Cruise Ship Tycoon Review

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Graphics: 6.0
Sound : 5.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 6.0
Review by Dennis S.
In the few recent years it seems like Activision Value became the undisputed champion for tycoon games in the gaming industry. They've already covered ski resorts, skate parks, golf resorts, snowboard parks and more. So it's only natural that in their newest tycoon game you'll be running a cruise ship.

Gameplay:

As in every tycoon game the goal in Cruise Ship Tycoon is to run a successful business – by making cash from ticket sales and placing various attractions on your ship that will ensure a steady flow of money into your pocket. Basically there's four types of ships to choose from – from smallest to biggest, with a few upgrades for them available once you run out of space and get enough money to do so. As you start the game you have an empty ship, limited budget and a pre-planned cruise route to follow. The first thing you'll do is build quarters for your crew (in order to keep it happy) and your guests – there are various suite sizes available, from tiny to huge ones, bigger ones obviously costing a larger sum of money to occupy. The more suites you have, the more guests you can accommodate, which directly results in some extra revenue for you. Once you've built enough suites, you'll have to start building attractions for your guests while picking them from a lengthy list, which includes everything from bars to shops, and everything in and between – you know, the standard places you might have on a cruise ship if you've ever been on one.



Building those attractions is crucial, because all of your guests have different things they're looking for, as well as different budgets. To see those all you have to do is click on one of your guests and you'll be shown what exactly his needs are, and how satisfied he is with your cruise ship at the moment. Guests' satisfaction is everything: your company's reputation changes according to how satisfied your guests are. With better reputation you'll be able to force your future guests shell out more money for an accommodation. Although the attractions aren't the only important thing on your ship – you'll also have to build some basic facilities like washrooms and restaurants, so your guests could satisfy all their needs. You'll also have to choose the locations strategically – for example it'd be best to build a bar and washrooms close to each other, so your guests could go directly to the washrooms after drinking a bit too much. You'll also have to provide some other services in order to keep the ship running – janitor's office will help you keep your ship clean, while the nurse's office will ensure that your guests will get first aid in case they accidentally hurt themselves. Some of the places that you could build have certain perquisites – for example in order to be able to build a large washroom you'd have to start with a smaller one first.

The game control interface is pretty easy to use – it will let you set the game speed, select what you'd like to build, see the ship's detailed statistics (more on that later), open the map mode (more on that later as well) and select the deck you want to look at. Your ship is separated into a number of decks, and you can see only one at a time. To switch between them all you have to do is press on a corresponding deck in the game's interface, and you'll be able to see it. The map mode is useful for whenever some emergency happens – for example there might be a sea monster crossing the path of your ship, in that case the game speed will automatically slow down to the lowest, and you will be given a notification that something unexpected is happening, at which point you'd have to open the world map menu and take manual control of the ship. This doesn't happen all too often at all, though, and when it does it brings some sort of an excitement element to the game.



The game is actually funny and entertaining at times – your guests do some really stupid and funny at the same time things, like for example I've seen one gentleman slip on someone else's puke (the other lady has just left the bar in high spirits, and the janitor didn't have the time to clean up after her yet), fall down and injure himself. To tell you the truth it made me giggle, like I'd do if I saw that happen in real life. But the main problem with this game is that it's just not too deep at all – it took me only 20 minutes or so to fully get into it, and design a profitable ship. From there on it was just a matter of clicking on my guests and seeing what else they want to see on the ship or what bothers them, and fix that. As soon as it's done, the game becomes super easy, and one of the aforementioned emergencies is a welcome change to something more exciting. Even though there are three different game modes, the first two modes (instant action – which lets you “freeplay” for as long as you want, and career – in which the objective is to earn $1,000,000) get boring pretty fast, as you should normally manage to create a profitable ship in a matter of half an hour, and then there's no real challenge left to the game, as your money will keep gradually increasing. The third mode is really the most exciting one of all – it's called challenge, and it lets you choose between one out of ten different scenarios, in which by the end of a cruise you'd have to fulfill one or more tasks in order to win (for example: building rooms and attracting 50 guests by the end of the cruise). This mode is really the only one that kept me playing for a while, as some of those challenges can be rather hard to fulfill

