When was the last time you travelled to a tropical isle? Were you disappointed when you got there? Do you think you could have put together a far more hospitable tourist trap? Now you have the chance! Happy Island puts you in charge of a tropical island that’s starved for tourists. Do you have the tycoon skills to turn this plot of land from deserted to divine?
The object of the game in Happy Island is to create a booming tourist economy on a small plot of land jutting out of the ocean. Every player starts the game with an airstrip and a dock to welcome visitors to the island, as well as a small handful of attractions and decorations. As tourists visit each of these attractions they’ll pay a small fee to enter. Raise enough money from these little visits to upgrade your attractions or purchase new ones, which in turn will attract more visitors to the island.
There are a handful of attractions and decorations that can only be purchased using Facebook credits, but much to our surprise these items were few and far between. Many Facebook games tend to keep the coolest content under lock and key unless you’re willing to pay, but Happy Island tends to keep nearly everything in their Island Shop available to those using only in-game coins.
Coins, as mentioned, are earned by your attractions. But merely having the attractions set up isn’t enough to get the coins into your bank. You’ll need to visit your attractions regularly and empty out their cash tills if you want to have that money to spend. Herein lies Happy Island‘s trick to keep you coming back – you can only cash out an attraction when it’s till is two thirds full, and each till can only hold so much money. So if your fruit stand can only earn 500 coins, for example, you can only empty it out when it has more than 333 coins. If you wait too long and it hits 500 coins, your fruit stand can’t earn any more money until you come along to empty it.
While I’ve really enjoyed my time managing a tourist trap on a tropical island, it’s hard to put my finger on why. There’s very little to do in this game asides from picking up trash, cashing out attractions and putting up new buildings. Each game session lasts mere seconds, and you don’t need to revisit your island more than a few times a day to makes sure you’re earning every last penny from your holiday haven. Yet despite the small time commitment and lack of things to do, Happy Island consistently managed to pull me back in time and time again.
There’s a certain charm that the game has that might be responsible for its addictive nature. A cheery soundtrack, adorably animated tourists, and a cute and cartoony art style managed to keep a smile on my face whenever I’d log in to check on my attractions. Waiting to see the next evolution of my attractions once upgraded always managed to keep my interest piqued, and keeping my beaches trash-free and my visitors knee-deep in free drinks gave me a reason to keep checking in more often than I needed to.
As a gamer with a taste for substance I’m normally averse to Facebook games that require little more than a 10 second check-in once or twice a day. Happy Island has somehow hit on a winning formula that makes me happy to step out of my usual routine, checking on my islanders in bite-sized under a minute visits. Could Happy Island have offered a richer experience and explored the tycoon-style nature of resort-building a little deeper? Absolutely. But for what it is, Happy Island manages to offer a fun little experience for the tropical tycoon in all of us (without demanding too much of our attention).