Many of us who are stuck in a dead-end job can’t shake the feeling life was supposed to be more exciting. This is exactly what went through Tricia McDormand’s mind as she unhappily trudged along at her father’s company. But as fate would have it, Tricia one day stumbles upon a mysterious map handed down from her late grandmother, who was a daring explorer, and so Tricia decides to sail the seven seas on a magic ship to seek out the secret treasure.
And so this is how High Seas begins – a new casual game that offers 4-in-a-row puzzle solving, set against the backdrop of a magical quest to discover a family fortune.
The end result is a somewhat fun one, but the monotonous game-play fails to keep the player captivated throughout the course of the adventure.
In the main Story mode, an overhead map is shown at the beginning of each main stage, which is comprised of three levels. The ship follows the dotted path to the next destination and the game-play begins. A board of multicolored shapes are shown – think “Bejeweled” – but the way you create a 4-in-a-row pattern with same-colored (or same-shaped) pieces is played out more like another famous casual game, “Chuzzle.” That is, in order to create four or more, say, red jewels or heart-shaped items, you must slide a horizontal row left or right in order to properly line up the pieces to create a vertical column. If a small empty space is along the row, it causes the gem above it to fall down onto the row, which you can use to your benefit. Because pieces fall down onto the board, this game also somewhat resembles “Tetris.” In the Normal and Hard difficulty levels, you also have a limited amount of time to complete the levels.
Your goal is to create vertical columns of the same color or shape – which adds some purple fuel to your magic boat — before all the pieces fill up at the top of the screen (or else it’s game over). When you get enough power, you can sail closer to the next island (with 16 in total). After a few levels or so you take to the skies in a flying ship and visit other islands.
While it’s tougher to pull off, you can also remove tiles by creating a horizontal row of the same-colored or same-shaped pieces. Combo points are awarded to the player for creating two rows and/or columns in one gem-swapping move. You also get a bonus if your row or column is comprised of the same color and shape (such as four blue squares), which then removes many tiles at once as if were a bomb power-up. If you create a column with five or more pieces you get a special “joker” or “wildcard” piece that can be used as any shape or color you need it to be.
Allegedly, at the end of this adventure, you will discover the great McDormand secret that has eluded historians for years.
Problem is, you might not make it to the end of the game.
No, not because the game is tough – rather, it’s too easy and doesn’t really add anything new, so you’ll likely lose interest. In fact, after playing 23 consecutive levels I stopped playing because I was, frankly, bored. Every time I started a new level I thought “ok, here is where they’ll introduce something new, such as an exciting power-up or new story twist or perhaps I’ll actually get on an island instead of immediately sail to the next one” but alas, that moment didn’t come, so I gave up more than three-quarters of the way through the Story mode (there’s also an Endless mode, where you can comfortably create 4-in-a-row matches on one board with no time constraints).
Another reason why I stopped playing is because of this sound effect that plays constantly throughout the game — a kind of “whistle” noise — proved taxing on my ears after a short while.
Hey, a game review is purely subjective opinion, but as someone who reviews 3 or 4 casual games a week, High Seas: The Family Fortune just didn’t have the chops to keep me interested for very long. But don’t take my word for it – download the free trial and set sail to see for yourself.