The only thing better than eating chocolate is building an international chocolate empire.
You can taste this sweet success if you spend some time with PlayFirst's Chocolatier, a tasty little business simulation that challenges players to travel the world to acquire recipes and ingredients and produce fine chocolate for profit.
Godiva, eat your heart out.
The game begins in the year 1880, when you're asked to restore honor to the recipes of Evangeline Baumeister, a famous chocolatier. It seems her company suffered a setback when she left it to her younger sister to run. It's your job to not only bring the business back on track but grow the company into a worldwide force to reckon with.
In order to gain the respect of a Master Chocolatier you must traverse the globe -- from San Francisco to Syndey to Istanbul to London and 10 other cities - to meet with dozens of colourful characters who can help you pursue the finest of ingredients, such as sugar, cacao beans, coffee beans, spices and fruits and nuts, and even bargain with merchants for the best price. So long as you have enough cash at your disposal, you must purchase these ingredients en masse for your factories (e.g. 300 sacks of sugar, 100 canisters of milk and 50 sacks of coconuts) to create the "Elixir of the Gods" for your customers. You must also acquire new recipes for diversification and to keep up with market trends. Want to learn the recipe for Chocolate Bars with Trinidad Lemons? Colombo Cacao Coffee Caramel Truffles? Mint Chocolate Infusions? In order to grow your business (and bank account) you must pursue these 64 recipes and related ingredients from all corners of the world, as well as take on other missions from characters who request them.
Producing the chocolate switches the game from a number-heavy business simulation to a fun arcade mini-game. The factories used to make the confections consists of rotating machines, each with a number of slots to house the ingredients. You must use the mouse to aim and fire the correct ingredients into each machine, such as shooting two cacao beans and one sugar to create a Dark Chocolate Bar (a regular Chocolate Bar consists of just one cacao bean and one sugar). While it's not too difficult - that is, until the machines start spinning faster and faster - some economic simulation fans may not want an arcade element in the same game. In this humble game reviewer's opinion, however, this "twitch" component breaks up the game-play nicely.
As with any business, you must also keep an eye on production at multiple factories (and purchase new ones when you need to), deal with problems with suppliers and vendors, and keep adversaries in check, too. As you tackle the increasingly challenging 130 or so quests in the game, be sure to glance down at your bank balance and you'll be impressed with your company's growing net worth. Players at any time can toggle between the Message screen (for info on what to do next), the Factory Status window and Inventory summary.
Along with the main Chocolatier story mode is an optional "free play" mode, where you can set your own company goals and enjoy the game at your own pace rather than following along with a rigid travelling and production schedule.
It would be remiss not to mention the game's wonderful art style and delightful music that changes depending on the port you dock in.
Chocolatier might not have the same wide universal appeal as a "3-in-a-row" puzzle game, "hide and seek" mystery adventure or "restaurant management" simulation, but it certainly is unique, fun and challenging - and with high-production values. Even if you don't have a sweet tooth you won't be able to resist this delicious digital diversion.
- Original concept. Combines business simulation, arcade elements and adventure. Attractive graphics and good music. Many recipes and quests to take on.
- Might be too complex for some. Simulation fans may not like the arcade component.