The Good Life
I’ve played a lot of simulators in my day, but never before have I had the chance to own a simulated boating company. In “The Good Life”, A gentleman named Derek inherits a boating company from his late uncle. Tired of working for someone else, Derek sets off to the Jo Jo islands with his girlfriend Michelle to start a new life and attempt to make something of the boating company he inherited. Before we hoist our sails, I’d like to thank Manos Tsotros, the founder of ImmersionFX Games, for providing me with a free review copy.
When you start up the game, a window will pop up that allows you to change the screen resolution, toggle fullscreen mode, and set the graphics quality. Before you get to the main menu, you’ll be prompted to choose your avatar (Derek or Michelle) and name your player. Once at the main menu, you’ll be able to start a new game, continue from your last save, view help in the form of a slide show, and adjust game options. In the options menu, you can set the graphics quality, change the look and feel of the camera (normal view, tropical heat view, cinematic mood view, and old style view), and toggle various graphical settings on and off. I didn’t see a way to adjust the sound levels which was disappointing, but I was fine with everything else. I especially liked the ability to change the cinematic mood.
Starting a new game brings the player right to his/her boat. You’ll be prompted to choose whether or not you’d like assistance docking in order to get your first customer on board. The interface is fairly easy to follow, IF you took the time to view the help slide show before you started. Knowing how to read your indicators is especially important if you want to get to where you’re going. The upper left hand corner of the screen displays your money earned, journeys completed, properties owned, and damage to your boat. The upper right hand corner of the screen displays your journey time remaining (timed quests, etc.), missions completed, time of day, and reputation bar. Along the bottom of the screen is your throttle indicator, speedometer, compass to port, wind direction, distance to destination, and various buttons which serve to activate certain modes. The space bar activates more menu options, giving you access to things like the map, weather reports, ranking, real estate owners, the buying and selling of boats, and etc. Once you get the hang of the interface, navigating the environment will be much easier.
Controlling the boat turned out to be very simple. I had no trouble using the arrow keys to move forward or backward. Turning the boat wasn’t overly sluggish either and it didn’t take me long to master docking. Docking simply involves lining your boat up between two blue lines and clicking on the rope and anchor icons once you are between them. I appreciate the fact that this system isn’t overly complicated, since you’ll be doing a lot of it as the game progresses. You can access various camera views with the function keys and some of them even allow you to rotate the camera under water. I enjoyed the freedom I had with the camera, especially when I saw marine life swim under my boat. I was able to swivel the camera around with ease and watch the fish swim by in a carefree manner.
You’ll have the ability to maneuver the camera around while docked as well and talk to any potential customers that happen to be around. If you click on the blue chat bubble above a person’s head, you’ll be able to see where they’d like ferried to and what bids your competitors have offered in order to get their business. Your bid is displayed along the bottom, which you can accept or reject. I attempted to change the amount of the bid but was unable to, so I wasn’t sure why I was shown competitor bids in the first place. Hitting accept automatically loaded the passenger onto my boat, as my bid was always lower than the competitors’. I’m not sure if that is because my reputation is rock bottom low or if it’s because I’m still in the early stages of the game. I’m hoping to see a way to change my bid in the future but for now, it seems to be fixed. My guess is that your bid is determined mainly by reputation, but the game doesn’t explain this very well.
Taxi missions are simple in that all you’ll need to do is take the passenger to their destination before the time limit expires. Hitting the “Space Bar” brings up the map and the destination will be flashing in red. I would have liked a way to zoom to the destination on the map automatically, as the map is so large that I often couldn’t find the location on the map during bid negotiations. My memory is also terrible and when I went to find a quest log of sorts in the game’s various menus, I couldn’t find it. I forgot where it was I was supposed to be taking them, prompting me to open the map again to find the flashing red port. It’s not a huge complaint, but I would like to see more features that enable the player to navigate the interface a bit better…perhaps a quest log or a GPS window, similar to the one found in “Euro Truck Simulator 2.”
Editor’s Note: I was informed after the review posted that the button in the lower right hand corner of the map screen (the rightmost button) will zoom to the customer’s destination port on the map. You have to accept the mission first before this button becomes visible on the map screen. My apologies!
In terms of progression, things happen at a slow to moderate pace, tasking the player with a lot of taxi missions from the onset. Most of the time, you’ll be docking at a port, talking to the potential customers, accepting missions, ferrying people to a different port, and repeating the process. To help mix things up, you’ll be able to don a diving suit to hunt for treasure, buy new boats, participate in rescue missions, take pictures for photo safaris, and purchase real estate. Working against you are other NPCs that own boating companies, pirates, and even mother nature herself. All of these extras help to break up the monotony of taxiing customers around fairly well. The visuals, while not overly detailed, still put me at ease as I guide my boat from port to port.
The game isn’t without its faults and could certainly use a bit more polish in some areas. The lack of audio sliders is a minor complaint, but can be overcome by audio mixers that allow you to turn down specific programs. Some of the in-game interface menus / indicators can make the game more complicated than it needs to be, like the lack of a quest log, for example. I would also like to have more than one profile and the ability to save when and where you want, mainly for the benefit of the kids in the house. Currently, the game autosaves at checkpoints and will only load the last save. Autosave appears to kick in when nearing a port, but I’m not one hundred percent sure. Quitting before you see those words, “checkpoint saved” will result in you having to redo some things, even if you were docked at a port when you quit. I named my character in the beginning of the game but my avatar still shows the default name (Derek) under various reports. Diving can be difficult at times, as the indicator will tell you the direction you’ll need to go in but not the depth. These things aren’t enough to break the game, but it can be an inconvenience at times and frustrating to players learning how to play.
Overall, “The Good Life” is a calming, enjoyable experience that will keep you busy for quite some time. While not perfect, it has the potential to be more the sum of its parts assuming it receives regular updates to squash bugs and make more features available. I really liked being able to take time away from the more violent games in my collection to just relax and enjoy the scenery. It’s a good game to lose yourself in for a while to escape the stresses of everyday life. I also enjoyed the main menu music, it was very well composed and is pleasing to the ears. The game is going for about $19.99 (as of 2/15/13) and those who enjoy truck driving / boating sims would do well to take a look at this one.
Final Verdict: 7/10
You can learn more about and purchase “The Good Life” by visiting the following websites:
The demo can be found here:
*Removed at the request of the developer.*
You can help bring the game to Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page, here:
You can view video play sessions here: