How hard can it really be running your own nightclub? After all, it's just a case of putting up some tinsel, hiring a mate to DJ with his copy of the latest NOW album, watering down the beer, and hiring the biggest, ugliest men you can find to throw ne'er-do-wells out. Then watch the money roll in.
At least, that's how we imagine it. However, Digital Chocolate is giving you the chance to find out if you'd be well suited to running a happening night-spot, with its Night Club Empire game. And while there's not a hint of alcohol-fiddling scandal in it, the decorations, DJs and security all fall under your remit.
The game actually puts you in charge of three clubs, one after the other. You start with the Green Haven, and if you manage to turn a big profit from crowds of gurning ravemonkeys, you get to move up to Club Red Hot and then onto Club Electric. It's a good system, with each club offering new options to get to grips with.
The way it starts is this: buy a sound and lighting system, hire a DJ, and promote your club (you're given various options) to get the punters walking through the door. Give them a good enough time, and your cash reserves will swiftly start mounting.
Of course, it's not quite that easy.
See, as your dancefloor fills up, you'll want to expand it. A bigger club requires a beefier sound and lighting system, of course. And the more people you pull in, the more you'll need that door security to keep people in check. Oh, and it always helps to hire a dancer to get everybody in the mood.
Keeping people in the mood is a core part of Night Club Empire. You'll notice that you get various different types of punter in your club, from Travolta-esque disco blokes to punk-rawk chicks. Every so often, your DJ's contract will run out, enabling you to hire a new one whose musical style corresponds more closely with the clientele at that time – which makes them happy, which means more loot for you.
Meanwhile, a cool record-scratching mini-game lets you earn extra cash for upgrades, which is increasingly important as you progress.
Night Club Empire is a great game, full of character and witty little graphical touches. For a fiver – only enough for half a lemonade in some clubs we could mention – it's great value for money. Only its sister game, the guitar-licing Rock City Empire, can match its particular thrills.