With, a new publisher entered the market… apparently not having had a better idea than fulfilling the cliché of German business simulations. Even more so as although Greenwood was new, the people behind it weren't. Seems they loved the genre so much that they never went anywhere else in the short company history.
We're entering the world of logistics. There is nothing to produce or to sell, but only other people's goods to transport. You don't even have your own company, but you will be (so far, so realistic) employed. Though not as a regular employee, but being a full-fledged yuppie, you will obviously directly start as manager. The company will hand you the keys to success in exchange for a salary plus the option for a success bonus, but only for a limited time (typically few months). Success being not only defined by profits, but also by achievement of strategic goals, such as expansion into pre-defined areas.
Commercial offers coming in, the preferred way is to fulfil them using in-house trucks. Different types of charge obviously need different lorries, as road tankers will not carry containers. Drivers need to observe break times and so on and so forth. If something fails in the planning, trains, boats and planes or even subcontracting to the competition may save your neck.
Behind the facade reminiscent of Mad TV, showing an office building with different functions behind the doors, the typically German numbers and statistics game is hiding. It just takes the appearance of virtual computer and laptop screens, bank statements or balance sheets.
This has its appeal nevertheless, because at its core, it is an optimization game across various dimensions. The wheels must never stand still, as this is not yet the age of bogus self-employment. The drivers will be paid, regardless of whether they're smoking in the break room or they're on the road. The challenge is therefore to accept just the right volume of contracts to stay exactly at the limit. Bearing the risk to fail and being heavily penalized.
A real route planning is unfortunately not possible, however. Providing a multi-step schedule to a driver (take fries from Bonn to Cologne, then load fish sticks and take them to Frankfurt and finally ice cream back to Bonn) isn't possible. The best you can do is send a new job to a driver already on the road through fax. Apart from that, you have to suffice with the naive game of providing the next assignment after return to the headquarters, which bears its advantages (possibility to change the trailers, switch of driver…), but also disadvantages (loss of time).
The large amount of manual micromanagement (on top of what has already been mentioned, there is maintenance, accounting, sending reminders, employment contracts and much more to be taken care of) at least keeps you highly busy at all times. There is always another truck to send out again, another contract to check, one more temp to select. This develops into a certain “just another turn” feeling (although in real time), almost like in real masterpieces.
Then, however, you will realize that most of this micromanagement is actually just busywork. The option of real route planning, for example, could have taken a lot of purely mechanical tasks off the player and opened up some freedom for more strategic aspects. This could have made the game more manageable and demanding at the same time – plus also more interesting on the long run.
In this context, it is quite telling that higher difficulty levels are not defined by more complex overall economic situations, but purely by the size of the company. Once the number of trucks and jobs grows beyond dozens, once new branches are opened in other cities, overburdening the player is certainly part of the concept. Unlike the quirks in the interface when switching the active branch in the truck pool, for example.
Long-term motivation is probably supposed to be delivered through the personal life aspect, which has to be developed as well. Each morning and evening, your wife and son will have the opportunity to demand for some money from your private account. It goes without saying that the player is assumed to be male. Refusal leads to loss of affection, because as everyone knows, money can buy you love. Plus occasionally coming home early when your mother-in-law visits. Success at work leads to a happy family life – maybe funny at first glance, but it does not open up new gameplay dimensions.
In any case, it is all played on worst cliché level. The unbelievably corny illustrations, drawn by mid-90s icon Celal, at least fit seamlessly into the romanticism of these naive capitalist dreams. Though it's hard to shake the feeling that some of them have been drawn without game context – or why is it that the same character looks totally different on each picture?
At some point, frustration will set in even for the most dedicated player. The annoyance over there being so many statistics and number, but some relevant data nevertheless needing to be manually calculated and kept (e.g. projection of transport costs). The absurdity of being informed in detail about the cause of an accident, but never being told which truck will need to be replaced now. The irrational choice of having your own office on the top floor instead of right next to the truck pool, although 90% of the play time is spent going back and forth between the two. All of these are little details, but lacking new challenges in the course of the game, they do take over the big picture at some point and squeeze all life out of the game which admittedly has been fun up until then.