Zapitalism

Review by Al Giovetti
Price: $35
Genre: turn-based strategy (economic simulation)
Release: December 1996 (available direct from LavaMind now)
Developer: LavaMind
Producers: Steve Hofman and Naomi Kokubo
Publisher: LavaMInd
Phone: 415-566-3808
Website: www.lavamind.com, games@lavamind.com
Requirements: 486 DX, 33 MHz, Windows 3.1 & 95, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, 5 MB hard disk space, 100% Sound Blaster 16-compatible sound card, a mouse zapper. hive.jpg - 35.1 K

History: LavaMind has now burnt into your consciousness and you will never be the same. Sounds good, huh, but not everyone agrees. See Scott Udellís article. LavaMind has produced Virtual Pet Cemetery, Volcanic Gallery, Lunatic Landings, and Gazillionaire.

LavaMind is a pretty remarkable company considering it was created by two people, Steve Hofman and Naomi Kokubo, who did all the work for their first few titles. Gazillionarire was the first and it has sold way over 50,000 copies. Gazillionaire and Zapitalism are very popular with the fairer sex, speaking volumes for the husband and wife team of creators.

Plot: The place is the island of Zapinalia I the world of Mermadan, which is ruled by, get this name, Queen Keshi Keshi Gomu, who has opened the economy to foreign trade for the first time in a millenia. (sounds like Japan - Ed.) The legal tender is counted in zables, and you are to amass as many zables as you can. You take the helm of one of six import businesses on the island. The first to reach one million zables profit, wins the game, along the way you win awards and contests.

Game play: Zapatalism teaches and requires investments in bonds, stocks, and goods to sell, price setting, marketing, treasure hunting, magic, and budgeting. You have complete control of a number of factors including setting salaries, company morale, borrowing money, buying insurance, even bets on anything, and a myriad of other items.

Reputation is increased by good decisions but the increase in reputation is more esoteric than the tangible goal of increase in money. The player with the best reputation goes first Reputation depends upon public service, image, maintenance, advertising, employee pay, and other factors. You need to understand actuarial and perceived value, and other advanced business and accounting concepts that will send you back to play the tutorial until you have learned your lessons, and you will like it.

Drugs play a role in Zapitalism where hallucinogenic fruit, called mystic figs, grow on the trees of a nearby island. Feeding the figs to your employees could result in them working harder and being happier on lower pay, but then again maybe not. The use of drugs in a game is somewhat disconcerting when it is an everyday business model, but then perhaps Steve and Naomi are not encouraging drug use by the reference.

You buy goods, set the resale price, purchase the advertising, optionally send your store manager to Timbuktu, mark up the product five times, purchase advertising, sell the products, and hopefully get rich. If you get bored or need a rest from all the financial matters, explore the island by clicking on the buildings for a description of the building and what goes on in it. After these tasks end your turn and let the other company managers get a crack at you.

You can also enlarge your store. Click on the Building Permit Auction to get the permit, pay the contractor and wait the standard week it takes for the store to get larger. Traveling to any of the twelve locations on the archipelago gives you access to buying and selling stocks, bonds, and exotic goods. Exploration can hurt you or help you and there is no way to know or decide which it will be.

Interface: There are many pull down menus. Clicking on buildings gives you a description of its function and may offer you options merma.jpg - 40.9 K

Artificial intelligence: Challenging and adjustable to increasing skill levels or individual preferences. Graphs and charts are used to track your progress.

Replay value: The types of goods, their quality, their methods of exploitation, and their values are randomized at the start of every scenario making the game different each time you play. Natural disasters and random events make the game a bit more interesting, and while each time you play may feel the same, the circumstances are different enough to make it fun to replay over and over.

Characterization: The Ronic Warriors are a group of ex accountants turned pirates, which is definite larceny on the Monty Python "Its fun to charter an accountant sketch." An insultant is a consultant that insults you, which is not too far from the truth in todayís world. Besides how can you really insult someone unless they are paying you. The members of the Humangistic Church believe in taking lots of holidays, and while the employers donít like it, laws support the observance of religious holidays of minority religions.

Humor is zany: These two are crazy, and had better keep working out of their spare bedroom, because if they get out on the streets the guys with the nets will have a field day. Imagine buying and selling lumber fish, wheezers bug extractors, and mamo vapor. Not only are the inhabitants and goods funny, but the hundreds of stories that describe the island are also comical and informative.

Graphics: Zapitalismís three dimensional graphic images have stunning visual power. The artistic talents of the two is remarkable. Naomi is the artist and what is in her art is combinations of luminescent, neon-bright colors that virtually light up the cathode ray tube like no other graphics I have seen. Unanimated and attractive.

Voice actors: A clear and distinct voice will tell you when you do well or get snookered. No recognizable stars from television or movies.

Music score: A wacky techno music score adds more strangeness to the game, and is a welcome addition and complement to the zany surroundings, events, and characters in the game.

Sound effects: High quality sound effects are keyed into events that effect your store.

Multi-player. This is a game designed to play in multi-player with up to any combination of six computer and human players on play-by-email (PBEM) or internet. Lavamind is setting up sites to handle internet play.

References:
Zapitalism Interview
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 81, 3/5, (60%).
Scott Udell, www.cdmag.com/strategy_vault/zapitalism_review/page1.html, same as above.
Keith Sink, www.gamepen.com/ledge/games/zap/zap.html, (85%).
Yarlen, www.zapitalism.com/reviews/yarlen/yarlen.html, 4.5/5, (90%).
Walt Henninger, www.zapitalism.com/reviews/walt/zap.html, (95%).
Barry Brenesal, PC Games, volume 3, number 9, September, 1996, pg. 80, B, (85%).
Private domain name for game: www.zapitalism.com
www.cdmag.com/strategy_vault/zapitalism/page1.html
francine schwartz, www.digiville.com/gazette/bleus/lavamind
Gazillionaire & the Galaxy of Gogg www.gazillionaire.com