I spend a fair amount of my spare time playing video games. I also, as many of the Need Coffee staff can attest to, spend some of my spare time making beer and wine. Those two things rarely meet. Well, to be fair actually, they very very often meet, just not in a single product. Enter Fiz: The Brewery Management Game. It’s one of the very few points in the middle of the homebrewing/gaming venn diagram. It’s a pretty shiny point too.
Fiz, as its full name implies, is a management sim. After an introduction by a strange old beer wizard, you are walked through creating your first batch (called “Tutorial Lite”), and left in charge of a four-person basement microbrewery. As you progress through the game you level up your employees, discover new recipes, upgrade your equipment, unlock new marketplaces, and generally climb the beer ladder.
[ad#longpost]As far as the game mechanics go, it’s a pretty good mobile management sim. You start by picking a recipe from your book, purchasing the ingredients, setting your employees to their tasks, determining the quality/quantity/time-to-brew of your beer, and you’re off. The balance of quality/quantity/time-to-brew is done through assigning Craft Points, which are themselves determined by the skill level of your employees. The actual brewing of a batch takes roughly a minute or less, though the game keeps you engaged through even that time. Then you’re faced with the challenge of selling your beer. You have a list of markets, and the markets aren’t just a linear climb. Each market has its own audience. The patrons of the local convenience store don’t necessarily have the same tastes or budget as the hipster bar or the craft beer store. You can blindly try a beer and a price on an audience, or you can spend a bit of money on market research and go in with a much clearer plan. Once the beer is off to market, you start the whole process again. It’s pretty fast-paced, and pretty easy to figure out. But even if you fail miserably, you will be able to scrounge up ingredients for some watered-down swill that you’ll be able to push at your friend’s corner store, and thus pick yourself back up.
As you go, there are story events, challenges, and side quests that often pop up. The story stuff is actually better written than it needs to be, setting up a typical Karate Kid-esque situation for you to work through. My only complaint is that a few of the side quests are nearly impossible unless the batch your gang happens to be working on at the time fits the request. As the guy that tends to do all the side quests in an adventure game before touching the main quest, this frustrates me greatly–but that’s why they’re side quests and not main story events.
But there are a bajillion cute little management sims available on the Play Store/App Store from devs like Kairosoft and Nimblebit. What sets this one apart from those is the brewery aspect, and in that, Fiz absolutely knocks it out of the park. I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw that ingredients you use are real beer ingredients, like crystal malt, cascade hops, irish moss tablets, etc. The recipes you use through the game could absolutely be pulled out and used as the basis for some decent real beer recipes, and I suspect the in-game recipes are just simplified recipes the devs had or found. Homebrewing is boiled down (no pun intended) into something fun and accessible for pretty much everyone, while still being incredibly accurate. Sometimes frighteningly so. From his first appearance, where he critiques the pH in your sparging process, Gary Blau (essentially Fiz‘s Johnny from Cobra Kai) will cause all homebrewers playing to roll their eyes. Because we all know that guy. We really do. And he really is that annoying. And yes “sparging” is a real word. It’s pretty much just means “rinsing.” Only the Gary Blaus of the world actually use it in conversation.
There is some wild bacteria swimming in Fiz‘s mash though. The game’s got menus. Menus on top of menus. And a big annoying tool tip on each one explaining how to use it, no matter how self-explanatory the screen seems. So many menus, tool tips, even screens, and notifications popping up over each other–that the graphics will bug out. So far, I’ve only seen those be temporary graphical bugs though. The tool tips also have to be turned off individually, with no blanket “Yes, I’ve played this before, just let me make some beer!” option, nor can they be found again if you turned one off and forget what that something does. Then there’s the recipe system. It’s built in such a way that implies that you can make your own recipes by dragging ingredients onto it. You can discover new recipes this way (and are required to at certain points), but it seem like a missed opportunity not to let users just throw ingredients in a pot, and see what comes out.
Fiz: The Brewery Management Game is available from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon App Store for $1.99, and contains no microtransactions/in-app purchases whatsoever. As a debut game from Bit By Bit Studios (based in my hometown of Baltimore, MD), it’s quite a good release, though fraught with a few graphical bugs and other small issues. If you like the management sim sort of thing, you could do much worse. If you like the management sim sort of thing, have even a passing interest in homebrewing, you couldn’t do any better.