I’m just old enough to have fond memories of the “Oregon Trail” computer game. “Truck Quest” is a choice-based game that has a broadly similar feel to it but very different gameplay.
Gameplay: The protagonist of the game is a trucker who runs deliveries to pay off an exponentially increasing series of loans to secure his truck. As he learns more about exactly what he’s gotten into, he meets three NPCs who are willing to help him in the course of fulfilling their own political goals. Helping each of those characters nudges the political orientation of the game’s nation in a different direction as the main plot unfolds, and the game’s endings change depending on where that state eventually lands. It’s a simple, well-executed concept that’s fun to play out. 6/10.
Mechanics: The fundamental mechanic in the game is choosing which of a menu of jobs to take, including some that can bolster relations with certain NPCs. The latter category of jobs also affect the overall political orientation of the country (e.g., being favorable to big business). As the game progresses, the player gains the ability to perform increasingly lucrative jobs to pay off his increasingly large debt. It’s a compelling motivation to continue developing relationships with the NPCs and advance the plot, but the means of doing so is simply choosing a job and an approach to it (e.g., recklessly or safely) from a list. Even the ostensibly most hazardous approach seems to have a very high chance of succeess, though, and there’s nothing distinguishing the jobs besides the source offering them. The game isn’t long enough for me to get bored with that mechanic, but I was a bit disappointed by the lack of a deeper game to accompany the narrative. 5/10.
Presentation: The text descriptions and NPC conversations throughout the game are interesting and funny, and the low-res aesthetic of the graphics of the game suit it. Its political message avoids being ham-fisted, and the player is given a bit of freedom in exploring it. The game’s tone is consistent throughout, making the escalation of the problems faced by the protagonist seem natural rather than jarring. 7/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like business simulations to have an underlying narrative.