Ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome you to Tales from the Bargain Bin! It’s a spiritual successor of an old series I once did where I’d go through the cheapest gaming options available and see if I could find anything worth salvaging from the unwanted retro and budget worlds. I rarely ever did. I’d rate a game on a four rank tier, from actually not bad to watching old people have anal sex, playing a few hours to make my decision if this title was worth a pick up if you ever came across it, or at least figuring out the type of bad it was. I had a lot of fun with the series, and I want to let everyone experience my masochistic quest all over again.
To start us off and ease in anyone new, I decided I’d resurrect this project by looking at a little 99 cent game I found on Steam randomly one day, Lunch Truck Tycoon.
This title comes from a small indie developer named Diggidy, which appears to be run by some white guy as far as I can tell. They make cheap, easily forgotten games, and their next title rips a lot of graphic content from Game Dev Tycoon. Seems about right for a tycoon game. All their works are derivative knock-offs of other games, and not even particularly popular ones. I mean, they made a Simon Says rip-off. Really. It’s about early Newgrounds flash game quality, people. And they’re mainly a mobile developer to boot! Oh …joy.
So, that means Lunch Truck Tycoon is complete trash, right? Er, no. Not exactly. This is about as close to a completed game the group has out, and it’s about as basic tycoon as tycoon games get. For those with no background in the genre, a tycoon game is a sort of sim where you’re challenged to be the most capitalistic capitalism winner in all of capitalism, which is surprisingly not done with mythical sword battles where the loser is decapitated and the winner becomes closer to the prize of financial dominance, but by running a business correctly and making enough scratch to impose your will on the lower class and own entire governmental bodies. Okay, they leave those last parts out, but only because the game becomes too hands off at that point as you start generating money through magic.
Lunch Truck Tycoon is a tycoon game where you have to, you guessed it, run a lunch truck. You know, those things that sometimes hang around suburban neighborhoods that serve the best tacos you’ve ever tasted that are also responsible for multiple destroyed pairs of pants. Your starting truck even looks exactly like that same wonderful truck of pants destruction. I can only imagine the advanced rat people civilization that has grown in there.
The gameplay is simple. You go from the start screen to the main game and then decide where you want to sell your food, picking one of six locations on a map and paying a small amount of money to move. Then, you make sure you actually have food in your truck and stock up on everything you need, press a button, and let the tens of dollars roll in! After the round of customers are done, you get a little update on how much money you earned, then your actual profit from subtracted expenses that come from the more spacious lunch trucks. As you go, you go up levels as you sell more, which allows you to attract more people, serve a wider variety of food, and gain upgrades to your business.
To spice things up (aka make it an actual game that you could at least justify asking money for), there are events at random that pop up on your phone that alert you to an explosion off possible customers, along with contests. You either have recipe contests or cook-offs. Recipe contests take place over several turns as you get opinions from customers on how you should make your given contest recipe and adjust accordingly. Cook-offs are similar, except you have a set amount of time to gather opinions on a lot and adjust your recipe before submitting to the judges. You’ll also be challenged from time to time to sell a certain amount of a given item in a given time span for big bucks. Taking part in these events nets you the most money, because running a lunch truck gets you no money, just like real life!
This is about as barebones as these games get. Pick a spot, stock up on stuff, press the play button, rinse and repeat with the occasional challenge mixed in. That alone is enough to make the game as addictive as the average tycoon game, but there’s a bit more effort here to make it more memorable. And by that, I mean there’s way more hilariously terrible elements here to make this more fun than it should be. For example, you know how you adjust recipes? You get three random things related to a given food item, like “sauce” or “cream,” and customers comment by saying things like “needs more ” or “almost there .” This was a game made by someone who can code, but not by someone who can write, if the in game instructions are anything to go by. It’s all about function with no focus on flair or personal touch, and when there are attempts to add life to the proceedings, it usually comes in the form of a prescript mad libs layout filled in by randomizing code. Or Justin Beiber having a contest in the city you never get to see, one of the two.
That initially hooked me, but then I found myself in the same timesink mindset these tycoon games always get me in, constantly trying to do better and make more money, and those contests really do help add some life to an otherwise drab set-up. I’m probably going to keep playing this for a few more weeks because it keeps a good, simple balance between passive and active gameplay. It keeps you invested just enough to make the passive parts build a bit of tension as you wait for the next contest or event, and it’s insidious.
I know it’s sad when a tycoon phone game made by a white dude with a poor grasp of English and made with graphical assets probably taken from somewhere else is one of the better budget games I’ve played, but sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover. Sometimes, you have to judge it by the delicious and cheaply made beef it has under its tortilla, and it sure as hell ain’t good for you, but just having a bite makes your day and will force you to spend the rest of your day in the bathroom.
What I’m saying is that this game is pretty okay and you shouldn’t eat books or tacos or something, I lost control of this metaphor. But yeah, for 99 cents, this is worth a look.