Review: Rum Run
Who's up for some adventure on the High Sea? That's what Rum Run promises, as you play a young and plucky sailor with a heart of gold. You used to plunder the world for profit, but now you'd rather be noble and rebuild the destroyed villages around the seas you sail. Can you trade enough goods to make enough money to buy food and supplies to restore the villages to their former glory?
Version Reviewed: 18.104.22.1680
Looking at a level of Rum Run, you'll see everything you need to play. There are the trading posts that sell rum and food; the ports looking for supplies so you can turn a profit; your base of operations where you can store supplies before moving them on; and the villages that need supplies donated to them.
That's the key to Rum Run, to get the villages rebuilt, and to do that you need to ensure they always have food stores - represented by the health bar on each village. If any of these drop to zero, game over.
The catch is that donating food loses you money, so you need to be turning profit by trading food (low price, but not a huge profit) and rum (expensive, lots of profit, but ties up a lot of your funds). And that's going to need a lot of sailing between all the destinations on the map.
Thankfully sailing is a simple matter of drawing a line from one of the ships in your fleet to the destination. If something needs to be bought or donated, a set of pop up buttons for 10, 20, or 30 units will appear. Touch these, and your ship will be underway. Simple, fast, and easy to use, Rum Run's control method is a delight.
The problem with Rum Run is that it's neither one game genre or another.
As a trading game there's far too much randomness going on. The movement in prices of the food and rum are wildly random, and the requests for supplies from the harbours and ports on each level make little sense to me. I like my trading games to have some ability to predict the market. In Rum Run it's far more sensible to wait until you see a low price, steam over and buy everything, and then wait for a high price to randomly pop up. And if you don't like what you see, wait a few moments, because the same port will make another request at a different price.
Perhaps that's chaotic enough to feel like real life for some, but it simply doesn't match my expectations of a trading game.
As an action game Rum Run lacks quite a lot. I'm expecting pirate ships to cause trouble with my cargo, and I can see them darting around the screen, but in open game play they've never come close to challenging me. And which idiot of a sea captain is going to sail deliberately towards a skull and crossbones to see what they do? With no sense of danger, there's no excitement.
What action there is comes from the demands of the villages as they grow and, when your supplies are running low, to keep them growing. But that's not the excitement of a life on the high seas, that's the excitement of a warehouse manager.
Gaming is about fighting constraints and making these fights feel heroic, worthwhile, and challenging. Rum Run only partially delivers on these ideals.
It also feels short in terms of levels - with just a tutorial and five levels, I'm worried that Rum Run is not going to give me a lot of game time. Yes it's at the lowest pricing band in the Windows Store (79p/99c), but when time has been spent on the presentation and the UI, to skimp on the levels seems rather... like a pirate. There is the promise of more levels in the future with a 'coming soon' on the level selection screen, and a note in the app listing to expect new maps and content each month, so I'll keep an eye on this as the months pass.
Mitigating this is the length of the levels. Each level demands a lot from you in terms of time and concentration, with little reward if you fail the level within a few percentage points of completing the challenge. The time it takes to play each level really does demand - and get - some smart handling to deal with the application being placed in the background. There should never be a situation where progress in a game is lost because there is an incoming call, because I've switched away to perform another task, or any of the countless ways that using a smartphone will get in the way of playing a game.
A really good pirate can get by on wit, charm, and looking a bit like Geoffrey Rush. Unfortunately that's not the case with Rum Run. It's got all the right ideas, it looks the part, but when it comes time to hoist the main sail, there are quite a few holes that are going to slow down the ship.
Rum Run is worth a close look to see if you'll be able to join the crew, but I think I'll stay in Tortuga for the next rogue.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at