Classic Game Review: Expedition Amazon

Ohio Smith writhed and twisted like the serpent itself as he tried to escape the near-fatal embrace of the anaconda. Dr. Spock quickly opened the medical kit and prepared to give him aid, if he could wriggle out of the reptile’s clutches. At last, the anaconda recoiled, leaving a weakened and frustrated Ohio Smith behind. Lt. Uherda cancelled her futile attempt to radio a helicopter and Rocky (Malibu) was unable to bash the snake with the uprooted tree in his hand. The expedition moved on and stumbled into a native camp.

Rocky Malibu threw a grenade which killed five of them. Ohio Smith opened up with his automatic rifle and dropped ten of them. Dr. Spock insisted that the bad-tempered natives were simply the result of poor toilet training and Lt. Uherda vainly tried to reach civilization over the static of the old fashioned radio. The above was an attempt to characterize the good-natured humour of Expedition Amazon (EA). EA uses similar mechanics to Sword of Far goal in that you explore the screen one step at a time. A major difference is that while Far goal randomly establishes the dungeon levels, Amazon uses the same ten screens, both above and below ground.

Each sector of Amazon is explored a square meter at a time by pressing keys that reflect the four major compass directions. In this way, the map is filled in one block at a time. Further, the process of mapping the sector as one explores reminds me of Seven Cities of Gold (Electronic Arts). There are, however, some major differences from the latter. In EA, there is no animation involved in attacks until one actually enters the Lost City of Ka, the elusive final goal of the game. Whereas Seven Cities has animation throughout the game. In EA, there are not randomly generated sectors to explore (whereas SCG has the possibility of creating entire new worlds). Still, the feeling of exploration is there. Further, don’t get the idea that it’s easy to explore the ten screens. The frustration factor in my first few expeditions was at least as great as during my first few tries at Far goal. There are some nasty little random encounters that can ruin an entire hour’s worth of adventuring. For example, how are you going to explore the Amazon River after the wily natives steal your boat?

What happens when you are just about finished exploring a section of the river and your boat hits a rock and sinks? Further, what if you should happen to fall into a trap which takes you underground, losing you your hard earned sector map and forcing you start over? I know, as it happened to me on at least three occasions before I wised up and started making detailed notes on my own paper (I defy that nasty program to steal those!) One of the most satisfying features of this adventure game was that by having four player characters, I could have a group over and play the game together.

We had great fun laughing at each other’s misfortunes; harassing one another for inept shooting; and generally suggesting mutiny toward whoever happened to be piloting the boat or leading the expedition. We would name at least one of the characters for someone we didn’t like and would absolutely refuse to give medical aid to them, regardless of what happened to them. This is cruel and holds the group back some, since that means that one of your parties is almost always going to be a first level character. It doesn’t really matter that much, however, since all you have to do is return to Flint University (the mobile home in the midst of the Texas armadillo ranch where all the fun begins) in order to get a replacement.

This game is full of some sparkling graphics and gags. The opening illustration of Flint University with its hit and run havoc should appeal to the “brutal” funny bone of many of us civilized savages and sly Pedro the Trader in Iquitos, Peru has a pun fully complete file of vile jokes and comments that can really bring out the groans from a group (“Joan of Arc didn’t quit, she was fired!” “Hitler’s mother didn’t realize she was raising such a fuehrer.”). These features are only good for two or three times, but they sure are fun to spring on new gamers.

My biggest problem with the game involves its rather poor documentation. One is not informed, for example, that the pistols which are supplied all the expedition members do not have any ammunition. Bullets must be bought at the trading post in order not to have useless guns. I realize that this is largely common sense, but I have seen novice gamers stumble over less.

The documentation suggests that the map sector can become a permanent part of the team’s map portfolio before the entire number of square meters in a sector is explored. It doesn’t make clear that one must explore every square meter except the traps in order to keep the map. Before the player discovers this, the player can lose numerous maps. In spite of these minor difficulties, EA is a very enjoyable game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. For me, it’s much more satisfying to adventure in this manner than to deal with a limited parser in a text only game. It is especially interesting to play with a group of three or four friends.

Water Purifier for Boating Safety

Of course you want to be safe on your boat, so you’ve got rope, life vests, emergency flares, a GPS. But did you think about a water purifier? Humans get dehydrated in a matter of hours. Dehydration can cause weakness, dizziness and disorientation. In a boating emergency these symptoms can be dangerous. Of course, severe dehydration can be life threatening by itself. A person will die in three days, on average, without water.

