The Oil Blue
The 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.
The 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.
Analysis: 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!