Ahh, holidays in Ibiza... The sun, the sex, the German techno music, the foam parties, the nighttime Es and the morning Js, the wide-open bloodshot eyes, the factor 75 suntan lotion. It closely resembles my personal idea of hell (except for the second item on the list). There’s only one way to turn it into something fun, and that’s to make a game out of it. Which is precisely what Milton Keynesbased developer Deep Red has gone and done, although the original concept is attributed to the head of Eidos, the legendary Ian Livingstone.
The idea is to manage different resorts, all of which are populated by moronic, sex-starved hooligans and dippy, sex-starved slappers. Just like in those awful Sky docusoaps. In the hands of some lesser developer it could be a recipe for cringeworthy dullness. But with the likes of Risk II and Monopoly 'tycoon behind them, Deep Red could really make it work.
Life'S A Beach
Everything you can imagine in a beach resort will be here: the cockroach-infested hotels, the overpriced bars, wet T-shirt contests, watersports and the like. You can also expect copious amounts of vomiting and sunburn, along with shark attacks, jellyfish and storms - these are just a few of the problems you’ll face. There won’t be any of the long periods of boredom featured in The Sims here.
Of course, the fact that The Sims is still riding high in the charts two years on is definitely part of the motivation behind Beach Life. Livingstone, not one to miss out on a good business opportunity, makes this clear when he says, "young people in particular have a lot of fun on holiday. It seemed to me to be the perfect experience to simulate in a game. Cheap booze, loud music, romance, polluted water, mosquitoes, hot sun, beach volleyball and everything else will combine to create people-watching at its best". We especially like the bit about "young people in particular". He sounds like your grandad giving you a pound to go to the cinema. When Beach Life comes out in the summer we’re not expecting a classic, but if all goes well it could prove to be a pleasant surprise. After all, you don’t need to go on a Club 18-30 holiday to enjoy giving a bunch of tossers food poisoning.
Download Beach Life
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
"This is a game about behaving badly on holiday." The words of Ian Livingstone, living legend and the brains behind Beach Life, and a succinct summation of the antics you can expect in Eidos’s new sun. sand and sangria simulator. Only we'd like to suggest a change to that statement. Try putting the word 'very’ in front of badly. Drunken bints in ill-fitting bikinis bitchbrawling outside tacky theme pubs. Men staggering out of night-clubs to brazenly urinate like horses up against the nearest burger stall. Men and women copping off for alcohol-fuelled romps in the sand dunes. Men and men copping off for alcohol-fuelled romps in the sand dunes. The gamut of debauchery laid bare. The entire spectrum of 'Brits on the Piss’ loutishness unfolding on your monitor.
Think Theme Park set in Torremolinos. You are running a resort. There are beautiful sandy beaches. There are magnificent cliffs and rocky out-crops. Palm trees and Mediterranean flora cover the hills. But you've got a ferryload of 20-something holiday hedonists inbound, intent on having the time of their lives. Time to cover the beaches with sun-loungers and barbeques, wreck the cliffy vistas with hi-rise hotel blocks and bulldoze the vegetation to make way for discos, sweaty bars and overpriced restaurants.
The game is broken into missions, and goals range from making a certain amount of cash, to cleaning up the reams of litter that are turning your resort into an ill-kept dustbin. Crucial to achieving any of this is keeping your fun-seekers happy while simultaneously relieving them of their money to fund your grand designs. Achieving the latter seems, on the face of it, not particularly difficult. Lower the price of beer a little, and watch them flock to your beach bar. Increase the strength of the stuff and watch them throng the convenience stores the next day, paying through the nose for headache pills.
Build cafes and beach barbeques to flog food throughout the day, and restaurants to keep the punters’ bellies full during the night. Erect enormous superclubs to keep your visitors awake and spending money for as many hours as possible. Build discos on the beach or moor party yachts off the shore - you are not exactly short of ways of separating holidaymakers from their de niro.
Once More Unto The Beach
Keeping them happy is another matter. From the cleanliness of the beach to the cleanliness of the babes sunbathing on it, there are plenty of factors to bear in mind. To keep tabs on your guests’ moods, you need only click on any one of them to get a total breakdown on what makes them tick. From their name, to how drunk they are, to how full their bladder is, there's little you can't find out about these tiny, digitised holiday makers.
Different guests will have different priorities, though number one for most is nookie. A quick check on a visitor’s totty meter shows whether they think that the place is heaving with classy crumpet, or whether it is crawling with boilers. To encourage more fellas in, you play to the lowest macho denominator by increasing the amount of jet skis there are to bugger about on, and the number of bars there are to get bladdered in. For the womenfolk, it's the likes of prime sunbathing space and top-notch swimming pools that will draw them in. Then, a swift reduction in the price of Cape Horn lager (an alcoholic aphrodisiac) and you can stand back and watch cupid do his work. And as ever, the act of love is a beautiful thing to behold.
