Developer: Turtle Games
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.528
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Nothing about Rum Run sounds boring. After all, it is a game about sailing from port to port, exploiting the rum trade to buy food for a village of starving children. However, its version of that exciting idea is more slow-paced simulation than seafaring adventure.
Rum Run is technically a strategy game but its take on the genre is decidedly simple. Players are initially given one ship and by swiping it across the top-down nautical map they can buy and sell rum, buy and sell food, and give food to a developing village. The strategy comes from balancing supplies, money and village health but there is so little to do that keeping the cycle in harmony is not too difficult. Would-be merchants will have to monitor prices to maximize profits and minimize losses but outside of the occasional pirates that sail through, rounds quickly settle into uninteresting grooves. Players are even allowed to go into slight debt so the threat of bankruptcy is never too pressing.
To be fair though, playing further into the game does reveal its more compelling features. Later maps have trickier layouts to navigate and the upgrade system provides players with cool bonuses like better food, faster sails, and even extra ships to increase efficiency. However, these flourishes cannot make up for Rum Run’s unambitious core conceit. Perhaps an expanded iPad version may have allowed the game to make good on its potential.
Unambitious also describes the game’s visual presentation. The 2D art style is the most flat, basic, generic take on a high seas pirate look. Unfortunately, the only aspect that really shines is the game’s surprisingly awesome musical score. It turns out that a poor man’s Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack is still pretty good.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Rum Run’s simulated sea trade but its execution is just too dull. It sinks it.