Sometime in the mid 19th century, scandal tore apart the great Baumeister chocolate empire. Tempers flared and factories closed, leaving the world desperate for a decent bite of chocolate. To paraphrase cocoa guru Benard Shintero, "nobody knew the truffles they'd seen."
But now the year is 1880, and with your help, hope and the chocolate supply can be restored. In Chocolatier, the latest career-simulation and strategy title from Playfirst, you play an apprentice chocolatier. With a little assistance from Evangeline Baumeister (either in the form of detailed instructions or a little starter cash and a few recipes) you can produce and sell delightful treats, beginning with the ever-popular chocolate bars.
Eventually, as you make your way around the world, buying ingredients, making trades, and collecting recipes, you can move on to fancier chocolates, including mouth-watering infusions and gourmet truffles. While giant steam-run machinery does most of the hard work for you, there isn't time to sit around and eat divine sweets. In order to make your way to all the corners of the globe, you'll have to restore the Baumeister reputation. To do that, you'll have to solve a mystery by collecting clues and making bribes (with what else? Chocolate, of course!)
Even when family squabbles are wrapped up, you may still find yourself looking to complete the magnificent recipe collection, or trying to attain the highest rank of Master Chocolatiers across the World Wide Web. (You can submit your score to the list at any point during the game by clicking "pause", but be forewarned: the competition is fierce.)
In the beginning, Chocolatier doesn't seem very challenging. As you are sent on quests to find new recipes or hints, you are given rather exact directions. Even the chocolate production seems like a breeze with only a few ingredients in each bar. Once you set the production rate with one round in a factory, that factory will continue to produce as long as you supply ingredients. At first, the lure of the next sweet concoction may be just enough to motivate you. If they could add a scratch-and-sniff, or better scratch-and-taste technology to the game, you'd never want to stop. Still, as the game progresses, even without tasty samples, you may find yourself wrapped up in the story as the clues become more elusive. You'll also find yourself juggling ingredients for a number of factories, filling special orders, and planning complex trips around the world. You may even find yourself bringing chocolates to the queen of England!
The smooth, detailed graphics give this game a wonderful atmosphere. The music changes as you travel around the world, adding a bit of spice and variety. Sometimes, the animations in ambient scenes may slow the game down a bit, which can be a little frustrating if you're trying to hurry on to the next destination. Time isn't a pressing issue, though, unless you are in the middle of factory production. The next week only arrives after you move to the next port, or make chocolates manually.
If you are both a chocoholic and a fan of career-simulation/strategy games, you won't want to miss the casual gaming delights of Chocolatier.