Holidays are great. Ok, they aren't always great but they usually are. Actually the last one I had was rubbish, so was the one before that. Have you ever been on holiday and had everything go as planned? Has the hotel had a train track running through it? Has the pool been too swamp like for your liking? Come to think of it, why do we bother to go on holiday? They are more trouble than they're worth. Imagine what it would be like running a holiday resort - You would make it great. It would have everything you ever wanted in a holiday resort. Well that would be the plan anyway.
Beach life does exactly that. It lets you run your own holiday resort; you are in charge of how much beer costs. You decide if people can shower in private or if they have to do it in public. You have the power to give people the holiday of a lifetime or the holiday from hell, complete with rancid toilets and a sleazy barman that hits on your girlfriend. The choice is yours, but to succeed at the game you have to bring in the holidaymakers and make as much money as possible (while watering down the beer as much as much as you can).
The game itself is similar in style to the classic Theme Park, but while that game always had the player frantically trying to sort out an endless list of problems, Beach Life lets you sit back, have a beer and take a more relaxed approach to proceedings. As you attempt to tackle the games mission objectives you soon realise that things aren't as simple as the games laid back style would have you believe. A couple more beers may come in handy so you can drown your sorrows as your daily profits fall to an all time low.
Each island that you run is a level in the game and in order to progress you will have to figure out the best ways to reach your level objectives. These range from simply populating the island with all the buildings available, to attracting a certain type of guest at your resort. As you play through the game you gain an understanding of what is required to achieve these goals, but for a lot of the time trial and error is the only way to progress.
If you are expecting the game to offer the same amount of depth as something like Roller Coaster tycoon you will be disappointed. It seems that the developers have aimed the game at an audience that doesn't normally play this type of game. Gone are the endless customisable features and endless replay value. You have control over things like staff pay and hours of work, but most of the actual buildings and amenities provide little customisation, obviously done in an attempt to make the game more accessible to the young, party going audience. Various fees can be adjusted for food, drink and board, and beer strength can be altered, but you never feel like you are in complete control. When you succeed you feel lucky rather than skilful, which makes the game rather unrewarding to play for long periods of time.
Everything in the game is pre-rendered, with very little movement in the environment at all. The waves wash against the shore, but apart from that it looks like your holiday resort is stuck on a postcard. The people on the island move around, but they have come on very little since the days of Theme Park and are visually uninspiring, even if they do sunbathe topless. They do offer you some information on how they are feeling and what they want changed about the resort, but their demands are usually impossible to meet due to poor funds or a reliance on certain buildings being built before what customers want can get off the drawing board. While this is probably more than a little down to poor management, it is still frustrating and is a major point of annoyance in the game.
In another attempt to spruce the game up for the young and trendy gamers, the developers have included a MP3 player in the game that comes with tracks from artists such as Kinobe and Alexkid. I know what you are thinking and I agree. No holiday disco could be complete without the birdie song and a drunken rendition of the YMCA, and luckily for us the MP3 player allows you to add your own tunes to the play list allowing you and your guests to party the night away.
On top of the main game there is a sandbox mode like what is found in most games of this type. This allows you go to any of the islands that you have succeeded at and play it for fun. You have no objectives to achieve so this is your chance to make the holiday resort you always wanted to go to. The only down side is that you only have access to the buildings that you have unlocked in the main game. While this isn't a problem if you have finished the game, it does mean that the casual player who just wants to have some fun can't fulfil their dream to the full.
In what seems like an after thought the game allows you to take pictures of your game and then post them on the games web site. While this sounds like a great idea in theory, I never came across a situation in the game where I thought a picture would be great. The game just isn't exciting enough. Sure, I could have taken some of those topless sunbathers, but I am a professional resort owner, not a seedy pervert. Still a couple of snaps wouldn't hurt anyone, would it?
While it is great that the developers have attempted to make this kind of simulation game appeal to more people, they have stripped away the bits that make games like this so engaging. If you have always found games like Theme Park and Roller Coaster Tycoon a little daunting, then you may like this as a gentle game to introduce you to the genre, especially at this budget price, but experienced gamers will probably be left wanting more.