WP7 – Harbor Master Review
I find it ironic that my first game review for Windows Phone 7 ends up being a port from Apple’s iOS series of devices which, for the uninitiated, means their iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad line of products. While Microsoft fans are probably still bawling their eyes out now that Apple has surpassed them in every which way imaginable to become the number one tech brand we should treat this news with a grain of salt. Every industry is cyclical, a phenomenon that Apple is much too well aware of due to their history. That said having major iOS titles grace Windows Phone 7 is not such a bad thing and Microsoft fans should at least smile that they have them instead of the other dreaded competitor which rhymes with Boogle.
Enough said let’s get onto Harbor Master. On the face of it all Harbor Master is a deceptively simple clone of Firemint’s Flight Control game but while they share similarities, Harbor Master actually one ups that flying game by adding a bevy of features which truly extend playing time but also positively augment the gameplay. The player’s task seems deceptively simple – guide ships loaded with cargo into their respective docks while making sure that the ships do not hit each other. If they do it’s game over. Guiding the ships is incredibly easy and intuitive as all the player needs to do is place their finger ontop of one and draw a path towards the nearest dock whereby the boat will gladly follow.
Of course, if that was all there is to it the game would quickly become a giant bore but thankfully there’s much hidden depth here. First of all there are many different sized ships from the smallest and fastest model that only carries one piece of cargo to the exceedingly slow and lumbering model that holds four cargo parts. As you might guess while the game starts slowly with a bunch of the same fast ships it can quickly become a real nightmare as the game progresses when the screen begins to fill with vessels of all shapes and sizes. Thankfully the game provides some needed guidance first through apt sound effects that warn when ships get too close to each other for comfort as well as an arrow showing the player where the next ships are going to appear from either side of the screen.
Adding to the strategy is the fact that after the boat successfully docks and unloads its cargo the player then needs to order it to leave and exit the map. This sets up a situation where the player must always be cogniscent of both arriving and departing boats that makes the game much more chaotic than Flight Control where the player only has to worry about leading planes to the correct runway.
Nevertheless, there’s still more. Harbor Master ships with seven different levels, each one of which contains special features that add spice to the usual cargo loading and unloading. For instance the level named “Cylone Island” features, you guessed it, a randomized cyclone which comes by every so often and causes any ship it hits to stop following the path the player gave it and sends it off spinning in a different vector. “Canon Beach” adds pirates who appear and head towards the nearest ship. If it manages to touch it the player has only a short time to use a canon to blow it away if not the pirate ship will steal the cargo and end the game. Some levels introduce the concept of different coloured cargo and docks that increase the difficulty level as players now are tasked to guide the cargo into the correct coloured dock. All in all, each level is a blast and adds enough variety to keep gamers enthralled.
While I can’t say that graphically the game is amazing it’s best described as functional and the sound effects are in the same vein. Thankfully, the game is fully Xbox Live enabled meaning players are going to hear the familiar “bloop” whenever certain achievements are unlocked. Speaking of these, the developer has concocted a nice variety of them ranging from the incredibly easy like unloading 25 pieces of cargo to the much more challenging 50000 lifetime cargo unit achievement which is going to take quite a while to reach. Options are also quite sparse with only the ability to control music and sound volume but at least there’s a slider that allows players to increase the fast forward speed or disable auto docking both elements having the potential to really change the way the game is played.
Unfortunately, the multiplayer mode from the iOS version has been dropped but that’s to be expected since full Xbox live functionality still hasn’t been implemented in Windows Phone 7 which is sure to displease some people but it really is not missed. In the final assessment, Harbor Master is a nice addition to Window Phone 7’s slowly growing game category. While it is yet another iOS port at least the platform is picking some of the best that Apple offers albeit at a higher price ($3.49 CAD on WP7 versus $1.99 on iTunes). The game is not going to set the mobile world on fire but it is a perfect example of mobile gaming at its best – intuitive, addictive and perfect for short bursts of on-the-go gaming.
Final Rating: ***
Reviewed On: Samsung Focus
Review Date: June 20, 2011
Reviewed Version: 1.0
Size: 15 MB
Developer: iMangi Studios
Also Available on: Apple iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad
© 2011 The Galactic Pillow