its hand at this formula with Casino Inc., a game that lets you build and create your own Las Vegas-style casino business. While the game offers a number of surprisingly complex ways to manage your casinos, the complexity doesn't really add any depth, especially since the game's interface is clumsy and inadequate. As a result, Casino Inc. ends up being a game that's more complicated, and less fun, than it probably should have been.
You have to hire dealers for your tables, but you also have to hire a bunch of other staffers.
In order to build up a successful business in Casino Inc., you'll need to bring in lots of different guests, including vacationers, high rollers, senior citizens, teens, and socialites. In order to accomplish this, you need to fill your casinos with exciting gambling games (such as blackjack, poker, roulette, and baccarat) staffed by experienced dealers, and you must also add amenities such as restaurants, bars, live shows, dance floors, and video arcades, in addition to decorations and fixtures like potted plants and cordon ropes to grab your guests' attention and keep them moving along the casino floor. In order to keep them coming into your casino, you'll need to provide your guests with transportation from the local train station.
You'll also need to hire a dedicated staff to man your gambling tables, serve food and drinks, screen out undesirables, clean up messes, repair your broken slot machines, and "entertain" your guests by serving as professional escorts. While you can hire highly experienced five-star staffers, these employees will generally cost much more money to employ, and all employees demand additional pay raises as they continue to work with you. You'll also need to keep an eye out for saboteurs that rival casinos will send to steal from your tables or beat up your guests, though if you can successfully capture them with your security staff, you can hire them on yourself. You'll also need to publicize your casino by advertising it prominently in various parts of the city. You'll also eventually need to expand your business both by building additional floors in your current operation, which can be used as either more casino space or as hotel rooms for weary guests, and also by buying up new buildings in other parts of town to use as completely new casinos.
You'll have to jump between your keyboard and mouse regularly to get anything done.
If all this sounds complicated, it's because it is. And unfortunately, Casino Inc.'s interface isn't up to the challenge of helping you perform all these actions quickly and easily. The game's 3D camera is locked at four different zoom levels, only one of which is practically useful, and instead of being able to use your mouse to rotate the camera as you can in so many other 3D games, you can rotate your view and zoom in/out only by reaching for your keyboard and using the Insert, Delete, Home, End, and Page Up and Page Down keys. And nearly every one of Casino Inc.'s options is buried in a menu of tiny icons in all four corners of the screen that can be accessed only by clicking on the correct icon with your mouse pointer. Unlike in most management games, where you can build businesses by buying and placing fixtures, you can't even quickly and easily move or get rid of objects; you must open up a specific menu by clicking on a tiny icon, then click on the "move" or "sell" icon. So, you'll often find yourself in the odd position of switching between using only your keyboard to control the camera and only your mouse to open menus, rather than using both simultaneously as you may have become accustomed to with other PC games.
Because Casino Inc. buries so many important options in various menus, you'll rarely be able to react quickly to any important changes or events in your casinos. If an enemy saboteur starts a ruckus, your best bet is to immediately pause the game, scroll around until you can find the troublemaker, manually select a bouncer on your staff, then right-click on the troublemaker and choose to either beat him up (thereby converting him if the troublemaker is an honest-to-goodness saboteur) or kick him out of the joint, though thanks to the game's occasionally unreliable pathfinding, you may have to issue several orders to your bouncer before he complies. And unfortunately, since catching enemy saboteurs in the act is the only way to hire some of your own, you'll always need to drop everything to micromanage these events. You'll also need to pause everything to monitor your staff's ongoing (and ridiculous) salary demands. As you progress through most games and attempt to hire a large group of highly rated staffers, you'll find that no matter how often you give out pay raises and bonuses, there is always someone clamoring for a raise and threatening to walk out and leave your establishment understaffed.