Ships Simulator review

Also known simply as ‘Ships’ on the title screen, this is yet another simulator with a name that fails to give much away. Well, other than the fact that ships feature in some capacity. Are we fixing them, salvaging them for parts, or voyaging across the ocean waves? If a publisher launched games called ‘Cars’ and ‘Planes’ we wouldn’t know what to expect either, except perhaps for a letter from Disney.

Ships Simulator begins with a choice of three vessels, each of which serves a different purpose on the seas – from cargo carrying to deep sea pipework repairs. After picking one, it’s then a case of patching it up via a menu-driven interface before being presented with a handful of missions, each lasting around 10 minutes. There’s a lot of slow, cumbersome, crane work to undertake – lowering the rope and hook, extending arms, and getting the ship into place before carefully lowering either cargo or equipment into marked areas. The cargo ship must also be steered into docks – both at day and at night – which again is a slow process.

Money earned goes towards repairs and replacement parts – with your ship seemingly taking damage whether you were careful or not. Eventually, you’ll have enough cash spare to buy one of the remaining ships and take on their missions too. That’s to say, your incentive to keep playing is to own all three ships and complete all their associated tasks. Far from compelling.

Problems begin to surface as early as the tutorial. This was originally a PC game, and there are telling signs it wasn’t made with a controller in mind. The controls are, in short, terrible. The camera is mapped to the left analogue stick instead of the right, and the “‘action” is often obscured by warehouses or the ship’s cranes. When steering the boat into docks, accelerate and decelerate are mapped to the right analogue stick, while steering is mapped to the d-pad.

Some aspects call for precision, such as lowering cargo onto a lorry, but the combination of poor controls and a wonky camera means you’re likely to collide a few times. It doesn’t help here that the UI isn’t particularly clear either, especially for the double-craned sea platform.

Later missions involve tackling a blaze onboard and saving drowning sailors who have fallen overboard. While this may sound far more appealing than cargo lifting, these missions are simple icon/menu-driven affairs. You’re presented with an overhead view and must select a crew mate before giving them an action, whether it’s to man the lifeboat or use a searchlight. The controls here are so unintuitive that I failed the tutorial twice, and on each instance, had to shell out money for ship repairs. This is real ZX Spectrum quality stuff – and presumably these missions only exist because ‘firefighting’ and ‘SOS rescue’ make for an exciting product description.

Ships Simulator only reconfirms our beliefs that the publishers and developers behind most simulators are simply experimenting with ideas in hope of creating the next surprise hit. That, or they were simply contracted to make a certain number of simulators, and this only exists for contractual reasons. Either way, when you’re trying to determine why a game exists, you know it’s bad.  

Ultimate Games’ Ships Simulator/Ships is available now on Xbox One and Xbox Series (tested.) Developed by 100 Games.