Night Club Empire
Night Club Empire takes a stab at being a "casual" strategy title. Does it work? Our final verdict...
Night Club Empire from Digital Chocolate purports to give gamers the opportunity to "manage every aspect" of their club "from selecting DJs and musical genres to buying lighting." While I don't quite agree with that hyperbolic marketing speak, I still welcomed my time with the game, thanks in large part to its fitting (and generally excellent) MIDI tunes, and the fact that it does something different in a largely unoriginal landscape. And does it pretty well, to boot.
I want to address the music in a little more depth before running down the rest of the game, because it truly is worth singling out. In fact, I think this is the only mobile game I've ever played that does feature music worth singling out, besides DChoc's own Rollercoaster Rush. I wonder if the games had the same composer? Anyway, the game features (by my count) six full unique tracks, each one accurately aping a genre, despite just being MIDI-composed. This is impressive enough considering mobile games are still being released with no music. But even better, all six are really good, with hummable melodies and hooks. I'm convinced that Night Club Empire played with the sound off would be much less fun.
Unfortunately, this is the case because the title's underlying gameplay is disappointingly shallow. With each club you open you're given some start-up money to get your first small dance floor and DJ, a disco ball, and other improvements. At that point club-goers will start showing up, and your money begins to tick upwards, in accordance with how many people are in your club, and how happy they are.
You can see the make-up of the dance floor change, presenting obvious situations to switch tunes. See a lot of Jamaican-looking guys with dreadlocks? Switch to the reggae DJ to keep the crowd happy. Ditto for Hip-Hop, Punk, Disco, and the others.
...and that's pretty much it. As long as you use the DJ that best matches your crowd, you'll quickly make enough money to expand the dance floor, or buy more impressive lights, or otherwise make more improvements to keep the place full of happy customers. Most of the "gameplay" is literally spent sitting and waiting, staring at the screen. Waiting to accumulate enough money to buy something, or waiting for the crowd make-up to shift so you can switch music, etc.
There is no ability to set a high or low cover charge, or to set drink prices. In fact there's no cover or bar at all. The money just ticks in as long as people are in the club. You don't buy additional seating or buy bigger clubs - you just go from a "huge" dance floor to a "gigantic" one, and this increases your capacity. Random events like equipment breaking does happen, but rarely. Once you have the ball rolling the club really takes care of itself and you can passively observe things progress until you can move on.
I understand and appreciate that this is Digital Chocolate's ultra-casual and accessible version of the strategy/empire genre, but some genres just don't work as well as others when all their complexities are taken out. I enjoyed playing Night Club Empire all the way through to the end, and if I owned my own copy it's likely that I would return to it from time to time when I wanted a passive time-killer, but more could have been accomplished with the concept without it becoming too complex for the mobile platform.
What's Hot: Really, genuinely great music. An underrepresented mobile genre
What's Not: Gameplay is too passive