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Groundhog Day

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Cart Life is a retail simulation game which took Richard Hofmeier three years to create with the Adventure Game Studio (AGS) engine. You can play as any of the three hopeful entrepeneurs: Andrus Poder, a migrating Ukrainian who is taking over a newspaper stand business, Melanie Emberley, a divorcee who harbor plans of setting up a coffee shop, and Vinny, the final playable character that can only be accessed in the paid version of the game.

Each of these characters have their own storyline to play through, although Andrus does begin with a bit of advantage because his business is already set up and he has a permit in his possession. Players can open their premise for business at any time, but you may have to keep an eye on your rest and hunger level if you want to get any tasks done for the day.

Food can be bought and eaten at stalls or restaurants all over the city, and you can return home at any time to get a bit of shuteye before exhaustion sets in. Grocery stores carry miscellaneous items like cigarettes, cat food, coffee-making machines and luxury goods for you to make a purchase on, but spend wisely because money is really hard to come by in the early stages of this game.

Selling goods and consumables to your customers isn't as easy as stocking up on items and moving sliders either. An example would be having to play through a typing game to set up your stall correctly, and players are also subjected to a multiple-choice question and a simple math calculation to solve for every newspaper that they try to sell.

As much as I wanted to like Cart Life, there are a couple of game-breaking bugs that prevents me from making a whole-hearted recommendation for this pick. A file required to run the program is also strangely missing from the download package, although that's easily sorted by placing this file in the same folder.

Despite the nitpicks, Cart Life is an exemplary work by Richard Hofmeier and serves to showcase just how flexible the AGS engine can be when placed in the hands of truly creative individuals. Both freeware and paid versions of the game can be found at Richard's site.

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