Drug Dealer Simulator fails in its premise as an enticing game experience. Despite an interesting idea and an addictive rpg mechanic (no pun intended), players will tire from an unrealistic world with repetitive mechanics that never truly evolve past early gameplay.
In my first week of living in a new apartment when I moved to Washington, DC, my complex was flooded after its sprinkler system went off. A drug dealer on the top floor had set fire to his kitchen trying to cook crystal meth. This was a nice apartment complex in a “safe” part of town, and even there, drugs were an issue. I thought about that moment a lot while writing this review and what it means for a game like Drug Dealer Simulator, the newest game from Byterunners Game Studio. We’ll talk more about it later.
In a more grounded approach than recent tongue-in-cheek sim throwaways like Goat Simulator, Drug Dealer Simulator offers a controversial premise that is sure to pique anyone’s curiosity – you get to sling bags of weed, speed, and pills to a population of people living in a seedy urban setting.
Starting in a rags to riches story fashion, your character is guided along by a video game narrator who introduces you to Eddie, a point of contact in the mafia that can supply you with drugs. In your dingy apartment, you’ll use a dark web app to connect with people in your city looking for grams of drugs. Using a small workstation in your apartment, you’ll then prep little to-go bags of illegal substances to deliver to people around the city. In order to get more drugs to sell to people, Eddie will leave “dead drops” in the town for you to pick up, thus creating a cycle of drug peddling for your character to stay busy with.
In order to deliver successfully, you’ll need to avoid police willing to stop and frisk during the day and slink around at night during lock-down curfews. Each delivery rewards you with respect, which serves as an experience bar, and as you level, you’ll unlock new drugs, equipment, and locations in the city for you to expand the business. You can use your earned cash to recruit drug dealers to work under you and purchase real estate as your empire expands. Be wary of doing too much too fast, though; your illicit activity can trigger a police raid, resulting in you landing in jail for a short stint and losing a lot of your operational cash.
The leveling provides an interesting incentive and RPG mechanic that feels rewarding, so it’s easy to get sucked into that repetition if you like to game grind. I spent a few good hours running around dealing drugs.
My interest quickly waned, however. Despite the leveling, the loopy game mechanic never really changes. You simply dash around dealing drugs, pick up your drops, deliver money to Eddie, and run from the cops when you have too many grams of amphetamines in your backpack. The task of graffiti tagging neighborhoods to gain more respect is an interesting mechanic to break up the routine, but it never really gets fleshed out.
By hour four, it occurred to me that this is more a Running Simulator than it is a drug dealer simulator. It’s disappointing in light of the fact that the release trailer for this game promised some interesting mechanics like growing weed, cooking drugs, shooting guns, parties, and strip clubs. What you actually get is a bit of a letdown. If the developers had delivered on even a small iota of this advertised side game, this would have been a much more positive game review.
I think my disappointment in the game also has a lot to do with the setting; the world of Drug Dealer Simulator is weird. It’s a sprawled out ghetto with fires burning in trash cans. On the side of one highway bridge, these words can be seen graffiti-ed on the wall: “Hope Has Overdosed”. There are basketball courts and cars going by playing hard gangster music. Coupled with the sparse in game design that you find in some sim games, the whole thing starts to look like parody.
Which leads me back to my earlier story about the drug dealer I knew living on the top floor of my apartment. Drug dealers don’t all live in bombed-out, Boyz N the Hood ghettos. These guys have cash. Many of them can afford to live in nice places, and their clientele is diverse. It seems disingenuous to call this a true simulator.
After another hour spent walking around the game, I started to question whether or not that aesthetic choice was actually purposeful. Is this game actually some clever, meta-commentary challenging the human mind and its associations with urban life and criminal enterprise? I thought about this while handing two grams of weed to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl in her mid-twenties. The game informed me that her name was “Juliette Nwachukwu”.
Further down the road, there was a billboard with the words “Flat or Not?” advertising a vlog for woke Americans, and in the daylight, I could see a plane flying overhead, its contrails leaving two streaks in the sky. This was located next to the police station housing men and women walking around in riot gear quarantining off chunks of the city.
Is this actually a commentary for conspiracy theories? Government overreach? Dystopia? It’s largely unclear, so without a more informed answer provided by the game, I have to conclude that this isn’t Drug Dealer Simulator, but rather The Mind of a Video Game Developer Whose Socio-Political Musings on Reality are Strangely Apparent in an Interpretation of a Drug Dealer Simulator.
If that’s interesting enough for you to give the game a look, then hey, jump down the rabbit hole. Drug Dealer Simulator is available on PC.