Capitalism Plus

a game by Enlight Software
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 6/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

Years ago, students at some of the top business schools in the country used to encounter complex text-only simulations of free-market competition which they could use to test their practical understanding of business concepts, hone their skills in an environment which provided instant feedback, and experiment with differing strategies to examine their long-range cost-benefit ratio. Now Trevor Chan of Enlight Software has developed for Interactive Magic a new product, Capitalism Plus (an update of the original game Capitalism), that revolutionizes business simulation by providing a relatively easy-to-use interface, decent graphics and sound, and considerable customizability to accomplish the same old task of developing a more dynamic practical understanding of the principal business concepts. Unfortunately, although the product is billed as "the ultimate strategy game of money, power, and wealth" cornering the market on "fun and realism," the only players of this game who will find it exciting are those who derive exhilaration from poring over supply-and-demand curves or from scanning stock quotes in the daily paper.

Gameplay

The gameplay involves quite realistic depiction of the competitive business environment, incorporating virtually every customization option imaginable. You begin as chairman and chief executive officer of a corporation, and your goal (of course) is to make as much money as humanly possible. You may play an open-ended game, which stops only when your corporation goes bankrupt, or a scenario-based game, which may stop for other reasons including an inability to achieve the stated goals within the specified time period. Among your many options are the ability to determine the part of the world and the type of map where your business activity takes place, the nature of your corporation and its products, the number and aggressive strength of competitors, the number of cities and seaports involved, specific goals and a time limit for the simulation, and the participation of other human players through a well-designed multiplayer option. You make a huge variety of complex decisions, including those affecting purchasing, hiring, advertising, and product quality. At the highest levels of difficulty, it is certainly a challenge to do well, but at the easiest levels it does not take too much work. Random events like riots, disease, and technological breakthroughs add unpredictability to the simulation.

Graphics

While the graphics are significantly enhanced compared to the original Capitalism, involving colorful SuperVGA resolution, they are nothing special by today's standards. The photographs of various aspects of business activity are quite useful in helping with the feeling of really running a business in the games. It is very nice that in this version you have the option of using real-world game maps of various parts of the world as well as randomly-generated editable maps, but neither the regional maps nor the magnified portions of these maps used in the game provide much detail. Furthermore, not all of the uses of graphics seem to add a lot to the gaming experience: for example, in a game settings menu you get to choose your "portrait" from a large variety of photographs -- why should we care about selecting from people's faces, none of whom really look like us?

Audio

The music and vocal and sound effects in the simulation are, like the graphics, unremarkable. Of course, in a simulation like this, the audio is not particularly important to playing the game, with the possible exception of the vocal narration of the excellent tutorial. The sounds are pleasant enough, though, and do not distract from the intense concentration necessary to succeed in the simulation.

Documentation

The documentation of this game is excellent and much more thorough than most games. A lengthy, detailed, indexed manual describes starting a business, marketing elements, strategic tools, stock and finance options, personnel management, and the anatomy of firms, business functional units, and reports. It even has a bibliography of useful reference sources. In addition, there is an informative Capitalism Plus Production Guide that explains the relationship among the factors of production.

System Requirements and Comments

This software contains two separate versions -- DOS and Windows 95 -- which are quite similar in actual operation. The minimum system requirements for the DOS version are a 386DX/33 CPU, MS-DOS 5.0, 8 MB of RAM, and a monitor and graphics card capable of supporting SVGA 640x480 pixel 256-color resolution, 21 MB of hard disk space, a CD-ROM drive, a Microsoft-compatible mouse, and a Sound Blaster-compatible sound card. The minimum system requirements for the Windows 95 version are a 486DX/66 CPU, 8 MB of RAM, a monitor and graphics card capable of supporting SVGA 640-by-480 pixel 256-color resolution, 22 MB of hard disk space, a CD-ROM drive, a Microsoft-compatible mouse, and a Windows 95-compatible sound card. These requirements are extremely modest in comparison to most games currently being released.

Bottom Line

As a serious simulation, this product is the very best on the market, incorporating everything one could possibly ask for in a dynamic model of national and international business. As a game, this product is a rather dismal failure, with no ingredients that add either fun or whimsy to the game in the manner the Godzilla option provided when Maxis first released SimCity. A business expert could enjoy playing this simulation to explore what kinds or arbitrary assumptions and omissions were present, while a novice could use this product to try to gain a preliminary understanding of how to succeed in business without ever going to business school. But computer game lovers -- probably the majority of those reading this review -- will frankly be bored to tears.

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