The Oil Blue


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Rating: 4.8/5 (28 votes)
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The Oil Blue

JohnBThe Oil Blue is a clever mixture of a time management game and a tycoon simulation from Vertigo Games, creator of Shellblast. You are in charge of a crew of workers who strike out into the sea to discover new locations to drill for oil. Each island you reclaim opens the way for your employer, United Oil of Oceania, to establish a permanent operation there. All you have to do is manage the drills, sell the oil, and do it all as efficiently as you can.

theoilblue.jpgThe set-up is quite friendly to casual players, and a strong tutorial guides your way for the first few minutes of the game. Each island challenges you to drill and sell a certain number of oil barrels. To get to the oil, you'll use one of several types of machines, each with its own method of operation and level of required attention. You manage the machines in real-time, so while they search for the oil, you need to keep tabs on them to make sure they don't break down and actually harvest the oil they discover.

For example, the simplest driller, the Groundwell, is a reliable machine that never breaks down. All you have to do to keep it functioning is switch its batteries to make sure unused ones keep their charge. Let the batteries drain and you'll lose any oil in the queue, otherwise you're free to let the drill do its thing. Other machines (derricks, pump jacks, and drill rigs) require more attention to gather oil and keep in working condition, but you'll get much more oil in the process (and they're more entertaining to use).

Each day of work lasts around ten minutes, with most of that time spent under the water working the drills. When not maintaining your machines, you'll spend your time seizing opportunities to sell oil while the market is strong, upgrading drills, leveling-up your rigs, and increasing your rank to unlock numerous bonuses. You'll also need to repair some drills that accumulate wear and tear. You do this by selecting them from the market screen and then completing a quick action-style mini-game.

theoilblue2.jpgAnalysis: The premise alone probably won't attract many players to The Oil Blue, as hunting for black gold has never been glamorized as a creative, fun, or interesting job (unless you stumble upon it Jed Clampett style). But, like many simulation games, the task has been boiled down to a few basic elements and made appealing to a broad audience. If you can press a few buttons and watch a few gauges, you can master The Oil Blue, and you'll have an amazing time doing it.

Vertigo Games really hit a home run with the game's setting, artwork and music. The mood set by the entire presentation is quiet, subtly engaging, and minimalistic. You almost get the feeling you're on a lonely island running these machines all by yourself (even though you have workers with you). It's not common to see a tycoon game that goes for atmosphere, but The Oil Blue does just that, and it does it well.

With a relatively small selection of drills to manage, you might find The Oil Blue starts to drag midway through. The only variations are mathematical in nature, such as making your machines more efficient via rank or upgrading them before each work day, otherwise the only differences between islands are the number and type of drills you'll work. Player involvement takes a sharp turn upwards a few levels in to the game, so get ready to be overwhelmed!

What it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in playability and raw intrigue. The Oil Blue looks great, plays great, and will suck you in for hours at a time. An excellent release from Vertigo Games!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

28 Comments

I can't help but think that this is not a great time to plug, much less release, a game about drilling for oil. The fact that it was released so recently makes me wonder whether the game developers have faulty blowout preventers...

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Either that or a brilliant move since oil and drilling is on everyone's minds these days.

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@Jon
This game has been in development since November...it's not a commentary on anything really, just a game I thought would be a lot of fun to make and play. Games can just be games, after all. :)

Thanks for the review guys!

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Well reviewing it now seems a little tasteless.

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Why is it tasteless? Because we should now ignore and pretend anything related to oil and drilling doesn't exist, or that it is now off limits or taboo to game design?

I'm just as perturbed as anyone about what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico, but I think it's just silly to suggest that an oil drilling game is now off limits or taboo. The BP disaster isn't the first oil spill the world has seen, and it likely won't be the last.

We're reviewing it now because it's a good game that was just released. Not because of what's happening in the Gulf.

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there's always some disaster in the world that you could link to a game

i'm glad that jayisgames isn't censoring stuff due to global situations

if you don't like the premise - don't play

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LostOverThere June 27, 2010 9:07 PM

@ganondorfchampion: You're right ganondorfchampion, we should stop reviewing Call of Duty games as well because some people might be offended as there's a couple of wars going on at the moment. ;)

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nice game, but the demo starts closing the game and taking you to the purchase page every 20 seconds after the first roughly 30 minutes.

otherwise exellent

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Anonymous June 27, 2010 9:21 PM

I saw the description of this game and I immediately knew that knees would be jerking all over the place, and prepared to roll my eyes.