If you are planning a long boat voyage, you may want a water purifier so that you don’t have to carry as much drinkable water. This is especially true if you are traveling with a large party.

If you are boating in fresh water, the water most probably contains the pathogens Giardia and Cryptosporidium, which can cause severe gastro-intestinal illness. If you are an ocean boater, sea water must have the salt removed before it is safe to drink.

Purifying Fresh Water

Water purifiers for fresh water can be found in camping stores, sporting goods shops, and boating supply stores. They are lightweight and relatively inexpensive.

A portable, pump filtration system will remove bacteria from your drinking water. There are pump filters that can be used for fresh, brackish, or salt water. Most water filters use a ceramic or polymer filter, along with a charcoal filter and sometimes a reverse osmosis filter, to remove the microscopic bacteria from water. These systems can be pricey, and it is worthwhile to get the most expensive one you can afford, because it is likely to work better and have more features.

Boiling is the best method of cleaning your drinking water. Boiling will kill all the pathogens in water, provided you boil the water at 212 degrees F for at least thirty minutes. The downside of boiling water is that many pleasure boats don’t have a heat source or the large kettle necessary for this purification technique.

The old standby for making emergency drinking water is water purification tablets. These are usually iodine tablets, which can leave the water with a funny taste. But they are cheap and lightweight. There are improvements to the standard tablet which can improve the flavor. There are also chlorine tablets. Water purifying tablets usually take half an hour to four hours to kill the bacteria, but no special equipment is needed.

A new, high-tech solution for water purification is an ultra violet (UV) penlight. This battery operated gizmo uses UV light to kill microbes in about two minutes per liter. Patents are pending, but the UV penlight is getting good reviews. It is expensive, but cheaper than a filter system, and take into consideration that the batteries must be recharged periodically.

Salt Water Desalination

Salt water is not drinkable, and if you try drinking sea water in an emergency you will get very sick. Desalination means taking the salt out and leaving just the water, which you can drink. A portable desalination system is quite expensive, with the smaller units costing more. There are small desalination plants that can be installed on your boat if it is large enough.

A reverse osmosis pump is the best choice for emergency salt water purification. The water must be forced through the filter, which requires you to provide some force for pumping. There are battery operated units and hand operated units. The hand pumped reverse osmosis filters require about an hour of pumping to provide a gallon of drinkable water, but they are lighter weight and no consideration needs to be given to batteries or electrical sources.

If you have a way to boil water, you can buy or make a desalinating still. Fill a kettle that has a tight lid with sea water. Connect a coiled copper tube to the lid, and boil the seawater. The steam (condensation) will drip out of the copper tube as clean water to be collected in another container.

You should add one of these methods of water purification to your emergency gear for any boating trip. Water purifiers are light and affordable. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Ahoy, Ahoy! Charter Boats Are Already “On-Board” With Social Media

“In this day and age the most successful (boat) charter companies are the ones that embrace new technologies and connect themselves directly with their target audiences,” explains Jonathan Bowker, founder of Maritime Media.

This comes across as good advice from a very knowledgeable authority in one niche industry confronted by the new marketing realities of today. Jon Bowker knows that the Social Media Marketing “ship set sail” awhile ago and that his own charter boat clients were on it due to his sound consultation.

Frankly, Bowker’s above quote applies to just about every other type of business, whether niche or mainstream. Reliable statistics show that very few industries have not already begun integrating Social Media Marketing strategies into their traditional marketing plans. Any savvy marketer knows that he/she must be wherever their audiences are. It’s a sure bet that their audiences are already engaging others, including their closest competitors, on Social Media.

Charters are On-Board with Social Media Marketing

Boat and yacht charters really lend themselves well to Social Media, because they depict pleasant visual experiences that engage readers through multimedia content shared via Google News and Social Media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Linked and more. It’s all about creating an attainable daydream for consumers. Successful bookings can result if they are emotionally inspired to envision themselves setting sail against a backdrop of periwinkle blue skies, medium blue waters and with a clear ocean spray caressing their faces. Within their vivid imaginations, they watch as their daily stresses shrink behind their charter boat as it approaches the setting sun.

Charter boat companies sell pleasurable experiences. They represent the anti-dote for stressful living and serve as a welcome alternative to the repetitive “everyday.” When effectively harnessed and shared with others through a variety of Social Media outlets, the power of traveler experiences can be an awesome sales tool for charter boat companies.

