Who would make a game about an old Blondie B-side? Nobody, so this game is actually about building cars. The object is to run a successful business from the inception of the motor car as a vehicle for private transportation to the present day.
If you are a car person, don't get carried away. Although this game is about cars, it is primarily a financial strategy game, and you could just as easily be in charge of a washing powder manufacturer, or even a computer company which has lost its way and is attempting a management buyout.
In the beginning, at the turn of the century, you have one model of car, one factory and one sales office. From these humble beginnings you must forge an empire of carburettors and lead pollution that spans the globe.
The way to do this is obviously to ramp up the profit margin, exploit your workforce and bombard the public with lies. And all these things you can do. The price of each model can be set comfortably high (the trick is to keep knocking it up until the demand for cars is exactly as the number you can produce) and can even vary from area to area.
Evil, ethically exempt advertising can be concocted and placed on billboards, alongside sporting events or in the printed periodicals of the day. The periodicals are even broken down into different types (such as business mags, newspapers and women's rubbish) and are judged differently. For example, when advertising a luxury car, $1,000 dollars is better spent in business titles and car magazines.
If you reach the later stages of the century, you will also be able to buy up space on the airwaves and add to your brainwashing campaign. Unfortunately, there is no option to link your vehicles with a major credit card company - an opportunity missed I feel.
Your workforce must be handled very carefully. If you pay them too much money, you'll eat into your own profits, but if you pay them too little, they'll be unproductive and go on strike - the ungrateful wretches. This goes for both assembly workers and technicians.
It's the tech heads who attempt, slowly to improve and invent new automotive delights. Engines, brakes, suspension, in-car CD-players with eight times oversampling - all the essentials have to be invented before they can become a standard. Cars fall into several different categories too. There are luxury cars, sports cars, family cars, trucks and vans. As the game progresses, new types of cars are developed.
This is the entertaining part of the game - building ridiculous XR3i cabriolets and flogging them to wide boys at vast inflated prices. The car designing section is an entertaining exercise in itself. When you have cobbled together your design, you can then drag it around the test track to see how it performs - be prepared to go through lots of crash dummies.
Technology is important. If your sales plummet to zero overnight, it is probably because one of your competitors has introduced a new model with a cunning widget at half the price of yours.
You can check up on competitors' models, profit margins, media reviews, demand tables, sales figures and all sorts of other tables too. They should've included a cut-down version of ProCalc too. If you are studying for some business course, i'm sure this would do you good. If you have any talent for it, I'm sure you can claim it as a tax deductible too.
Expanding the business means building new factories, new sales offices and spending more money on advertising. This is where things get complicated because you have to route all your production. For example, if the Fandango V6 is being produced in South America and you're selling it in Europe, you have to tell the chaps with the nice suits and smiles where to get them from.
When you have several factories and sales offices everywhere, this just gets unnecessarily complicated, and doesn't really add much to the reality level of the game.
There are a few more instances like this. I'm not sure whether this is a conscious attempt by the coders to introduce an element of the communication problems faced by a global business or not, but it's just plain annoying.
Although fanatically precise in some details, the simulation is lax in other areas. For example, there are no corporate taxes, import duties, government subsidies or trade blockades. There should have been an option to fiddle your taxes or embezzle money from the canteen fund too.
It isn't the theme of the game that lets it down, but the execution. You can imagine (well, I can anyway) exactly the same idea being produced by Microprose, or maybe even Bullfrog, and being compelling and addictive at every stage, with rewards for doing well, nice animations, easier to use controls and some way of judging just what you have achieved. All these things are sadly lacking.
If you are a trainee accountant, or a lion-tamer seeking a second career, don't cross Detroit off your Christmas list.