|Headquarters for your bootleg liquor operation|
|Reviewed by:||Mark Goninon|
|Release Date:||1 Dec 2022|
|Time played:||3.2 hours (INCOMPLETE)|
A diverse history of games
So recently I received a review key for this game from Polish publisher and developer Klabater. The company was founded in 2016 and became public in 2019 when it was listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Over the past few years they've released an eclectic assortment of games such as 2017's helicopter sim Heliborne, 2019's fantasy tavern simulator Crossroads Inn and 2021's deck building card game The Amazing American Circus.
Moonshine Inc. is their latest simulation game where you run a bootlegging business. You'll gather ingredients and then follow recipes to brew various alcoholic beverages. You'll need to create the correct mix and adjust variables during the fermentation process as well as the distillation process. You are also responsible for the distribution of the beverages to bars dotted across the map. In order for any of this work to get done though, you'll need staff in order to craft and maintain the apparatus, make the moonshine and transport them to the clients. So, there are quite a few aspects to manage here that you'd expect from a business management sim game.
I do enjoy business sim games and have reviewed a few in the past. So, when I received the review key from Klabater I was quite keen to give this game a go, even though the subject matter (i.e. illegal alcohol production and distribution) is not something I've ever dabbled in before (well, unless you consider Omerta: City of Gangsters to fit in that category). I'd like to thank Klabater for providing the review key and giving me an opportunity to review their game.
|Unlocking new recipes requires you to create quality batches based off existing recipes|
Unlocking new recipes is addictive
One of the main goals in the game is to unlock new alcohol recipes. You have a tech tree of sorts split into four quadrants. Each represents a different type of liquor: Moonshine, Whisky, Brandy and Vodka. The closer the recipes are to one of the corners, the higher the quality. You'll start off making moonshine of the cheap variety around the middle of the chart. In order to unlock new recipes you need to discover recipes within the vicinity of an existing recipe. This is done by successfully creating alcohol based off the existing recipe but you'll want to get it as close to 100% as possible since the radius of the circle that uncovers new recipes seems to be correlated to how close you match the recipe. If it's not a close match at all, the circle may be too small to uncover new recipes nearby.
Anyway, I found this to be one of the most addictive aspects of the game and for a good time I was having fun unlocking new recipes until I couldn't (more on that later).
|The game has some pretty gorgeous artwork. One of the game's strengths.|
A pretty game with a relaxing soundtrack
In terms of presentation, I have nothing to fault with this game, the cutscenes are done well and so are the animations. While the voice acting is passable, the soundtrack is really soothing and reminds me of American folk music heard in the game 1849. In fact, the game on first impressions would seem like a very high quality title until you delve into the details.
|This the distillation screen but it's currently bugged as it's missing panels and doesn't allow you to create anything as a result|
Is it a bug? Or is it running as intended?
Okay, so you may have read some of the other reviews out there already and noticed a commonly recurring theme: bugs. Unfortunately, I wasn't immune to this and while I'm able to tolerate the occasional minor bug, showstoppers I have an issue with and I eventually came across one which prevented me from progressing with the game. The game would simply not let me distill any more alcohol. This isn't to mention other issues which aren't showstoppers but have an impact on how efficiently you can run your business, such as workers not being able to repair equipment for "reasons" (yes, it's very helpful when the game doesn't actually tell you why your staff are unable to do their jobs).
Once you've encountered a few of these types of bugs you start to question how many more are out there. For example, the tutorial makes it look so easy to create alcohol that's half-decent but despite matching recipes 100% prior to the fermentation process, I often find the result post-distillation having so little ethanol in it you wouldn't consider it an alcoholic drink and the quality of the drink suffers greatly as a result. Remember how I was mentioning before that you can only unlock new recipes if you ace it with existing recipes? Well, again and again, I've been unable to and I have no idea why. Part of me thinks maybe there's a bug in the game that's preventing me from doing this, and it very well could be, but let's for a second say that's not the case, and I'm just clueless on what to do. What then? Well, the game does have some basic help and there's the tutorial but they're of limited use. The game is lacking feedback, even generic feedback on how well you did at the end of the process. Was there an issue with the particular ingredients selected? Was the ratio for the ingredients incorrect? Was the wrong yeast used? Was the wrong equipment used? Was the wrong mash to water ratio used? Was the mix fermented for too long? So many questions, but no feedback. I'm not saying there shouldn't be some element of failure in the game: sure, allow the player to stuff up some batches before they figure out the right mixture. But at least give an explanation how a drink that looks like it's going to be a winner (100% match) is a dud by the end of the process.
Moonshine Inc. introduces a novel concept to the business simulation genre where you're in charge of an illegal alcohol production and distribution business. The game has great artwork, animations and music, and can be quite addictive when you're trying out recipes in order to unlock new ones. However, the game quickly loses its charm once you discover the myriad of showstopper bugs and lack of feedback with its core gameplay mechanic. While bugs can be fixed, core gameplay is a tougher nut to crack which means for those who are novices when it comes to homebrewing (such as myself) the game will forever require an amount of luck or black magic to succeed. You need to be well versed in the subject matter or have a lot of patience in order to appreciate this game fully.
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