Customer reviews are the most effective social tactic for driving charter boat sales. They are followed in strength by question-and-answer features and also by having a well-done Facebook fan page where they regularly post customer-oriented information. This is all per an Etailing survey of 117 companies taken back in September of 2009. A related survey also found that 90% of online consumers strongly trusted the recommendations of people they knew. The 90% is in contrast to the 70% of online consumers, who said that they trusted opinions of unknown users (Econsultancy, July 2009).

In another related study, 84% of consumers said they were more likely to check online for reviews prior to making a purchase in 2009. This is compared to the previous twelve months of 2008 in which only 72% made a similar claim. These results were according to a survey by Brand Reputation in its Retail Bulletin publication, October 2009 edition.

The following is an actual customer comment posted online after he completed a charter cruise that apparently inspired him to provide a great review for others to read.

“As an avid charter sailor I congratulate you! Your new social media strategy has helped me learn more about your company at the time I was actively searching for information. Your past customers have corroborated the great service and clean yachts you advertise…Hooray! Your transparency has boosted my comfort level because you aren’t afraid to let me see ratings and reviews from your customers… and you’ve even used a 3rd party site which greatly increases my confidence that the reviews are real and not cherry picked! I’m ready to book!

And then, when my charter was finished, another remarkable thing happened; you invited me to Rate My Experience! And of course I’m happy to oblige because the experiences of others lead me to your business and I want to pay it forward too. In fact, I’m flattered because I know you sincerely want my opinion. By the way, the next time someone asks if I have any recommendations, I’ll just point them to your branded space on Yacht Charter Advisor!!!”

It would seem that this particular charter cruise customer was equally impressed with the charter boat company’s use of social media for customer service as he was with cruise. This is a real Social Media Marketing success story. It is one that most marketers can only dream about calling their own.

In addition to sharing positive customer reviews online there are many other ways Social Media can increase business for charter boat companies.

Smart Use of Social Media Can Lead to Significant ROI

Shannon Webster owns a Florida-based charter company that offers cruises to New England among other places along the East Coast. Some time ago, Shannon posted the following late offer on her company’s Facebook page:

“New England is booking very quickly as the summer is coming to a close. There are very few available larger motor yachts that have an open calendar. Many owners are using their boats at the end of August, causing further lack of inventory. Northern Lights, the 132′ Westship, and Sovereign, the 120′ Broward, still have open time on their charter books. Inquire today before they are gone!”

In less than a week, Shannon was able to claim a 10-day booking. This was a direct result of her Facebook post. Regarding this happenstance Shannon shared the following wrap-up: “It pays to use Social Media. Just booked Northern Lights yesterday for 9 nights, only 4 days after posting her availability in New England on my Facebook wall.”

Is anyone wondering what the ROI on Shannon Webster’s single Facebook post was? Well, her yacht Northern Lights has a top weekly base rate of $90,000. The cost of posting an offer like hers on her Facebook pages is zero dollars. Need anything more be said of her ROI in this case?

Being a Creative Marketer Can Often Yield Great Results

And, there are other ways Social Media Marketing has been used to produce great business results for charter boat companies and their strategic partners.

FourSquare is a check-in platform that keeps everyone posted as to one’s current whereabouts. “Checking-in” at various business locations also often qualifies consumers for special gifts and discounts. So, what happens when you are on a boat? Just ask Milwaukee Wisconsin restaurateur, Joe Sorge, who used Foursquare to get a flash mob of 150+ people into his alongside-the-dock restaurant, AJ Bombers. Joe’s lure was a charter boat experience. Here’s how Joe pulled this one off (please watch the video).

Joe Sorge’s

FourSquare event is further proof that charter boat companies and other related businesses are only limited by their imaginations as they consider how to use Social Media platforms to market their goods and services. In fact, Joe took his event one step further and posted the photos showing his customers enjoying themselves aboard the charter on Flickr. Thus, the fun lives on in Social Media – every day – and should excite future customers looking forward to Sorge’s upcoming FourSquare charter events.

Raise Your Website to Set “Sales”

It’s a no brainer that all of this Social Media Marketing revolves around a charter boat company having an effective website with effective landing pages that trigger successful call-to-actions. An effective website forms the basis for everything else expected to take place online from consumer research to charter bookings to praiseworthy testimonials. There can be no “full package” without first having a professional looking website, which offers all the sights and sounds of the wonderful experiences that previous charter boat guests have enjoyed. Your customers must first embark on your website before they can plan to set sail on your charter boat or yacht.