What do you get when you combine a hunting game with an economic sim? Something that lets you get your hands on a couple of bucks.

Sorry about that one.

Outdoor Life Magazine has inspired Outdoor Life: Sportsman's Challenge. In the tradition of Tycoon series games, Sportsman's Challenge has more to do with testing your business mettle than your hunting skills. Your hunting skills will be called upon to determine what you think is best for your customers. This game is all about making money by keeping your customers' happy - and their wallets open.

As the owner of a wilderness resort, you will be responsible for constructing cabins, stores, trails, camping areas and keeping your park stocked with a variety of animals and fish. Customers vary to include hunters, anglers and campers of all ages. Maintaining a balance is the key to playing this game successfully. It's not easy, because everything requires balance. One action causes another reaction and so on.

You can choose to play around with elements of the game before you accept the challenges of the objectives. A tutorial and manual will help you get started, and while things may seem a little too easy at first, that will all change later in the game. There are things you'll have to learn for yourself, but that's all part of the challenge. You'll do better next time. Don't look for any walkthroughs unless you're really stuck because once you learn everything, it's impossible to fail at this game unless you're taking some pretty extreme chances.

Money and time are limited. You only have one week with a group of people before a new group moves in. There are lots of things to do including looking after employees, adjusting the rates on the rooms and merchandise and keeping an eye out for maintenance and emergency situations which do arise on occasion. There are some 25 animals that you can stock in your park including sheep, bears, deer and bobcat. Once again you must attain balance. You can't let certain animals get hunted into extinction. It cost a fortune to replace them. Instead, limit the season or increase the money for the tag. Let the animals restock themselves the natural way.

The customer is always right, at least that's what you make them think. I like the realistic situations which take place when things don't always please your guests. It's a fascinating program to watch as it unfolds because of your interference - or in spite of it. Even though you would think that all outdoor enthusiasts are cut from the same mold, there are pronounced differences among the various groups. Big game hunters have more dough to spend than the average family of anglers, but they are higher maintenance. Of course everyone loves to eat, shop and have a little something to drink at the end of an adventurous day. The customers you cater to will dictate the structures that you favor to build.

Like most Tycoon games, the graphics won't knock you out. They are functional at best. Some things may seem a little blurry but they will clear up nicely when you zoom in on them. One thing that bugs me is that it's all played in real time. You can't pause the game to look for things or take care of business. You'll be all over the map trying to keep track of things. Even though the interface is good, it could have been a lot more useful showing you where things are. If this were real life you would have employees using two-way communication for emergencies. They would be able to tell you where the problem is without you having to search all over Hell's half acre.

You don't have to be a hunter or an angler to appreciate Outdoor Life. You don't even have to like the great outdoors. If you're looking for a challenge that doesn't involve elves, aliens or Nazis, your hunt is over.


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System: PC
Dev: Cat Daddy Games
Pub: Take Two Interactive
Release: Nov 2004
Players: 1
Review by Dean