You really should go and read this post at its original home at The Imaginary Review, but it has since stopped posting new material, and Bad Things can happen on the Internet. I'm re-posting it here in case anything happens to the original.
Tamquest Softcorp’s latest string of releases has hit the market, and I tore into their video games with a wild abandon not seen since Lindsay Lohan gave up drugs (wink, wink). Here are my first impressions of the new titles:
Grand Theft Ovary
In this sandbox-style game, players use their controller as a versatile suite of medical tools to perform surprise appendectomies, involuntary liposuction, and stealth bowel removal. Technically, it's well-executed. The sound effects have a certain squishy realism to them, while the graphics are well-rendered (I found myself liverjacking over and over just to see the animation one more time). Unfortunately, the gameplay is a little unbalanced--no matter how many malpractice alerts are outstanding against your character, abducting a single street urchin and selling his organs on the black market will earn more than enough money to bribe the medical board to return your doctor's license back to "untarnished" status. Some people might also see the game's freeform, sandbox style of play as lacking in plot.
Gordon Crampton's Chefwar 2KBwelve
For a fighting game that requires fast reflexes, the controls are disappointingly laggy. It took me several tries to get the timing down for the combo attack to julienne string beans, I can only mince chives about half the time, and I swear that you can only peel onions properly if you're double jointed. However, Chefwar 2KBwelve has a surprisingly detailed plot for a fighter, and the game has a certain flair that makes it unexpectedly enjoyable to clothesline the snooty maitre d' and bodyslam the overzealous health inspector. You should probably rent this game to see if your enjoyment of its varied arenas and fighting styles can overcome your frustration with its execution.
Barge Commander: Bonded Owner/Operator
In the tradition of Sid Meier’s Pirates and Port Royale, Tamquest has created a seaborne trading game that thrillingly combines bargain hunting at the dollar store on payday with a ten-hour drive across Nevada in a car with no air conditioning. As a Norwegian Sea Captain in 1932, Barge Commander has you choose the cargo, select the port of call, plan the crew roster, and stand watch in the most accurate, real-time depiction of steam-powered sea travel on the market. While it doesn’t have the same attention to detail as the EuropeanSimulators line of computer programs from Chipfat, it still shows a lot of attention to detail. Unfortunately, a graphics bug present in my copy made everything the color of creamed spinach until I could download a patch that restored the game’s full color palette--composed of nuanced shades of steel gray, overcast gray, slate gray, and slate grey that really made 20th century shipping lanes come alive.
In VirtualSweatshop, you run an American clothing factory in the legal grey zone of a U.S. protectorate. Players can choose whether to give their indentured "employees" a decent living wage and exert control over other factors in their lives including the frequency and duration of breaks during their 14-hour workday. It turns out that you actually can put a price on human misery, along with a "Made in the USA" label. This game has a pretty steep learning curve; although I quickly earned a production bonus by placing the machines for maximum efficiency, I kept killing my workers by subjecting them to heat stroke and not ventilating the building properly. The number of variables that have to be tracked in this game are staggering, including a separate exposure bar each one of over 30 different types of diseases and parasites, not counting workplace-induced health afflictions like "fluff lung" and "stitcher's finger." I found the game to be a little too complicated for my tastes, but this may appeal to more detail-oriented gamers, sim enthusiasts, and actuaries.
Grandma Dream Day
I’ll admit that at first I was skeptical about this response to the growing number of dating simulators out there. After all, it’s kind of a creepy premise, showering your grandchildren with gifts and taking them out to places like the zoo in a desperate attempt to gain their affection, but it won me over in spite of itself. The cute graphics did a lot to offset the weirdness factor of playing as an old person taking an almost unhealthy interest in children, and the end goal is to have them keep their parents (your children) from sending you to the "bad" nursing home, so it's for a good cause. There's a variety of trip destinations including movies, malls, and the circus (including an unlockable bonus trip to the World Extreme Competitive Still-Life Painting Finals), and all of the items you can buy have unique effects and influences. The game's special "randomizer" feature changes your grandchildrens' preferences so that it's never the same game twice (which proves to be just as well, since I had to play through to the ending 3 times before I ended up somewhere other than the home where orderlies duct tape you into bed and spray you with a garden hose).
Wall Street Wizard
Not much documentation came with Wall Street Wizard. After the installation completed and I opened the program, my boss called to tell me I was fired, the bank foreclosed on my house, and all my money burst into flames. I give this game points for realism, but question its play value.