Sunshine Cruise Lines sets sail for fun

Even though it’s finally summer here in North America, you can’t help but remember that winter is always ready to come back and annoy us. Isn’t it time to start thinking about getting away from it all? Sunshine Cruise Lines lets you do all that, but from the comfort of your pocket. (Sorry, it’s a bit weird to find something to say about cruising at this time of year; just work with me here.)

Sunshine Cruise Lines puts you in charge of your own ship, which you can take around the world to see sights, make money for improvements and meet up with friends. At first you start with a small ship, but as you take more people to more places, gather more bonuses and work harder, your little tugboat can turn into the crown jewel of the seven seas.

The cruise director is very helpful in getting things started, with clear, well-written directions. You would be amazed at how many social/sim games lack good instructions, so seeing them well done in Sunshine Cruise Lines definitely helped put the right foot forward. After choosing your home port of call (from several dozen, along with a recent update that added even more!), you learn the basics of getting around, upgrading your ship using coins or cruisebucks – the premium currency here – and how to actively manage your cruise.

When you set out, you can choose how long you wish the cruise to take: two minutes, five minutes or even 15 minutes. The duration determines what kinds of bonuses you’ll earn for the work. Sunshine Cruise Lines features real-time gameplay where you’ll need to collect money and experience a la Farmville, while sending staff to clean and address problems in a timely fashion. Do it well and you’ll earn a higher reputation and experience level, along with more money. As your boat gets bigger, you’ll also need to hire more and specialized staff for dealing with the ship and its guests.

The ability to choose your cruise length is a welcome addition. If you have the time, the 15-minute game will net you big bonuses, but the two-minute variation is great for short spells.

Your trips aren’t just for money, though. Sunshine Cruise Lines introduces you to a few characters who are either looking for some help, need to travel to a specific location, or need to run errands. Sunshine Cruise Lines keeps a running list of your goals. Naturally, if you do them faster you’ll get a better reward. But once you get a few goals going at the same time, you’ll have to start to juggle things a bit.

As well, Sunshine Cruise Lines lets you collect various postcards and fun facts from the places you visit. While not necessary for the game, it’s neat to see just how many places you’ve been. And the Game Center achievements are always welcome.

Sunshine Cruise Lines

Sunshine Cruise Lines

The variety of items, accessories and amenities you can purchase for your ship is quite wide and interesting. From a cooking school to an exercise room to dining halls, as well as picking paint colors, you can really make your ship your own in Sunshine Cruise Lines. The game rewards you with enough currency to be able to do something, but leaves some premium stuff to save up for, or more likely, purchase the currency to just get there.

The presentation in Sunshine Cruise Lines is quite good. Nothing over the top, but still looks slick and pro. The music loops never really get in the way, but don’t add much either. Nothing really stands out in these departments, but Sunshine Cruise Lines succeeds not because of how it looks or sounds, but rather how it plays.

The big thing in Sunshine Cruise Lines is that real-time gameplay that helps you not just wait around for timers to tick down like most social titles. If you invest more of your time, you’ll get more out of it. But since Sunshine Cruise Lines invites you to spend so much time, it would be nice to see more variety of gameplay or issues to deal with on the ship. Certainly, once the ship gets really big, it becomes an issue of hiring more staff (or using a bonus star to auto-fix something), but the incessant tapping gets old on longer voyages, and making the parody social games like Cow Clicker feel all the more true.

But the most perplexing aspect of Sunshine Cruise Lines is that, in spite of incorporating Game Center into the title, the only real social interactions can happen through Facebook Connect. Sure Facebook has quite a few more users than Game Center, but Game Center is specifically designed to bring iOS gamers together. Most people on Facebook have learned to hide all posts from certain apps by now, avoiding the dreaded app spam. Why the developers chose to go this route is, quite frankly, baffling.

Despite a few minor complaints, the overall package for Sunshine Cruise Lines is definitely all-inclusive. It’s got everything you’d want in a social game, a few twists, and some fun times that are easily enjoyed in short bursts or long stretches. Provided you only play a little bit each day (the way most social games ought to be), you’ll find Sunshine Cruise Lines to be a great little vacation wherever you are.