by Eidos Interactive
Looking a little like a cross between The Sims and Tropico, Beach Life places you in the role of a holiday resort manager. Although it may appear to be a Tycoon/Theme type of game, Beach Life does things a little differently in that the goals you have to achieve are strongly related to the satisfaction of your guests' desires rather than just their needs. Of course with holiday makers those desires are a little different from what you find in the usual city building kind of game, as we shall see.
The game has two modes of play. The main focus of the game is the campaign. Here there are fourteen different scenarios for you to complete. The first couple are classed as a tutorial, but I use the term loosely because it is not a tutorial in the true sense of the word, as it more or less leaves you to get on with it rather than explaining things step by step as a good tutorial should. The goals that you have to achieve in these scenarios are a little crazy at times, such as having to pair 50 couples off or having to get a certain amount of people drunk but as a strategy game it all comes together well and there is a good balance in the gameplay. If there is one comment I would make about the campaign, it is that it doesn't last too long. This is the kind of game to keep you playing for hours at a time and within a weeks regular play you're going to be finished all 14 of the scenarios. There is also a sandbox mode in which you pick a resort, one which you have unlocked in the campaign mode, and play until your heart's content. The sandbox mode is OK but without the need to strive for specific goals it's appeal is somewhat limited.
The guests that come to your holiday resort in Beach Life aren't bashful in the slightest. The first couple of times that you play the game you'll be surprised to read their thoughts with comments like 'I really need a crap' which is supposed to tell you that they need the toilet. It's this kind of mentality that a lot of your guests have. It's been described as a Club 18-30 simulator and in many ways that's not too far from the truth. Guests want to shower on the beach, get drunk, get physical with other guests (you know what I mean) and at the same time expect your resort to be up to scratch with all other amenities running the best as they can.
There are over 50 different building for you to construct such as discos, beach bars, speedboat hire, pedaloes and party boats. Building facilities is a key part of the game and it was during the first scenario that I learnt a valuable lesson. Because the game has a day and night cycle your builders, and cleaners, reps etc. will, by default, finish their work at 7pm. To ensure that you can construct buildings, call out mechanics and cleaners etc. after 7pm, you'll need to amend the working hours of some of your staff otherwise between the hours of 7pm and 9am you'll effectively have no staff to maintain your resort which can prove costly if something goes wrong or if you are on a severely time limited scenario.
The measure of your resort's success is ultimately summed up by it's resort rating. The resort rating is measured in stars with the maximum being five stars. In some scenarios you'll have to improve your resort to a certain number of stars but it can also be used to quickly see whether, or not, your resort is improving. Apart from providing the necessary facilities for your guests, you'll also have to provide enough staff to maintain the resort. The staff you're responsible for are mechanic, lifeguard, cleaner, security guard, holiday rep and builders. Staff work, by default, from 9am to 7pm and although they cannot work overtime if you were to change their time from 7pm to 5am as the time approached 7pm then they would effectively work a double shift. Making your staff work longer than the normal 10 hours can seriously affect their performance and it can plummet to less than 10%. Increasing wages and keeping their hours to only 10 hours is the best way to guarantee an 80%+ performance from all of your staff. It is worth looking after all your staff but perhaps the most important is the holiday rep as they can give you feedback on the feelings of your guests. Messages from the reps scroll across the bottom of the screen so you don't have to trawl through all the guests individually.
Deep Red deserve credit for making the interface a doddle to understand and use. All information is given in text and a variety of easy to understand icons relay information to you on the guests moods and thoughts. You can generally judge whether a guest likes something because a thumbs icon appears over their head and if they don't like something a thumbs down icon appears over their head. It is great to see such quick visual feedback used in this way and it avoids have to click on multiple things. Of course you can click on a guest and access their last three thoughts etc. but it is not always necessary.
Visually the game looks good. 3D may be the 'in' thing with many genres these days, but the isometric 2D that is used by so many strategy games is taking some dislodging. The water animations and night and day cycles all look impressive and while you can use your 3D card's abilities to assist, it isn't a requirement and those of you who still haven't got a 3D card, and there can't be too many by now, will have no problem running the game providing it is DirectX 8.1 compatible.
Beach Life offers a nice variation on the current strategy games that are on offer. As usual with a Deep Red game (such as Monopoly Tycoon or Risk II) the gameplay is well balanced and very addictive. The only disappointment though is the length of the game. The campaign is not going to last you too long and the sandbox mode can only hold your interest for so long. The game needs an expansion that is chock full of extra scenarios and perhaps maybe a random scenario generator, a multiplayer option would also be nice. That's the trouble with good games though, they always leave you wanting more.
Overall Game Rating: 8.4/10 Beach Life is a wonderfully entertaining strategy game that leaves you wanting far more than is on offer.
Deaf Gamers comment: Superb.