Dark sumptuous chocolate has to be everyone's favourite treat, but it takes giant logistic efforts, manufacturing and craftsmanship to make it worthwhile. I've you've ever tried to blend cocoa with other ingredients to make your own chocolate bar, this game will sound familiar to you… or not!
To give a good grasp of everything involved in chocolate making comes PlayFirst with a game that has already convinced the palates of simulation fans on PC for some years already. Chocolatier: Decadence by Design [iTunes Link] is the iPad version of the tycoon game where you run a Swiss chocolate manufacturer aiming to reach the heights of Starbucks global domination.
Resource management junkies will be pleased to shop and haggle for ingredients in marketplaces around the world. Your job consists of sourcing the best at the best price to turn them into delicious creations and a sweet profit. In your trips you will make contacts, learn to set up partnerships with local shops and sell your confection stock at a premium price.
Although its name could suggest the contrary, Chocolatier is not only about designing chocolates. Most of your tasks will involve a buy-travel-sell routine and only a tiny bit of cocoa creations. Once you reach certain milestones in the game, the board will allow you to create your own product recipes, which must be designed in a secret kitchen in the, apparently, remote Iceland. The design options are simple but give a lot of room for creativity allowing you to mix the ingredients you have purchased during your trips to craft something distinct from the company's own range. The options are almost endless, but a good rule of thumb is to use pricey ingredients to make a chocolate that will sell at a higher price point. Who wants cheap sugar when you can use caramel?
Just at this point when you get all the game mechanics right, you move up the corporate ladder to discover other manufacturing plants located in other countries which allow you to produce coffee, coffee blends, infusions, exotics and truffles. The learning curve is adjusted for a younger audience, but you can easily find yourself in trouble making large purchases of ingredients that will go to waste if not used.
Chocolatier's turn-based mechanics also add some difficulty to the mix. Traveling to other cities will take a minimum of one week, which in game terms means that your factory will consume a week's worth of resources. To nail the smooth operation of the company it is paramount to have enough stock to keep factories running while avoiding overstocking and see ingredients go to waste.
To spruce up the otherwise monotonous gameplay, you have some cheesy plot and minigames along the way. Based in post-war Europe, you are hired to return the company to its past grand past producing luxurious confections around the globe. The (former) CEO has been lost in action during the war and his wife will ask you to take care of the business during her absence. She will travel to every cocoa producing country, allowing you to discover new ingredients and why not, eventually earn your place as the new CEO. How convenient!
The minigames included are equally unexciting but add an element of action to the gameplay. It turns out that to set the production level of a factory you must play match-three games (think of a chocolate-themed Bejeweled.) While these are not specially fun, they are crucial to keep the manufacturing levels at a good pace, so although you can only chose to play once for every recipe, you might want to improve your score and have the factory to produce more.
Upper management perks
As you progress in the game, so does technology. Thanks to a private jet flat fee deal, you will be able to stop paying a fee for every flight, which will eventually reduce the spending and worries about this matter. Another great development is the option to switch production in factories remotely. This is something like calling the chap in South Africa akin him to change the production line to a three blend coffee. As long as you have tuned the factory for that product (as in played the minigame,) you will have more flexibility and won't need to visit the place in person. This becomes really handy in later levels, since you'll be asked to deliver special batches for some customers willing to pay an extra juicy fee.
Overall, Chocolatier: Decadence by Design is a fun management game that mixes several skills under the right theme. It's a shame that its being marketed as a chocolate making game, because you can create coffee products too. For a coffee head like me, this could have been a key selling point!
"It's obvious to me that Starbucks is using Chocolatier to come up with crazy latte ideas."
I like the secret factory facility for design and test new products. Once you are awarded with an empty spot on your recipe book, you can chose how it looks and give it a name and description. There are plenty of options and it's really good fun. It's a shame this part of the game is somewhat limited. I want to see more of this!
While the plot might not be the most realistic, it holds the thing together and binds the different quests in the game. The various gameplay elements are well combined and getting to the point where you buy the best ingredients for your own recipes gets you to a cocoa nirvana. I felt the limit on designing your own confections was disappointing and not even becoming the CEO will unlock this feature. I bet many rushed to finish the game just for this!
Being a PC port I have no hope for some fine-tuning and get these little aspects fixed. This is something to consider when comparing Chocolatier to other games built for iOS exclusively, which come with frequent updates and social features. However, being a port, the UI designed for a mouse works with no issues here, and the touch controls are well implemented. Having said this, Chocolatier will keep you going for 10-plus hours, but once you are done with the story mode, it loses its appeal quickly. Perhaps the option of unlimited recipes could help.
Chocolatier feels like a game designed some years ago and lacks social features and game achievements integrated with the usual iOS platforms: the game has its own medals, so it's been a matter of implementation. Since its an iPad exclusive release, it might have a place in the devices of simulation app freaks who want to spend some time micromanaging their own virtual business. I believe Chocolatier is more varied than alternatives such as Sally's Spa or Supermarket Mania, but with the amount of quality titles on the App Store, I believe casual users will find some drawbacks. I loved playing it through and got hooked. But I want to see more of this with updates before they even think of porting the sequel.
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