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I have a confession to make when it comes to chocolate I can pretty much take it or leave it. Don’t get me wrong though I like chocolate but I don’t love it. In other words, I never get a major craving for it I am more of a salty chip kinda gal.

I’ve never given much thought about where they come from (somewhere in Swiss country right?) I've never wondered what goes into making fine, decadent chocolates. And I never ever imagined that I could make millions working in the chocolate industry. I didn't know “chocolatier” was even a word for that matter!

So imagine my surprise when I came across “Chocolatier” from Playfirst, a tasty tycoon/sim/RPG game in which you’re a budding chocolate purveyor who gets to travel around the world collecting exotic ingredients, turning them into delectable treats, and then selling the chocolaty creations to fancy boutiques- at the highest profit of course. Godiva, eat your heart out!

Set in the Victorian era, (1880 to be exact), you've been asked to restore honor to the recipes of Evangeline Baumeister, a famous chocolatier. It seems her company suffered a major setback when she left it to her younger sister to run. Now, it's your job to not only get the business back up and running but to turn the company into a worldwide force to be reckoned with! Periodically she will pass along what she knows to you so that you can successfully bring the sweet taste of success back to the once famous family business.

In the beginning you'll be given a small factory and only 1 recipe for simple chocolate bars. But break out your passports because soon you will be traveling all around the world - from San Francisco to Sydney to Istanbul to London and 10 other cities - to meet up with a cast of colorful characters who will help you search for, purchase and even teach you how to bargain/haggle/beg what have you with vendors for the finest key ingredients needed at the best price. Things like 300 sacks of sugar, 100 canisters of milk and 50 sacks of coffee beans, spices, fruits and nuts needed to create the "Aphrodisiacs Fit for Kings" for your customers.

Within your travels you will also be on the look-out for brand new recipes in order to keep up with the new trends within the industry as well as filling some special requests from customers from time to time. For example Mrs. Olsen is “simply dying for some Chocolate Bars with Trinidad Lemons darling!” And Mr. Fox would be “ever so grateful for 60 Colombian Cacao Coffee Caramel Truffles if you would be so kind.” Fulfilling these requests is really worth the extra time it takes on your excursions; trust me you will be paid quite nicely for your efforts.

And oh don’t think that just because you became the CEO of this chocolate empire that you are too good to roll up your sleeves and make some chocolate bars yourself from time to time either!

Producing the chocolates turned the game from a number-crunching business sim to a fun action game. Making the sweet confections consists of manning a bunch of machines housed in your factory; you must use the mouse to aim and fire the correct ingredients into each machine, such as shooting 2 cacao beans and 1sugar cube to create a Dark Chocolate Bar (FYI a regular Chocolate Bar consists of just 1 cacao bean and 1 sugar cube).

While it's not all that difficult - that is, until the machines start spinning faster and faster - some tycoon/sim fans may not like the arcade element in the same game. In this humble reviewer's opinion though, this was a great addition to the game-play.

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Throughout, you must be sure to keep a watchful eye on your inventory, if let’s say your supply of almonds is dwindling then you must soon plan another trip abroad and stock up. Just make sure you pick up more than enough because each journey costs big money, and even in the 1800’s; traveling internationally by slow boat ain’t cheap you know!

So okay, you have all of your ingredients, you are maintaining a good balance of supply/demand for your faithful customers, your factory is efficiently producing bars day and night, easy peasy!

Right about now you’re probably thinking “Wow, I got this whole micro-management thing down, I don’t know what everybody complains about- running a business isn’t that hard. Time to sit back and enjoy my success!” No way, get up, now you need to go out and hustle your products to different chocolate boutiques. And when I say hustle I mean hustle!

For example although one location like Trinidad may still love your “Mocha Macadamia Madness” bars and will pay top dollar for them, another port like London might be tiring of them and pay you less for them. So if you're going for the maximum bang for your buck, you'll have to figure out where to sell individual chocolate boxes at the ports they sell best in.

However, if you get lazy or if you just don’t care at this point you can easily take whatever money you can get for them and sell them wherever. But if this is your attitude then might I suggest you take yourself out of the game immediately. There really is no room for bitterness in the chocolate business! Hmph.

You'll come across other factories- friendly competition or evil adversaries? I say take ‘em down! You will have the ability to buy them out depending on how well your business is doing. (And for your sake I hope you are making old Mrs. Baumeister proud, she can be a real battle axe at times!) Beyond acquiring factories and such, you'll also be taking on some odd requests from people that you stumble upon, such as delivering a letter to someone at your next destination or bringing back an item for them on your return journey. Completing quests will net you more money for things like newer and more valuable recipes and since this is where you will be experiencing your RPG elements within the game-play I say just take the time and do them!

The controls are amazingly simple, with the left mouse button controlling every action. Need to switch ports– click the left mouse button. Buy goods – click the left mouse button. Sell goods – click the left mouse button.

The graphics are nicely animated, except the chocolate never really looked all that realistic or mouth watering in any way- but maybe that’s just me not having a sweet tooth to begin with.

The music is done well here and thankfully never stays the same long enough where it becomes annoying. Such as the tense “uh oh, the factory’s out of cocoa beans” ominous tone to the more leisurely “explore as long as you want strolling along the village square” melody.

I'm not a tycoon-type game fan, overall I find them to be rather boring and for the most part unnecessarily complicated full of useless facts and stats that you need to scrutinize and analyze or else all your planning (or non-planning as in my case) was all for nothing and your said business goes Chapter 11 .

“Chocolatier” does contain some facts and tutorials every so often but never bogs you down with it in fact it does a good job of blending in some really great action mini-game elements with a dash of RPG moments.

I must admit it was a nice diversion from the "3-in-a-row" puzzle games, and "restaurant management" RTS games that I enjoy so much. In the end “Chocolatier” might have changed my opinion about tycoon-type games, well at the very least I will be more willing to get down to business and give them more than just a passing glance in the future.

And that's the general gist of the game – you make candy, you sell candy, you buy new ingredients you continue to explore and find new recipes, and then you start the whole process over again. And you know what it's almost as addicting as the product it is centered around.

Not only will you have fun, but you might just might learn something too; the game mixes in some interesting history and facts about chocolate - such as did you know white chocolate isn’t really chocolate?! Gasp!

White chocolate is actually made from whole milk, sugar and cocoa butter (yes apparently there is a difference) and has no cocoa solids in it at all , therefore not chocolate.

Interesting huh? Even more interesting is the fact that in certain inexpensive brands white chocolate is made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. Eww!

Even if you don't have a sweet tooth like me you won't be able to resist this delicious game.

Get Chocolatier Here

Graphics B
Sound B
Pickup & Play B-
Overall Fun B-

Posted by oxyjen on May 4, 2007
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