Dock'em is an addictively simple game that will tap every ounce of your multi-tasking ability. You will be responsible for safely navigating multiple ships into their correct ports while avoiding collisions with land and other boats. Share your times online over Xbox LIVE and compete for ship docking supremacy.
Although air traffic controller games are nothing new albeit rarely seen in modern times, the popularity of Firemint's Flight Control for the iPhone in early 2009 is most likely what spurred this take on the genre as it were. Dock'em puts the air traffic gameplay on the high seas, having the player guide a trio of differing boats -- a sailboat, a cruise liner, and a cargo vessel -- into their respective docks. It's a single screen affair which nets the player one point per successfully docked boat with the goal of amassing as high a score as possible.
The player uses the left analog stick to guide a cusor around the screen. When a boat enters the display, noted by its distinctive sound and ship wheel icon, the player can move the cursor to the ship and hold down the A button to begin plotting a path. Increasingly the routes to the docks will become more and more complex as the player is forced to veer one boat from the path of another incoming one, taking the scenic path to stall for time, and so on. The challenge and fun are derived from this juggling act, trying to control multiple boats at once whichout having any of them crash into the islands or each other.
The game ends when a boat crashes. There is a warning before this happens: a flashing highlight indicates the trouble spot and a siren seemingly lifted directly from Flight Control is blasted to get the player's attention. Once the game is over, the score is posted onto the global leaderboard should it be high enough to rank in the top 50. This is the chief problem with Dock'em: it's an arcade game by nature, a high score contest, yet there is no local saving of high scores at all. If the player can't crack into on-line leaderboard, then the game makes no attempt to preserve the scores. In addition, the leaderboard as it is setup allows for multiple entries from the same account, leading to a handful of people taking up the bulk of available spots thanks to multiple high score submissions. Dock'em desparately needs a local score saving option and to limit players to their single, best score being submitted for the global leaderboards.
The preceding oversight does knock Dock'em down a peg or two, but the game is still fun and controls about as well as it can with a gamepad. The graphics are excellent; I love how the water shimmers, and everything looks clean from the in-game graphics to the menus. Dock'em is not a title that will blow people over with its visual prowess, but what is here looks sharp. I would like to have seen some additional island configurations as well, but it's tough to be picky about selection given the vast visual upgrade Dock'em provides for its dollar over what Flight Control offers. Dock'em is a solid title and a refreshing puzzle game whose longevity will depend on whether or not players will aim to claw their way onto the leaderboards or maintain their own.