Overall Score 92%
Tropical Swaps 2
Fancy a working holiday? No, don't worry, we're not sticking you in a call centre on the Costa del Sol - this is fun stuff. Ever fancied spending some time on an island paradise, helping out with fruit smoothies, souvenier making and the evening firework displays? Well, me neither really, but this is Tropical Swaps 2, not a travel agency. Don't worry about why we're assembling things rather than enjoying them ourselves - it's still fun!
Tropical Swaps 2 is really three similar games in one package. Once you've set up your profile you have free choice between three games - the Smoothie Stall, in which you create delicious fruit smoothies by the cunning combination of different fruits; Tikitastic, where you assemble tikis for export to waiting customers; and the Firework Extravaganza, where you assemble and set off fireworks (funnily enough). All three games have the same dynamic - new parts push up from below, and you need to stack the correct components together.
That said, the three games are all subtly different in play and very different in theme. Smoothie Stall consists of generally the easiest matches and your efforts are to place completed fruit in the blender and serve customers their orders as quickly as possible, with bonuses for combos and so on. The game shop allows you to upgrade your equipment, buy new recipes and so on. Tikitastic features slightly more complex matching to assemble different totems, the idea being to complete a certain quantity before the time runs out, and combos of the same tikis in a row activate special properties (which can be upgraded in the shop). Firework Extravaganza scores points for assembling rockets - the bigger you stack them, plus extras like rockets fused together, mean greater rewards. Strangely there is no shop for this game.
There are bonuses, of course. Firework games also feature blueprints that, when assembled, allow new types of rocket to appear. Buy the radio for your Smoothie Stall and you can assemble batteries that make it play music to keep your customers happy, or an ice tray that leads to bigger tips. There are some minigames as well - a memory game variant for the Smoothie Stall, a "target shooting" tiki challenge and a firework assembly puzzle in which you are expected to assemble one firework combo from all the components before time runs out. Complete all the minigames and collect keys to unlock bonus "Volcano Challenge" games.
Graphically, the game is superb. Everything is clear and bright (though the fruit in the Smoothie Stall game are bizarrely all the same size - apples and oranges sit alongside enormous strawberries!) and the layout is usually excellent. I was slightly less enthralled by the pictures of some of the people in the game, who looked slightly menacing to me! Sound too is excellent, with a range of cheery tropical tunes for the different game modes and a plethora of sound effects, from the pouring out of drinks to the gasps of appreciation from your firework audience.
The range of play options is well thought out and, while it can get fast paced, the controls are simplicity itself - just click with the mouse. The only time keyboard input is required is when setting up your profile. Apart from the Smoothie Stall, where you'll want to control the order in which fruit is blended, assembled items deal with themselves. Just keep matching! Rather neatly, you can lift up a stack of components, drop them from higher up and grab a lower component from underneath before they land. Coins are scored for your efforts and can be spent in the shops, and a nice touch is that the money can be spent in either shop wherever you earn it. If you're struggling in one game, you can earn the cash to buy upgrades for it by playing the others.
I did have some concerns over longevity. While all different, the three game modes are all quite similar in how they play. There's a rating system for each level (earn one, two or three stars depending on your performance) which affects your rank, but this has no impact on gameplay itself aside from possibly making you want to replay levels to improve on your previous performance. Even poor performance can often get you through a level, which robs the game slightly of challenge. There's the ability to unlock the Volcano bonus games, but these are simply variations of the others (such as playing one shift of each in a row). Still, perhaps I'm being a tad harsh - reviewing games often involves a more focused, shorter timespan by the necessity of deadlines. A more casual player won't be trying to do everything in the space of about a week!
This has been a very enjoyable game to review. It is clear from the range of features, the smoothness with which everything operates and the attention to detail that pervades the entire theme that this is a game which has been polished until it sparkles. I can see Tropical Swaps 2 doing very well, and deservedly so.
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