Rock City Empire
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| Rock City Empire

Speakers rattling, lights flashing, frontmen strutting, eardrums bleeding. What with all the sound and fury, rock music isn't for everyone.

However, few other musical genres have the distinction of being both entertainment and a general expression of approval. International rugby doesn't 'indie', cinnamon doesn't 'punk', and eating takeaway food in bed doesn't 'garage' – these things rock.

And nothing rocks quite like rock itself.

Digital Chocolate has chosen to recognise this fact with Rock City Empire, its follow up to the much-lauded Night Club Empire. More costume change than sequel, Rock City Empire combines the micro-managerial tweaking of The Sims with the colourful exuberance of Bust-a-Move, and challenges you to transform a drab street into a throbbing clubland in just a hundred days.

You start with ownership of a dive called 'The Snake Pit.' Although a few revelers inexplicably populate the small dancefloor, the stage is bare and the surroundings are bleak. Armed with a small budget, you have the option to deck the venue with lights, expand the floor, distribute posters, employ a go-go dancer, and make a catalogue of other small improvements.

More importantly, you can hire one of four bands to play onstage, performing either '80s rock, punk, rockabilly, or new metal. The ever-changing makeup of the audience, whose tastes are indicated by the clothes they wear, lets you know which of these bands to set strumming.

Of course, the music is significant and Rock City Empire puts in a fair performance. Each of the four bands has its own cheerful tune, and while each of them is passable and appropriate to its genre, all are perfectly dispensable when the need for silence arises.

As the money starts rolling in, your world begins to open up. You can buy bigger equipment, hold glitzy events, and deploy flash stage effects so that when the hundredth day comes, Rock City is a thriving, strobing, pulsating Mecca.

In real terms, these 100 days represent about an hour of solid play, or a few days of fleeting bus-stop forays. Your success is measured by fame points, and although you are free to keep playing once you reach the end of your time, your score is fixed.

Starting again, meanwhile, enables you to challenge the ghost of your own best performance for the greatest number of fame points, and this is a surprisingly credible incentive to replay.

Fame points are the backbone of the game. Not only do they allow you to measure your success, but reaching a few benchmark numbers unlocks new equipment, events, and other venues.

With fame points come the winding queues, the moshing partygoers, the swivelling lightshows, and the opportunity to break into hugely profitable guitar solos, which demand a mention.

Taking a now-familiar dance game format, the object of these solos is to hit a sequence of notes on a scrolling fretboard. The occasional opportunity to play a solo, signalled by the filling of an energy bar, provides a welcome break from the hands-off isometrics of the management, and inexplicably injects vast sums of money into your coffers.

To be strict, in fact, the giddy bounty this subgame yields represents a failure of balance, cleaving the game into a pre-solo era, characterised by prudence and deft decision-making, and a post-solo era in which money is never an object and victory is, frankly, too easy.

It is this kind of bum note that keeps Rock City Empire from the A-list of serious management sims, but it doesn't detract from the joy of the game's more successful elements.

The fast pace, the variety, and the visible impact of your decisions in the increasingly lively Rock City all more than make up for any economic implausibility.

It may not be deep, but Rock City Empire is fun, addictive, and it even – just about – rocks.

Rock City Empire

Like the best rock acts, Rock City Empire delivers a raucous, pacy, frantic, colourful performance, and makes no apologies for its lack of depth
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