When Tradewinds came out for the PocketPC, I spent weeks playing it on the train going to and from work. It was a very simple game: you travel from port to port buying and selling, fighting pirates along the way. You can acquire more ships for more cargo, building a fleet of merchant ships. Along the way, you unlock the storyline for each character you choose to play. Simple, addictive. Very addictive.

Chocolatier is very much like Tradewinds. Not Legends or anything that came after the first, but it is very much like the original Tradewinds. You travel from port to port buying ingredients, making chocolates, and selling chocolates. Along the way you will meet characters in the storyline (a very typical one with minimal plot twists) who will give you more recipes or put in a request for boxes of chocolates. Fulfilling these requests might send you farther along in the storyline or reward you with either money or a new recipe.

The core of the game you’ll be going to port to port, buying ingredients and selling chocolates you’ve made. If you let an ingredient sit for too long in your inventory without using them up, they will start to deteriorate. One really good feature that should be there is the buying and selling of ingredients so you can off-load ingredients that you’re not using at a lower price instead of letting them rot. Although the game never gets too difficult even if you lose a lot of ingredients since the markup for chocolates is ridiculously high compared to the cost of the ingredients.

Once you’ve acquired enough ingredients, you can start cranking out chocolate bars. In order to do this, there is a chocolate making mini-game where you have to shoot ingredients into molds that are mounted on a Ferris wheel-like device. As you successfully make ingredient combinations, the wheel will spin faster. If you make mistakes and lose ingredients, the wheel will slow down. The amount of molds you are able to fill within a minute is your weekly output for that factory and that particular type of chocolate. There are 4 different kinds of chocolates: bar, squares, infusions, and truffles. Of those kinds, there are 16 of each. So there are a lot of recipes to acquire and make. But when it comes down to it it’s just the same mini-game with more ingredients.

There is also a certain amount of “banter” where random NPCs will interject with a hint, some facts about chocolate, and news of rising and falling prices for ingredients or chocolate. These are useful to a point; being interrupted in the middle of traveling from one port to another on a regular basis because an old man wanted to say “nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen” is pure annoyance. To see the same old man saying the same thing in every port regularly as well, is another one. The game doesn’t remember if you’ve already heard something before, and this feature would’ve been very useful to make traveling less mundane.

If you keep track of where everyone is, the game will only take you a few hours to complete. I almost always had a surplus of money to buy whatever needed to be bought, be it factories, machinery for the factories, ingredients, or recipes. If you don’t keep track, you could end up running around the map with your Airship (which you will acquire soon enough) searching for that name that they didn’t come with a location.

The graphics for the game is adequate, but nothing special. Character portraits are well-drawn enough, and buildings and backgrounds fit the locations that they’re supposed to be in. Sounds are appropriate and you don’t really notice it, which is the sign of well-done sound effects. My game ran at a steady clip for maybe an hour or so, then starts to slow down – restarting the game fixes the problem. I suspect a memory leak.

There is also a free-play mode where you can make ANY chocolate you want provided you have the machinery, without the storyline and recipe exchanges (you’d start with all of them at the beginning of the game) and it quickly gets dull. Replay value is minimal, since locations for all the characters as well as their likes and dislikes, the orders etc stays exactly the same through the second gameplay.

All in all, Chocolatier makes a good simulation game with very little replay value. It did the simulation part well, but a bit more randomization would’ve made this game even better. Worth the play through, but only if you’re buying it through the game club for $6.99. It’s hardly worth $20 since you’re likely to finish it in an afternoon.

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