At the same time, what bothered me was that no real manual has been included with the game – the print one merely gives you the overview of controls and game menu, while the electronic one does the same thing and additionally introduces you to the basics of the game, without giving any advanced tips or hints, so some of the things you'll have to learn the hard way – by trial and making mistakes. While most of the stuff it doesn't cover might be common sense for some – such as that the buildings on your ship can't be placed right next to the stairs or people won't be able to go from one deck to another, some other VERY important issues aren't covered at all – such as the statistics tab, which is rather complicated to navigate / understand and isn't covered at all. While I understand the reasons for not including a detailed printed manual with a budget title, it baffles me why the electronic manual couldn't have been made bigger, and why no tutorial mode was included with the game.


Sound:

There's really not too much sound to speak of in the game. There's a nicely done main music track that you hear in the main menu. Then there is a less nicely done music track that you can hear when playing the game. It's not the coolest track you'll hear in your life, and even though it's nice to hear for the first few hours, quite honestly becomes annoying after a while. Thank god you can turn the music and any other sound effects off.

Now, there are *some* sound effects that you can hear when zooming in on to your buildings. They're even of good quality and sound nice. But quite frankly, there's not a lot of them either – and there's no variety to them at all. As a result the game really does feel like somewhat void, due to lack of audio elements. In order to feel like you're actually on a cruise ship, I think some people (including myself) would like to hear some background sounds, like waves and seagulls and what not. Sadly while you'll hear some of the above in the game, there just isn't enough of them to make you feel like you're actually located on a cruise ship.



Graphics:

To tell you the truth, when I first started the game I was pleasantly surprised with the graphics. Starting from the main menu and on to the game itself, everything has a somewhat comic, cartoonish style. The graphics could easily be compared with the ones you might've seen in The Sims series – with one big difference, as Cruise Ship Tycoon is using a seemingly more powerful and fully 3D graphics engine, that allows for really close zoom-in's and pretty much lets you select any camera angle. When you zoom out from the game, the graphics look like any standard top-down 2D game, but when you zoom in onto the action, you can actually see your guests and crew like you would if they were standing right next to you. The camera controls are ultra easy to use as well, and actually do what they're supposed to.

More than enough detail is given to the game's characters – they're all fairly well modeled and there's a large variation of models for all of them, from little kids to rather sexy ladies, to old people on wheelchairs. The animations aren't really bad either, the characters move almost like they would in real life. A lot of detail has been given to the environments as well: that means that you'll be able to see paintings and such in some of the locations, and the lights will be flashing inside a discotheque. There's even a “sway” option available, which makes the ship, well, sway as it would in real life.



But that's where the one major flaw in the game's design kicks in – given the amount of detail given to the graphics, the 3D graphics engine simply isn't able to display all that without a significant performance drop once you upgrade to a bigger ship and / or have a lot of guests on board. When my 1000Mhz / 512MB RAM / GF2 machine that exceeds the recommended requirements has started to badly stutter at the lowest resolution (800x600) after a few hours of gameplay, I knew that something was wrong. As more and more guests arrived on my ship as I've upgraded it and built more suites, the performance fell down to an unacceptable level and I had to quit the current game and start a new one. After the problem persisted, a quick look through some messageboards brought me to complaints from people that had machines by far faster than mine, experiencing the same problem. There's no patch available for this issue as of yet, and since it's a budget game I doubt one will be released. Simply putting it, if you don't have a very powerful machine, stay away from this game until a patch is out for this issue.

Conclusion:

After playing the game I have some rather mixed feelings. As it is, it's a fully functional and at times funny and entertaining game. For the first few hours that I've played it, it was actually an enjoyable experience. But at the same time it is way too easy to be called a REAL tycoon game, and might get boring pretty fast. The graphics are terrific for a tycoon game, but when the ship fills up with guests the performance goes down so badly that I can't recommend it to anyone except for those people that have a top of the line machine. Rather poor audio department and no real manual included with the game make playing it even more frustrating. At the same time I think that Cruise Ship Tycoon could've been a very nice game if more time, effort and money was put into it. But as it is, I'd recommend it to real fans of the genre or casual gamers looking to spend a few hours on ANYTHING only.