It’s a good life if you like boats…
The Good Life – The Tropical Paradise Simulation. Now, I don’t want to rain on Iceberg Interactive’s parade here, but my idea of a tropical paradise simulation involves much more laying around on beaches and enjoying drinks with umbrellas than ferrying people around from one port to the next. But everyone’s dream is different I suppose…
Iceberg Interactive’s The Good Life for PC and Mac is essentially a boat simulation game with a few extras thrown in. Players begin, after a somewhat amusing filling in of the story, by leaving behind the unfulfilling city life and moving to a tropical paradise to start a new job as a water-based taxi driver. As always, progression leads to rewards, but starting out the player has an unimpressive boat (don’t ask me what sort of boat it is) with which to start ferrying passengers around the islands, from one port to the next.
As I said, the game is essentially a simulator, so a lot has been put into the physics of actually controlling the boats. In this respect, the game works quite well. It is not as complex as some of the simulators out there, but it feels satisfyingly realistic, at least for the novice sailor. Moving around with the motor-powered boats is a simple matter of using the throttle, either forwards or backwards, and steering. Things get a bit more complex when using sailboats, having to control the sails and take the wind into consideration, but the nice selection of boats available within the game mean that these are entirely optional.
The islands have some 50 odd destinations to visit, and the player will need to visit all of these as they pick up and drop off fares. So docking is important, and is likely the most difficult thing to get to grips with. The player will have to get their boat within the two lines that indicate the docking point, then tether the boat, drop anchor and remain in the markers for a number of seconds. The main problem when first approaching the game is that the instruction is somewhat minimal, and working out how to actually dock the first time took me some 15 minutes. But like anything, it gets easier with time.
Once docked, the player can pick up a fare from the handily marked vacationers that are wandering the docks. They can also purchase boats and pick up other types of missions from the different docks. But once a fare has been accepted, the player will have a certain amount of time to get to the destination. Whilst a marker is placed on the compass, showing where the customer wants to go, it only gives you a vague direction and if the player has yet to visit the port it will not be shown on the map, making the early fares a bit hit or miss.
The general floaty nature of boats, and their ability to keep moving after turning the engines off, mean that there will be plenty of crashing and bumping in the game. This will cause damage to your boat, affecting both your reputation and the amount that customers are willing to pay.
Other missions may include such delights as rescuing people floating in the water after a shipwreck, avoiding pirates (which happily adds a small degree of threat to the game), and Scuba diving. This adds another element to the game, which is quite nice and relaxing, and shows off the graphics engine which is quite impressive. The character models are not exactly cutting edge, but the water effect is really nice and the environments are understandably desirable.
The other aspect that is added to the game is property management. The player will have the chance to purchase properties within this tropical haven, starting from simple sunbeds, through to entire hotels. This gives the player income and allows them to build up an empire, alongside other NPCs. It doesn’t make a huge impact on the core of the game, but it adds a motivational factor.
Simulating a tropical paradise does come with a few problems. As I have already mentioned, the explanations early in the game are somewhat lacking. This is partially because the developers seem to have assumed that players will automatically know what to do, and partially because the font used for instruction is incredibly small and quite often blends into the background, making it very difficult to see.
However, perhaps the biggest problem that the game faces is the intended audience. The marketing has suggested that the game covers a range of different genres, but the reality is that if boat simulations are not your thing, then The Good Life won’t be either. The hardcore simulator fans will find the game too light, so that really just leaves the casual boat simulator fans, which may not be the largest market.
The Good Life is a very niche product, a casual boat sim for the less hardcore player. It has tried to expand its audience with the addition of different mission types, scuba diving and the building of a property portfolio, but these aspects only play a small part in the overall game. That being said, if sailing around a tropical paradise is the sort of thing you fancy on a wintry afternoon, then The Good Life will keep you busy for hours.