...but the FIRST comment? Wow, I'm good! :)

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@fsjd, the demo actually ends after the second day on the second island so you cannot progress further. It's not a timed/trial demo, just a limited features demo. :)

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cinder calhoun June 27, 2010 10:00 PM

Well, I'm sure it wasn't released / programmed intentionally to coincide with the whole BP thing. (And reviewing it now makes sense).

But you have to admit, themes of oil drilling + underwater certainly does kind of stand out right now.

Its just unfortunate timing. A similar thing happened with an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that had to do with a school-shooting scare (titled "Earshot"), that was initially set to air days after the Columbine school shooting. They delayed the airing of it.

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zbeeblebrox Author Profile Page June 27, 2010 10:36 PM

It's got a really unfortunate name, that's for sure. Yeah, The Oil "blue" alright...right into the Gulf :p (bah-dum ksh)

@chubigans - that's good, I can't stand timed demos. And the xbox arcade is full of them. I understand in theory that you should have a handle on a game within 30 minutes...but it never, ever works out that way. Anyway, I might give it a shot. It's good to see a time management game that's finally not about food.

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Lazlo Toth June 27, 2010 11:12 PM

Err... I'd say that if anything, this is the PERFECT time for a simulation game about oil drilling. If this is such a sensitive, controversial and urgent topic, should we be not only calling as much attention to it as possible, but trying to educate people about how the oil drilling industry really works?

If anybody's deeply offended by the way this game portrays the oil industry, if you feel it's glorifying it or whitewashing the ecological aspects, then don't go around telling people not to talk or think about the topic at all! There are better ways to go about it.

Write a devastating in-depth critique of *exactly* what details it glosses over, and how it could've been made better. Write your own subversive edutainment game where you're an innocent drilling engineer... who suddenly finds out the consequences of his hard work is an ecological disaster. Please, please do anything BUT stifle open discussion in the name of "good taste."

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NoBiggie June 28, 2010 1:02 AM

It is a tasteless endorsement, and it's surprising that everyone involved doesn't "get" it.

This game glamorizes drilling in the ocean for fun and profit at the exact same time as the worst ecological disaster in American history.

Claiming this is not inappropriate would be like endorsing a commercial passenger airliner sim the day after 9/11 or a flood sim at the height of the New Orleans levy break. In themselves the concepts are not offensive but it's all about context.

And it's not about addressing the issue or education , it's about selling a product created for entertainment about something that is a very current tragedy. The fact that it was released now instead of when the heat died off only proves it was pure, crass capitalism on the developer's part.

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NoBiggie: The heat isn't going to die off of this disaster for a very, very long time. And yet oil drilling continues unabated throughout the world, same as it ever was. The developer shouldn't be expected to shelve his hard work indefinitely just because it's a game for entertainment.

It's all about perspective, not context. And while yours is one way of looking at it, it's not the only way.

By the way, I'm against offshore oil drilling, for environmental conservation and ending our dependence on oil. I drive a hybrid and get 50MPG.

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Lazlo Toth Author Profile Page June 28, 2010 2:53 AM

@NoBiggie:

The designer in this case is not some distant greedy corporation. He's right here in the comments. He said, in these exact words, "It's not a commentary on anything really, just a game I thought would be a lot of fun to make and play." I really don't see compelling evidence for what you claim about it.

I think I might also have a different definition of what constitutes "glamorizing." Had the game been sponsored by BP and featured cut scenes about all the wonderful things oil companies do for us, or if this were the start of a whole Oil Drilling genre, I might have had more sympathy. But I just don't feel this game "advocates" for Big Oil* any more than Monopoly "advocates" for real estate cartels or Twister "advocates" casual sex.

* And Big Oil IS loathsome -- I'd love to see a really good indie game that criticizes the hell out of them...

But simply choosing a theme for a strategy game does not necessarily "glamorize" nor advocate that theme in the real world -- I would like to think, as much violence as there is in the gaming hobby, that we're all grown-up enough to realize that. From the other games on Jayisgames right now, I could complain about promoting games about colonialism (Kate Arrow), murder (Agatha Christie), even DIY terrorism (Dismantlement). But that would be ridiculous. None of those games really endorse any of those things.

And if I don't like how those games handle those sensitive topics, I can point out their flaws. I can show people how to do it better. I can ask the designer to be more informed and sensitive. (This works more often than you might think.) But jumping to uncharitable conclusions about the designer and declaring an entire topic off-limits... how is that productive? It's not that I "don't get it." It's that I WANT games to provoke and challenge people, and I'm MORE than willing to take the risk of offending someone's sensibilities if it will get people talking about an issue.

