The casual gaming field isn’t short on time management titles… ditto for those featuring a relaxed, seaside theme. Thus you can imagine our trepidation in approaching the latest oceanfront outing Tropical Mania, which offers less in the way of exciting new features than frantic play and simple thematic charm. Happily, however, solid game mechanics and catchy visuals combine to make the title worth investigating.

A positive or negative depending on how you look at it, no storyline gets in the way of the action here. Players simply jump right in and start building a beachfront resort, frantically clicking to serve drinks to waiting patrons and clean up their huts. Oddly though, the depth found in most rivals is lacking, with the excitement taking place on mostly static, if beautifully-rendered hand-drawn backgrounds, and characters represented by simple tokens. To wit, you never see a full range of testy tourists, huge arsenal of bonuses or even a great variety of on-screen activity, but occasional animations depicting events like rain showers or flying birds (which obstruct one’s view) do help add charisma.

In an odd twist, pressure here is mostly self-created. Rather than counting down, the clock (a numerical counter named ‘chrono’) counts up, with one’s goal being to assemble a compound as quickly as possible. But to be awarded new buildings, which you’ll need to place strategically so as to maximize efficiency, you’ll first have to meet waiting customers’ needs. This is accomplished by controlling a tray capable of holding two items – actions can easily be queued, stacked and canceled – via which you’ll shuttle refreshments and staff members between boats, cruise liners and huts.

Basically, existing structures can, at any given moment, feature a blinking alert atop them, which indicates the need for a housekeeper, waitress, nurse or other staff member. Removing these notices requires shuffling employees over to each locale in short fashion, and fulfilling food or drink orders (produced by French fry-, ice cream- and cocktail-producing structures) as required. The faster you do so, the quicker you’re awarded new huts or workstations to place, and closer you come to meeting each single-screen stage’s quota of buildings.

Granted, certain levels do mix things up by offering fixed layouts and forcing you to focus on combos, not construction. It’s further possible to periodically cop power-ups that let more resources be produced, enabling you to field more servers at once, for example. However, the proceedings, as you might imagine, aren’t particularly varied or engaging from a long-term standpoint, no matter how many new background environments or minor twists the creators introduce.

Such setbacks being the game’s main failing, natch. Suffice it to say the title’s not particularly inventive or novel, proving less arresting and more outright workmanlike by nature. So while there’s fun to be had here enjoying the relaxing music, lush visuals and admittedly frantic mayhem on offer, incentive for meeting immediate goals and making continued overall progress is often fairly nebulous. Just a few levels in, you’ll fall into a comfortable routine, with shocks and surprises lacking.

Regardless, we don’t expect anyone to become bored outright, crazed as featured mouse-mashing scenarios can get. But sit down with the outing for any great length of time and you will soon notice your attention beginning to drift.

Have enough monotony in your everyday life as is? Consider taking a pass, knowing this one’s more weekend getaway than dream vacation. Nonetheless, there’s still enough worth lauding here from Tropical Mania‘s funky island vibe to functional interface and sharp presentation to make it worth recommending. Just know that any escapes it provides from the daily grind are – as is all-too-often the case with real-world getaways – going to be short-lived and limited by design.