Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chocolatier. ($4.99, version 1.0)

iTunes Link.

This is an incredibly deep time management/simulation game. The goal is simple: To sell chocolate and make tons of money. There's a backstory of restoring to fame a chocolatier family's name, which is always welcomed and may give people the extra push to finish a game.

When you start up, you can begin or continue the story mode, go into the Free Play Mode (must have a story mode game started before being able to go into Free Play mode), change options around, get help, view high scores, or change player. When you go to change player, you can add another player, change the player's name, or delete a player profile. You can have up to three players at a time. High scores have the player's name and rank, how much money they have made, and in how long they have made it. It includes boards for free play and story mode, and story mode also breaks earnings down into how much per week. Deleted players stay in the scoreboards.

Help includes 10 very detailed illustrated pages on how the game works. Options include sound effects volume, ambient sound volume, music volume, a mute audio option, and game credits.

When you first start story mode, you get the backstory and also get walked through the game as you encounter for the first time each of the game's pieces.

The music is upbeat and pleasant. There's tapping noises as you select items in the screen. There's some little machine noises as you make the chocolate. Sound effects are minimal but serve the game well and blend into the background.

Think it's easy selling chocolate? Think again! There are many steps to selling chocolate, and you will go through all of them in this game.

You need a factory. Thankfully you are given one at the beginning of the game and you can buy bigger and better ones around the world as you make money.

You need a recipe. You start with a basic milk chocolate recipe and buy more as you go through the game. In Free Play mode you have access to all recipes right off the bat.

You need ingredients. Cacao beans, milk products, an assortment of nuts, mint leaves, and so on. You have to buy them. You can go anywhere in the world to buy them and scope out the different markets.

Something might be cheaper in New York than where you are in San Francisco but you'll spend money to travel back and forth, especially if your factory is in San Francisco. You have to weigh the cheaper ingredients cost with travel cost, and if you find a killer deal make sure to buy a lot of that item, as items don't go bad! Also make sure you don't run out of ingredients halfway through making chocolates.

You need to assemble the ingredients together to make the chocolate. This is the part of the game that surprised me the most. I wasn't interested in Chocolatier at first. There were two main reasons. The first is that I already had a lot of time management games and wasn't sure I wanted another one. The second is that the screenshots don't really convey how much fun this game really is. And this point is illustrated best in making chocolates. There's a kind of game where you rotate wheels to make balls fall into other wheels and once you fill the wheel with like-colored balls, they disappear. The factory screen reminded me of that, and since I don't like those games, I didn't think I'd like this one either. I couldn't have been more wrong about making chocolates. It is my favorite part of the game now.

You shoot different ingredients into the wheels and once you put one of each ingredient into the wheel and the wheel reaches the right side of the screen, it gets made into chocolate. Make sure to aim right or you'll throw away your ingredients! The wheel starts spinning slowly and then gains momentum. Once you run out of ingredients you set the pace for that factory and it churns out chocolate at the rate you set.

If you are ever at a loss as to what to do next, there's a screen that shows you what you have done and what you currently have to do. You can also haggle at the marketplaces to get cheaper prices. But a word of caution: Haggle too often or too aggressively and the sellers will get mad at you and that can never end well.

It would be beyond awesome if a mini-games section was added and you could go right into making chocolate with infinite ingredients. Another mini-game could be making money by buying and selling ingredients, or factories.

After you make the chocolate, you now have to travel around and find people to buy it from you at the highest cost possible. The more you sell quality product the more money you make and the more reputation you gain.

All of these aspects add up to an incredible time management/strategy game that's a lot of fun to play. Highly recommended. Other than the suggestion for mini-games there's really not a whole lot to say in the way of recommendations because the game is loaded with features as it is.

The Good: Tons of game modes add up to a very deep and fulfilling experience.

The Bad: Can't go straight into just making chocolates.

The Ugly: No ugly here.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended for fans of time management games. It's a bit pricey at $5. Will you get $5 worth out of it? Yes! It won't be $5 wasted.

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