I would be extremely excited to see a game that deals explicitly with the negatives of offshore drilling. For that matter, I would have been THRILLED to see a game come out on September 12, 2001 that taught people about Middle Eastern radical politics in a mature and intelligent way. What I don't get is why current affairs should be taboo, just because people have strong feelings about them. I feel that just reinforces the prejudice that games are trivial and meaningless consumer treats -- and I CAN'T agree with that.

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To everyone who thinks the game is glamorizing the oil industry: did you actually play the game, or did you just see the word "oil" and freak out? If you play it, you'll see there's no reason for alarm.

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Frankly, I just feel a little bad for the developer. He (She?!) has put a load of hard work into developing a game that people will enjoy playing, and had the unbelievable bad luck of having it ready to play right in the middle of a really horribly-timed coincidence.

I also hope that the developer understands that those of us who are watching the destruction of the wild habitats of our home states, and witnessing friends and family losing their livelihoods, just don't really have the stomach to play this one...not because it's commercialized, or glorifying an industry....but just because it's a little too close to home.

Those who have loved ones serving in battle zones are likely to not really enjoy playing war games, either.

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Twister doesn't advocate for casual sex? I must have been playing it wrong.

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JustMe: I can understand you not being interested in a game about oil drilling under the circumstances, but I think the popularity of war games would suggest you are mistaken when you say, "Those who have loved ones serving in battle zones are likely to not really enjoy playing war games, either." Especially when you take into account the number of people serving and how many people are in their families, it seems more unlikely that the *only* people playing such games are those who don't have a relative on active duty in a war zone.

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Considering that the game does not represent realistically or glamorise in any way the actual workings of running a drilling operation except in the vaguest possible sense, I don't understand how anyone can think this is "crass capitalization".

If anything, wouldn't you think the developers would be worried the BP disaster would hurt sales rather than boosting them? Releasing "Dress Up Bella Swan" right around the time the new Twilight movie hits is capitalization. This? Not so much.

Obviously if you find this hits "too close to home", whether or not you play it is entirely up to you. I live in Florida; I've seen what the oil is doing. But at the end of the day, I don't see how you can claim that a tycoon game made up of little minigames and soothing blue graphics is "part of the problem".

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I actually forgot I was going to say something about the game itself. DUH DORA.

I like it. I'm not typically much for tycoon-sy games, or any sort of market-type simulation, but I really loved the aesthetic for this one. It didn't hook me permanently, however. Not enough action for yours truly.

My husband? Likes it a lot. He's typically the "starship colony resource trading" type of game, so I was worried this would have too many little minigames for him to be interested in, but he actually took to it right away. His only complaint is that the control for the derrick repair minigame is pretty fiddly; to quote, "I can do it, but I don't enjoy it; it's frustrating". I can see what he means; basically, the goal in this particular minigame is to keep a dot inside a circle that travels on a path around the screen long enough to light up five green lights. This would be easier if not for the fact that the dot controls a bit like a rocketship, and precision maneuvering/tight turns/etc are pretty much out of the question. It might be a make-or-break thing for him, since he dislikes it so much, and he has to do it EVERY time that piece of machinery breaks down. Shame, but that's what happens when you have a game with different minigames; not all of them will be winners for everyone.

Still, definitely at least try the demo. It's one of those games that you can talk about forever, and people still won't "get" the appeal until they try it for themselves.

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billyk94 Author Profile Page June 28, 2010 10:28 PM

@Dora: If you bought the game through BMT Micro you should get an email. If not use this form.
A patch was released that tunes down the difficulty of that minigame.

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@Dora: My best advice I can give you is to try to tap the arrow keys instead of holding them. If you hold them down all the time, it will be near on impossible. If you lightly tap them in the direction you want them to move, it'll be a breeze.

Hope this helps :)

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I'm releasing another patch tonight that tones down the difficulty of that repair game even further. I hear you loud and clear Dora. :)

But yes, if you don't get an email tonight please use the form above like billyk94 said. Thanks guys!

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Awesome! Thanks for the heads-up, you guys! My husband was very happy to hear it. He really thinks the game is VERY cool, and he was disappointed that he found one of the minigames so frustrating. It's always great to see a developer so concerned about working with the players' comments, even when, in this case, the comment is "BWAAAAAAAAAH TOO HAAAAAAARRRRRRRD!"

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Hah, no problem. Glad to hear you all are enjoying the game! :)

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