When it comes to sinking ships and drowning passengers, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking of James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ released back in 1997. While it was a serious drama about a real life catastrophic event, there were some hilarious ‘what were they thinking’ moments in the latter half of that movie. So seeing a facetious casual game based on saving people from doomed ships is creative and, quite frankly, long overdue.
One rule: keep these guys away from Davy Jones’s Locker.
Directing a sinking ship with slightly disappointing tilt controls (more on this later), you have to influence the flow of frightened passengers onto lifeboats around the ship. Lifeboats have a timer indicating how long they’ll be around until they depart, and you’ll also have to be mindful of each lifeboat’s maximum capacity of five passengers. Each ship has a finite number of passengers to save, and you have to rescue a set number of passengers to clear stages in the campaign mode. A quick play option is also available as a generous extra.
Nothing ever goes smoothly with a sinking ship, and Lifeboat captures this well. Predictably, some passengers can’t seem to find their way onto the lifeboats. As a consequence, several of them end up in the water being patrolled by unfriendly open-water residents like sharks and crocodiles. Luckily, you can tap on flailing passengers to toss them a life ring to get them back onto the ship.
Earning money in Lifeboat is crucial. How well you do (e.g. passengers saved, time completed, etc.) in each of the stages determines how much money you get. In between stages, you can upgrade elements in the game to make control more responsive and efficient. We’re not fans of this approach, as we initially found the tilt controls sluggish, leaving us wishing for options to increase the tilt sensitivity level. That being said, Lifeboat does get easier to handle through upgrades.
Lifeboat delivers personality in spades. The art direction is cute and comical without being corny. Everything is modeled in 3D, and the animation is very cartoonish. The music and sound effects are quality stuff, and Lifeboat supports integrated custom soundtracks.
Lifeboat has a lot going for it, but the aforementioned sluggish controls are a bummer. On top of that, this effort also suffers from a variety of random crashes that happen like clockwork (and yes, we tried resetting our iPhone 3GS ad nauseum). We’d love to see these issues fixed, but if they aren’t, ‘our hearts will go on…’