A resort-themed time management game sounds great, especially if you don’t have plans to travel during the holiday season. However, Ashtons: Family Resort compels me to reconsider that position.
The game introduces an newlywed couple void of personality who open their dream family resort business on a lake shore in the U.S. After a slow start with little action, the game moves on to Switzerland in hopes that a change of scenery would provide the lift it needed. Alas, my journey with the Ashtons ended with a crash, both literally and figuratively.
The Ashtons’ first resort has four cabins, a basketball court, a barbecue grill and a bench for eating ice cream. Each family – Mom and Dad must have identical siblings as every family looks the same with the exception of their having either a boy or a girl – arrives at the resort and I take them to their cabin. This sameness and lack of character isn’t a surprise as the developer’s Jane’s Hotel also suffers a similar fate.
Like Jane’s Hotel, Ashtons: Family Resort doesn’t take you behind closed doors. The game feels like it’s all about moving around the grounds with a frenetic pace and little else.
The family comes out on the grounds to play, cook, or watch the world go by. My job is to click the items on the bottom of the screen to provide steaks for the grill, balls for the court, ice cream for the kids, or cleaning service for the cabins. Occasionally, I need to scare off a rabbit or raccoon or else they get into the garden or trash. These tasks feel meaningless leading the game play to quickly become tedious and highly predictable.
The level ends when the day ends. Like any time management game, you can beat the goal score or go the extra mile for the expert score. I couldn’t do anything faster on the few levels where I don’t earn an expert score.
The couple each has specific jobs they do, which fall into stereotypical categories. The woman cleans and serves food while the man hands out the steaks, basketballs, and repairs broken machines that break whenever lightning strikes. As soon as it starts raining, I always go straight to where the repair tool appears ready to grab it to fix the broken machine.
I could almost play the game just by watching the bottom of the screen waiting for an item to light up as the location of where the item was needed item always appears in the same spot. I do have to watch out for the rabbit at the top and which cabin needs servicing.
The start of each round provides a tip, which is a poorly executed feature. Tips work great when done right. In this case, the game gives tips for things that won’t occur until many levels later. So imagine getting a tip for fixing the ice skating rink when I’m in a warm weather spot.
A match-three game appears at the end of a level to help you add something to the Ashtons’ home including a fence and a pool. It doesn’t excite – and I like match threes.
You must collect a set number of a certain object to finish.
There are only three objects in the game and you can easily collect the needed amount. There is no time limit, but the game takes away one each second you don’t make a move. It takes no effort to click all over the play area and complete the game fast. No power-ups, no penalties, and nothing ever changes except the object you need to gather. It would be nice to see the mini-game change and add more features. As far as I know it’s the only mini-game, but I couldn’t get to Switzerland to find out.
After the mini-game, it’s time to upgrade and a chance to donate money to charity (not for real). The upgrades come one or two at a time, I can always afford them and it says exactly what to get. Every purchase wins two or more stars to help win the contest. What contest? This never comes up during the story. And the stars page, titled “Trophey,” aren’t trophies. They’re just stars that supposedly will help in the contest.
If you choose to make a donation while on the upgrades screen, the number starts at what money you have. I must repeatedly click the down arrow until I arrive at the amount I wish to donate. Holding the arrow down does nothing nor can I enter a number. Whenever I donate, the game rewards me with a little decorative (or “decretive” as the game says). It adds a little design on the grounds and another time it adds a wind vane on top of the couple’s house. Hardly noticeable or exciting bonuses.
The game’s marketing materials brags that you can “personalize the upgrades.” Just pick a color for the heroes’ outfits and change the color of only two things in lake shore: the cabins and the bench. It’s not even a feature worth using.
Another example of the little energy invested into producing a high quality game comes in the lack of a grammar and spell checker. I’ll let the game speak for itself:
- “Change the colors of your heros clothes.”
- “Family has already payed.”
- “Cottage is a great start but there are things to do to add to there comfort.”
- “Now are yard looks better. “
When I finally trudge through 11 levels at the lake shore, I appreciate the change of scenery as I start working in Switzerland and snow-filled scenes. But then, Ashtons: Family Resort starts freaking out. I can’t close the game or switch out of it. The only answer is to turn off the computer. After the game reloads, it goes back to the last saved level. The only time the game saves is when you exit the game. So this meant I had to play five levels again to get to where I left off.
Again, the game crashes when I get to Switzerland. So I play the game on another computer to give this one a chance to prove it’s my computer’s fault. It’s torture to keep starting over as the gameplay never varies. The game crashes before I reach the snowy Alps.
Obviously, Ashtons: Family Resort has many overlooked problems that needed addressing before the game went public. Save your money. This buggy game isn’t worth the trouble. Who knows how long it’ll be before the developer irons out all the bugs. Even without the bugs, the game’s entertainment value isn’t worth the dough.