Arghh Mateys! Review of Sea Captain
The game Flight Control brought incredible popularity to a genre that it hardly seems possible. No bombs, blood, mad shooting. It is not a puzzler like Tetris. You merely guide different aircraft to different landing areas by drawing lines from them to the appropriate landing strip. Yet, as easy as it is to pick up and play, the game draws you in with incredible addiction due to its simplicity, but incredible challenge and knowledge that one more play through will (hopefully) net you a higher score.
So, it is not surprizing that people took this idea, and put it into a different environment. Sea Captain challenges you to guide boats to their appropriate docking places. Oh, and also avoiding other boats, rocks in the water, floating icebergs, and pirates! And challenging it is!
Firstly the game is gorgeous eye candy. Congratulations to Mark Corotan the games artist! The art work is meticulous, the boats, the lighting, even the water looks great. To give an example of how much care and thought went into the graphics - check out the Sea Captain on the opening menu screen- that pipe he is holding? There is moving smoke coming out of it... Also, the Captain's picture on the opening screen changes according to what map you have last been playing on.
The menu screen is straightforward. Play, Tutorial, Stats, and Credits. The tutorial is straightforward, and is just instructions. No hand holding to make sure you know how to draw a line on the screen. The stats lets you view the leaderboards uploaded and you can select the various areas and day / night to see how you compare.
So, on to Play. You start with New England / Day. Arctic and Carribean maps are locked, as is night time mode.
There are 3 colored docks, and boats are announced with appropriate colored dots on the sides of the screen. There are also ships bells, horns, and sonar sounds depening on what boat is going to appear. The various boats, which have different sizes, also have different speeds. The small ships move faster than the large freighters, but the subs are the fastest, even though they are only a little smaller than the freighter. So how easy can it be? Merely draw a line from the ship to its appropriate dock (a good line that is not obviously going to have the boat crash will turn gray temporarily). And this is where the fun comes in. Trying to draw good lines, avoiding the rocks, and other boats makes for white knuckle, frenetic game play. If you do nothing to a boat, it will go in a straight line. As long as there are no obstacles in the way, the boat will "bounce" on the edges at a reciprocal angle. The game warns you if you are coming close to an obstacle, and you have 3 lives (you will need them).
As you successfully dock ships, your score increases. Get enough, and you will unlock night mode. Night mode uses the same map, but everything is dark except for a narrow beam of light from the lighthouse. The light house rotates at a good pace, so although the area is dark, you don't feel cheated that you will not be able to see anything. It is really a great blend. Also, the ships have lights so you can always see where the ships are going.
Add to this weather effects of fog.. You can see the challenge continue to steepen.
The Arctic Map adds icebergs to the mix. These come from random points like the ships, and move in straight lines from where they enter. Again, challenge is increased, because you have to account for these moving targets in addition to your own boats that you are trying to dock. At night things get worse, because the icebergs are only seen when the light from the light house shines on them.
The Carribean adds Pirates to the mix! The center island "Scallywag's Cave" has pirate boats that are launched. Although they travel in a straight line, they are fast, and so cut across all those lines that you drew trying to get ships to safety. What are the chances that your ship won't get clipped and sunk??
If you do hit an obstacle, you lose a life. Even the docks can be obstacles if you don't draw the line appropriately.
You start with 3 lives. In my playing so far I have not seen any way to get extra lives.
Another feature is the ability to fast forward, although in my playing, after the first couple of boats, there is too much going on to worry about fast forwarding.
- incredible attention to detail.
- Simple to just pick up, but incredibly challenging gameplay.
- Varied environments and night time add to gameplay
- Wonderful sound effects
- uploadable scores
- no way to earn extra lives
- ship turns from the middle rather than the bow, which sometimes can make a close call a collision (unless you are looking at realistic turning, and then this is probably accurate)
- Difficult to open areas - Devs might consider opening areas after a certain number of play throughs rather then having to get appropriate number of boats docked. This will gather in those people that are having trouble, and might otherwise put the game down because they can't get anywhere. Especially as the harder levels require more dockings (I know that this is purposeful, but at some point people just get frustrated, and what's the harm of a non expert playing the expert map)
Considerations for improvement - mine and my son's thoughts
1> Powerups -
Time Slow - for those times with a zillion ships on screen
"Bumpers"- a limited number that you can place on a ship so a collision does not cause death
"Hyperdrive" for one ship where you can drag it much more quickly to an area, or dock.
2>More maps is always a good thing.
3> I think that some people would like the Pirate ships to actually chase ships. That might be fun, but then you would need, in fairness, a way to destroy the Pirate ship, and I could see that getting too complex.
Overall - A great game with incredible play and replay value. High level of polish. Captivating. If you like Flight Control, you will love controlling boats on the high seas! I rate this a 4.5 in my book, and consider it an excellent value.