Review by Lisanne

"Cash-in on some of the most demanding holidayers ever by getting them drunk and feeding them cheap meat of ALL kinds."

Oh, the sound and smell of the sea. Beautiful! Walking across the beach, sand between your toes and down your pants, hair blowing in the gentle coastal breeze as you check out the local talent and make your way to the nearest generic beer outlet. You can't beat a beach holiday. Well, actually you can beat a beach holiday by doing just about anything ever if you're me, but some people like that sort of thing. There's certainly no denying that catering for those who DO like that sort of thing is a great way to earn money, and if there's one thing I like then it's money. So regardless of the subject matter at hand, I was more than a little bit excited when I noticed this game sitting on a shelf in a shop in Holland. "A-ha!" I thought to myself, "a means to make money! Virtual money, but money nonetheless!" Purchasing said means of making non-existent money was a simple choice, given that it was incredibly cheap. And so a love affair began.

Beach Life (known as Spring Break in NTSC areas) is a standard building sim game designed around the concept of building a beach resort and making money. There are plenty of sub-objectives to keep the player occupied too, and lots of variety within the game, so it never feels quite like a typical building sim. The whole air of the game is very light-hearted and it never seems to take itself or its subject matter too seriously (the aptly-named various brands of beer available to sell in your alcohol-vending outlets spring to mind). Somehow, despite the fact that Beach Life feels consistently like a parody of itself, it remains magnificently playable and suitably filled with variety to appeal to even the lowest boredom-threshold. Imaginative challenges when playing in the scenario management game option keep the pace moving nicely, whilst the ability to play a freer game is provided by the Sandbox mode, where the player can select an area of the map and do whatever the hell they want.

The challenges within the scenario mode are generally centred around achieving certain objectives within a set timeframe. In most cases there will be three different criteria to progress, and these change from resort to resort. The challenges given vary from getting a certain number of holiday-makers drunk at the same time, to arresting a certain number of people within a time limit, and getting a five-star resort rating by attracting big-spending clients. The variety of buildings available is somewhat tailored to these demands, but the same buildings are available all the way through the game. For instance, if you need to achieve a five-star resort rating, you'll need a casino and plenty of apartment blocks. If you just want to get everyone drunk, then the selection of bars and pubs you can build should help you meet the challenge. As you set your builders to work, many of the establishments once built actually unlock new restaurants, bars and so on so that you can really make the most of the land available.

Whilst the options available may initially appear dazzlingly complex, surprisingly the learning curve isn't unreasonably steep. Beach Life has an in-built tutorial to help you through the first steps, and it works tremendously well. The tutorial isn't stiflingly long or tedious, and it manages to be interesting without feeling too patronising. For first time players, it is a necessity to go through this process, since there are so many things to think about within a standard playing session. Staff must be hired, and basic amenities must be built before the first guests start to arrive. They'll also need paths and streetlamps, not to mention public toilets and beach showers. All of this must be achieved whilst ensuring that you don't run out of money too - no cash means no new buildings. Once you get the hang of it though, you can spend time exploring the other functions of the game. Altering the brand of beer sold in your bars and upping the strength should give you some amusing gameplay moments. The moment you first notice your guests starting to roll around in the sand and moaning (in pairs) is particularly eyebrow-raising. You can even get the camera to zoom in if you feel so inclined!

The appearance of this game ranks as average, but do bear in mind that it is fairly old in PC terms. Personally, I think this is advantageous, as pretty much anyone with a PC will be able to play it, no matter how bad in performance that PC may be. Graphics in a game such as this don't really need to be top of the range anyway - you can see everything on-screen clearly enough, distinguish between all the buildings regardless of size and similarity, and tell staff of the various categories apart from the guests. Beach Life has a predominantly cartoonish appearance, and the graphics don't come with glitches. The appearance is hardly revolutionary, but there's certainly nothing wrong with it.

Music is inoffensive if a little repetitive, and tends to be the kind of post-clubbing chill-out music they play in all-night cafes around the Mediterranean (think: modern version of the easy listening background music played in elevators with a more prominent beat). Sound effects vary depending on the situation, but maintain the element of surrealist parody without getting repetitive. No, they don't sound realistic, but they do have a certain over-the-top charm that acts an amusing in-joke for anyone who's been drunk before. Generally, you'll be able to hear laughing, rain falling, boats and jetskis breaking the water around them, and whatever late-night pub noises may be most applicable depending on which beer you're giving them (varies from punching each other in the face or leaving little surprises in the nearest woman's uterus, to smashing up your skillfully crafted resort).

Given the remarkably low price, there's certainly enough variety in this game to afford it a rare sense of longevity, as well as replayability. The options are endless, and the inclusion of a free-play selection (Sandbox mode) was a stroke of genius. Strongly recommended, as it offers obscene value for money.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/12/05

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