The life of a parfumeur is a busy one. Making the perfume, running about all day filling bottles and selling the fragrant wares to any and all that come calling. Not to mention the frequent trips to the four corners of the world in search of the rarest of ingredients to make the most fragrant, and the most profitable, perfumes available. Add to that the constant searching for the rarest of fragrances—the one worn by Marie Antoinette herself—a search that claimed the life of your dear father, and you'll soon find that Passport to Perfume isn't your usual time management game.
In Passport to Perfume, you play Sophia, an aspiring young perfume maker living during the 1940's. In standard time management fashion, you spend your days serving the customer's needs, trying to give them what they want fast enough to make the most money from them. To do this, you have a couple of different methods, depending on what the customer requests. The first is to select from a range of pre-bottled perfumes that you simply pick up and sell to the customer. Second, you may be asked for one of your signature scents. These require that you take an empty bottle and fill it with one of the scents that you create. Each of these scents have a different color, and can be mixed to form even more scents.
To further complicate matters, there are a number of bottle shapes to choose from, and you have the option of adding different colored spritzers to the bottles. This increases the worth of the perfume, but also increases the time that it takes to serve the customer, and, as usual, the customer's patience quickly wears thin. Luckily you have things like beautiful flowers to calm their nerves. Get them their perfume in time, and they'll even leave you a bit extra for your trouble.
Unlike many time management games, the money that you earn doesn't only go towards upgrades for the shop, although that is one of the major purposes. You also need to keep an eye on your shop supplies. You have a limited supply of empty bottles for your signature scents, and also a limited supply of your pre-bottled scents. These must be purchased between levels, and trying to predict what you will need during the next round can be quite the challenge. Because, once you sell out of a particular bottle or scent, those customers will leave the shop without buying a thing. And you need every dollar you can rake in.
After a number of rounds, you change into your adventuring clothes and head off to faraway lands in search of new ingredients for your fragrances. You are presented with a travel map, a la Indiana Jones, as you watch your plane slowly make its way to the next exotic location. At this point, the game switches to a fairly simple hidden object format where you must locate a number of different ingredients and bottles in the scene. The scenes are actually made of different layers that move back and forth, simulating 3D motion. Quite often, objects will be covered up by foreground objects until the scene shifts and they are revealed. Later scenes will have you taking tools to uncover the items that you must collect.
After collecting the new ingredients, you can go into the mixing screen between rounds and change the mix of your signature scents. By switching between your available ingredients, you attempt to balance the selling price of the fragrance with the time that it takes to fill a bottle with it. Is it worth the extra time that it will take to fill the bottle in order to make a small fortune on one fragrance? The more money you make, the closer you get to finding the elusive scent of Marie Antoinette.
Analysis: From the first bit of introductory story that you see, you realize that Sophia isn't your usual shop owner, and that Passport to Perfume is not going to be your usual time management title. As you slowly add more bottles to sell and more things that can be done to complicate the final product, the action can get somewhat intense. Not nearly as intense as something like the Chocolatier series, which is what I believe the developers were going for with this game.
I did find myself spending a good amount of time mixing and remixing ingredients to find new scents. I had fun trying to weigh the benefits of the cost of the fragrance with the time that it took me to fill each bottle. Sometimes they paid off, other times they became a hindrance, especially if I got too greedy and created a fragrance that took way to long to put in the bottles. Your customers will only wait so long, you know. They've got lives too!
Even though the hidden object sections of the games were exceedingly easy to complete, the scenes that served as the backdrops were beautifully rendered, and were quite nice to look at. The idea of using a multi-planar camera approach is a unique feature, and one that I think could be applied to a much more full-featured hidden object game to give the scenes a feeling of motion and depth. As it is, they are nice to look at as you quickly pick out the objects that you need to collect.
I have to take issue with one of the aspects of the main game. A number of the stations you access have more than one target that can be clicked. Unfortunately, one of these targets simply allows you to set the bottle down and does not activate the action that is required to complete the station's purpose. Quite often I would attempt to queue up actions only to find that I had effectively skipped a step,and had to redo everything. I have yet to find a use for setting a bottle in one of the workstations without actually activating it, so why this feature was included is beyond me.
I applaud the developers of Passport to Perfume (Mean Hamster Software, creator of Everything Nice) for attempting to bring some new aspects to the time management genre. They didn't quite hit the target in some areas, but the main game is a lot of fun, if a bit too easy. Even if you don't consider yourself a master of the dash, I would recommend giving Passport to Perfume a try.