Sand Dollar City looks to be a great choice for a young gamer’s first dive

What do you think life under the sea is like? Well, forget those visions of mermaids and sunken ships, in Sand Dollar City it’s all about candy. From the development team at Dough Main, the game mixes light business management and exploration elements and combines them into a package suitable for younger gamers. For this reason the game can be pretty simple, but there’s also some fun to be had.

The story centers around the Kelp King, who just so happened to open up a very successful candy shop while you were out of town attending school. The problem is, his store has become so successful that your parents’ store is losing business. To make matters worse, they were hoping to retire soon. And now they don’t have the money to stop working nor the youthful ability to go diving for candy ingredients.

It’s a good thing they have you.

You’ll be running the business and a percentage of your profits goes into your parents’ retirement fund. Hey, it’s the least you could do after they raised you. Actually running the shop is pretty simple. You can collect ingredients and learn new recipes, which allow you to make candy. Once you’ve made the candy and put it on display, the store can be opened for a brief period of time while shoppers purchase what ever you have on offer. Since the store isn’t persistently open, it gives you the freedom to focus on that aspect of the game only when you feel like it.

The rest of the time will be spent exploring the underwater city. There are plenty of shops to browse around and you can go scuba diving to find new ingredients and buried treasure. This portion of the game is 2D and plays out much like Ecco the Dolphin or the diving mini-game from Pet Society Vacation. You’ll have a limited amount of oxygen to gather as much goodies as you can.

There are also plenty of quests to take on, those these tend to be of the “go there and fetch this” variety, which can grow somewhat dull. However, a few quests early on do add some fun little wrinkles to the otherwise standard set-up. For example, at one point I had to sneak my way into the Kelp King’s store, but the only way to do so was to find the right disguise.

The simple gameplay and quest structure makes Sand Dollar City a great fit for its intended audience. And there are plenty of small features that make this a good, acessible choice for younger gamers. You can always find the exit, for example, thanks to footprints that show exactly where it is. And when it comes to finding collectibles, well you don’t have to go through any painful searching: most of the gems and other shiny goodies are laying right out in the open.

These features will likely make the game dull to experienced gamers, but for those who are just getting started in the world of gaming, Sand Dollar City is shaping up to be a good fit. Not only is the gameplay approachable and easy to understand, but there’s a unique and charming world to explore.

The game is currently in open beta.