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Sunshine Bay
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Sunshine Bay

Release Date:  August, 2013
Publisher:  Game Insight
Developer:  Game Insight
Genre:  City Management
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Sunshine Bay is a free-to-play island management game from Game Insight, the maker behind games like Airport City, Mystery Manor, Starborn Wanderers, and upcoming iPad tank combat game Tank Domination. Sunshine Bay lets you enjoy city-building and managing an economy but with palm trees and the surf replacing the grays and browns of urban sprawl.

Review:

Upon your arrival to the island, the dashing High Captain Tim greets you and tells you about a document he had recently received that informed him you are to take over the management of this wonderful island and its economy. He further explains that the island is in a great location to serve as both a resort and a strategic docking point for yacht voyages. After Captain Tim takes his leave, you’ll have a quest waiting for you. Your island starts with only a few houses, a Port Terminal, the Town Hall, and a couple of windmills. Fortunately, the first quest is from Fred, Construction Engineer, who is both able and willing to guide the expansion of your little corner of paradise (he can, after all, screw a nut with his bare hands!). Fred, who happens to look precisely like Bob the Builder if he were made suitably dreamy for Barbie to date, has you construct a pier and the game is on.

Like any city-building game, Sunshine Bay hosts a collection of buildings that offer various benefits to your island. While there are buildings that will generate coins, electricity, fuel, and passengers, the real backbone of your economy is running yacht voyages. The construction of buildings and round-trip travel of yachts both take real time to complete. In the early game, that time requirement is rarely longer than a couple minutes, but later on, you may find it better to check on the game a few times a day instead of sitting down for an hour or two of solid play.

As you expand your resort, run more yacht voyages, and complete quests, you will rake in experience that will eventually cause you to level up. Each level up rewards some combination of coins and Sunshine Cash, the game’s premium currency. Levels will also unlock new buildings, yachts, and voyage locations.

Learning the ins and outs of Sunshine Bay is as simple as completing the quests the queue up on the left side of your screen. In addition to Tim and Fred, Sea Dog Dave and Economic Advisor Dollores will provide you with various tasks and then reward you at their completion. It only takes a few quests before the game declares that you’ve completed the tutorial. There’s still plenty to learn after this point, but the tutorial’s end marks the moment that you can start making your own decisions instead of only clicking on what the quests ask you to.

The game is simple enough and enjoyable in a lazy, time-wasting kind of way. Tapping around the screen at the various blinking icons doesn’t demand much mentally, but there is at least a small bit of strategic depth in determining how to layout your island and which locations to send yachts to. That said, you will never be put in a position where you are prevented from making progress. You might run out of resources to build anything or send out more yachts, but it’s only a matter of waiting for some fuel and passengers to generate before you’re back in business. In this way, even the worst strategists will easily make constant progress to their island — which is certainly appropriate for the casual nature of the game.

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The game’s art and sound are nice enough. I found the game’s screen size to be too small while embedded on a Facebook page, but the game provides a full-screen option that handily remedies that. The buildings and island look detailed, if a bit repetitive. Non-intrusive music and the gentle animations of clouds, birds, and the surf evoke a relaxing mood — perfect for a slow-paced timekiller if you ask me. The island is also inhabited by tiny 3D people that bustle about your island on foot, skateboard, Segway, boat, and inner tube. They’re kind of ugly and don’t really match the rest of the game’s art style, but at least they make the island look lively.

Totally unsurprisingly, coins and Sunshine Cash can be purchased in various bundles for real money. The bundles range from $2.00 to $99.90 and the more expensive bundles offer a better per-unit price. Coins are used to start building construction and upgrades as well as instantly complete construction and upgrades. Sunshine Cash is more versatile and can be used to buy certain buildings, unlock building upgrades earlier, and refill your supply of fuel and passengers without waiting. Both coins and Sunshine Cash can be used to extend your property by buying up small areas of land.

I did encounter frequent disconnections while playing the game. I’m not sure if the server was undergoing maintenance or something else was causing trouble, but at least getting back into the game was relatively painless: a quick page refresh got me right back into the game right where I left off. The quest system was pretty annoying too. When you hover over a new quest, it literally says to check it ASAP. They aren’t kidding — if you don’t, you won’t get credit for any progress you make on it. For example, a quest might ask you to use a special item that instantly gives you 50 fuel. Well, if you use your free one before looking at the quest, you’ll have to pay Sunshine Cash for another one after viewing the quest. There were also a couple of quests I needed to trigger a few times before I actually received the reward.

Overall, Sunshine Bay is neither terrible nor amazing. It does nothing new, but there’s nothing particularly offensive about its monetization scheme. The company behind it, Game Insight, has another game called Sky Adventures that is nearly identical, down to the island theme. Sky Adventures is a little more cartoony and it employs anthropomorphic critters as NPCs instead of Sunshine Bay’s human ones. The game isn’t especially deep, but it’s a fun and relaxing way to kill time if you’re interested in a pressure-free economy simulator.

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