Sailor’s Dream Review: Hoist Anchor and Sail Away
Simogo is one of the more interesting mobile developers out there. The way they play with the line between game and narrative, and the way they incorporate interactive elements to help pull the player into the story, is unique in the App Store. Their latest, The Sailor’s Dream, is another foray into interactive storytelling that will charm the right sort of player, but may leave others looking for more.
This is the third storytelling game Simogo has produced. The first, Year Walk was too obtuse, the story too vague and the controls too hidden to satisfy. Device 6 was a much better balance of gameplay and story, though in the case of that game the story was a bit odd. Both were worth playing, but each had weaknesses.
The Sailor’s Dream is the strongest so far in terms of storytelling. Without giving too much of the story away (since uncovering the story is the sole point of the game) you are a wanderer in an ocean, sailing to various locales on the map and finding bits in pieces of narrative about a man, a woman, and a child, and the lives they lived — intertwining, sometimes tragic. The story *is* the point of this game.
At first, the interactive elements reminded me of a Zen garden app — pleasing, fun to discover, but seemingly incidental in terms of game progression. However, there’s a lot of subtle gameplay happening here. It’s the sort of game, for example, that demands daily play (for a week at least) in order to uncover everything, but you might miss that clue early on. It’s really a subtle game design, though as with Simogo’s other games, sometimes frustratingly subtle. There’s no such thing as an instruction manual or a hint feature in a Simogo game.
In terms of interaction itself, it’s mostly swiping with a little tapping. There’s no “action” to speak of, and if you come to this game looking for it, you’ve come to the wrong place. The devs rely on your intuition and curiosity to drive the game. You have to want to uncover the mystery of the Sailor’s Dream. And, again without giving too much away, let me say that it’s worth uncovering. Just trust me.
Visually, the Sailor’s Dream is different from both Year Walk and Device 6, but it’s in the same visually appealing arena as those two games. The sense of style and design that Simogo brings to games continues to impress me. Here it’s a very realistic design, reminiscent of a watercolor landscape. There’s also a lot going on in terms of audio, including some full-on musical numbers. (And yes, you need to pay attention to the lyrics).
I’m not sure that I can call the Sailor’s Dream my favorite Simogo game, though it may be my favorite Simogo narrative. Regardless, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. If you appreciate clever and deep game design and don’t need unnecessary violence to hold your attention, then you should definitely play it.
Our Score: 4.5 out of 5