The first time I played Cruise Ship Tycoon, my ship hit some rocks and sank. The second time, a big squid-like creature -- called “our primordial friend” by the game -- grabbed my ship and dragged it to a watery grave. About this time I realized that not only did I need to do the typical tycoon things in the game, I also had to steer the ship. You might wonder how I didn’t realize this before, but let’s just say that Cruise Ship Tycoon doesn’t come with a plethora of documentation. The four page “manual” only describes how to use the opening menu system, probably the one part of every game people already know how to use.
So, anyway, on to my third attempt. This time I actually had some success. Starting with a small ship (that’s “small” relative to cruise ships), I littered the interior with sleeping quarters of different sizes, added in places for my guests to eat and drink and have fun, hired some staff and then set sail. I started making money and was able to upgrade to a bigger ship, and then... you guessed it. I made another appearance on “When Squid-like Creatures Attack” (look for it on Fox this Fall). At that point whatever little enthusiasm I had for the game began to wane, and, worse, I was pretty sure that the three aborted cruises had already shown me everything Cruise Ship Tycoon had to offer.
I played a couple more times just to be sure, but I was right. There isn’t a whole lot going on in the game. Cruise Ship Tycoon is similar to Hotel Giant, which makes sense since cruise ships are basically just hotels on the ocean, and both games have the same premise: provide rooms for your guests, plus entertainment and utility services, and try to make money while keeping your guests happy. But here’s the thing. I didn’t really like Hotel Giant because there weren’t enough game elements to it, and Cruise Ship Tycoon actually has less going on than that. For example, in Hotel Giant you could change the layout of the entertainment services and decide what amenities to put in the guest rooms, but in Cruise Ship Tycoon everything is pre-made. So you can plop down a single room here or a twin room there, or add in a disco or a pub or an infirmary, but that’s as much effort as you need to make. There isn’t anything creative for you to do, and nothing new is unlocked as you go along, so once you’ve played one ship you’ve essentially played every ship. Worse, there isn’t a great deal of variety to the game. There are only a handful of choices for each type of service -- restaurants, bars, shops, and so forth -- and so eventually, to meet your guests’ needs, you have to put down multiple copies of each, which is boring.
Of course, there is some fun to be had. You can watch your guests use the entertainment services you provide, and that means, for example, you can see an old lady with a walker come up to a basketball court and do an MJ-style slam dunk from half court. (It’s gotta be the shoes!) But, oddly, guests rarely use the outside activities, and I never saw a guest use a lounge chair. Mostly, guests seem to want to stay inside and drink beer, which might explain why they puke so much. Really, the ship guests puke way more than the kids in Rollercoaster Tycoon, and so, among other things, you need to hire an army of janitors to keep things clean.
Cruise Ship Tycoon is a budget title, so it’s probably not wise to go in with high expectations. Even so, the game didn’t capture my imagination or my attention, I didn’t play it for more than a few hours, and I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it.