Day is turning to night. The bars are thronging with revellers, now changed out of their bikinis and swimming shorts into even more indiscreet and revealing night-time clobber. The night grows long and conversations turn to flirting, and flirting turns to tongue-wrestling in the bushes and on the benches outside the boozer. Couples pair off and troop down to the dunes where they romp brazenly in the sand. It would be erotic but for the fact the girls are the size of the nail on your little finger.
"You Spill My Pint?"
Different kinds of beer produce different reactions in your guests. Fighting, flirting, having fun or just getting rat-arsed. Whatever you want your guests to feel, you can make it happen merely by changing the grog your bars are punting.
But the holiday makers aren't the only people you need to take care of, there’s also your staff. I he cleaners are pissed off because you’ve got them working through the night cleaning up piles of puke on minimum wage. Or your security guard's got the hump because you've dropped the price of fighting lager and he’s the only one there to deal with the brawls breaking out. And with shark attacks, heat waves and hurricanes all a feature, taking care of your guest’s obsessions is only half the battle. So forget Ayia Napa, Ibiza and Rhodes, as this is going to make them seem like a wet weekend at Butlins. Beach Life offers the best of Mediterranean hedonism, minus Germans with towels.
If you're reading this on holiday, put it down, slap on some Hawaiian Tropic, get yourself a Pina Colada, and... look at the arse on that! Don't forget to send us a postcard. Assuming the more likely scenario that you're sat at home on your own, cradling the magazine in your pasty white arms, check out the surrounding pictures and know that all this could be yours. Blazing sun. clear blue seas, water sports, pounding music, all-night dancing, cheap booze, prolific sexual encounters, exotic food, chronic diarrhoea, sunburn, drunken violence, mindless vandalism, shark attacks, drowning... Sounds fun, doesn't it? Welcome to Beach Life, your virtual package holiday. My name's Steve and I'll be your rep during your stay with us. We hope you have a great time.
When we say virtual holiday, don't go cancelling that fortnight in Tosser Del Mar just yet. It's not quite Arnie in Total Recall. In fact, you don't really get to go on holiday at all. Instead, you get to watch other people pissing it up the wall while you sit around worrying about the bank balance. Yep, as all but the most ill-informed readers will have by now ascertained. Beach Life is of course yet another addition to the ever-growing pantheon of Tycoon games. In a more boring world, it would be called 'Resort Management', which is probably something you can get a degree in these days.
If you've ever played this type of thing, you'll know the form, and success revolves around keeping all of the people happy all of the time. Happiness in this case is largely defined by the ability to get roaring drunk, dance like a gibbon, and enjoy meaningless al fresco coupling. Suffice to say, it's a bit of a departure from Industry Giant II.
On The Beach
Where to start then? Given the Club 18-30 predilection of the bulk of your clientele, a bar is usually the best place, and for convenience's sake you might as well whack it on the beach. The drunken hordes are going to need something to soak up the ale, so once the bar is up and running, you can open a beach barbecue, enabling them to wolf down limp pats of gristle like the savages they are. More discerning punters might fancy a bit of a sit-down, so you open a fancy restaurant, at greater expense but with an increased benefit to the overall rating of the resort.
There's more to a holidajf. than filling your face though, so activities can be provided in the form of pedaloes, windsurfing, fishing trips and other water sports. Some guests may not fancy getting wet. carticulariy if it's raining, so there is also land-based fun such as amusement arcades and casinos with the technology tree opening up to reveal an array of entertainment. More mundane structures are also essential, with mechanics required to maintain buildings, reps to keep people happy, cleaners to pick up litter, security guards to stop scuffling, and lifeguards to prevent weak swimmers from going home in an oak cloak.
Much has been made of the lewd behaviour featured in the game, and it is all present and correct as promised. Beach Life ably runs the gamut of fighting, spewing and shagging, with sex on the beach proving to be a lot more than a cheesy summer hit. It's basically a microcosm of Brits on the piss, and the action is clearly inspired by the likes of Sky's Ibiza Uncovered and ITV's Club Reps. However, unlike them, Beach Life is not a documentary, and your guests' behaviour is largely determined by what type of beer you sell them. For instance. Thumpers causes them to hit each other, Smashers to break things, and Cape Hom to rut like beasts in heat.
The one thing that Beach Life doesn't represent is a key reason why a lot of young people go on holiday: to take vast amounts of mind-altering drugs. Whereas narcotics can be freely mentioned in books, films and television, they can't appear in a game because games are perceived as being on the same intellectual level as My Little Pony. So while it's OK to graphically portray physical violence, penetrative sexual intercourse and death by drowning or shark attack (replete with the sea turning red), you -can't show someone having a smoke or necking half a pill. Of course, you can't really blame Eidos for this omission - it would have become a millstone round its neck - and in a fairly tenuous fudging of the issue, there is a beer called Smileys, which makes people happy and want to dance.
Despite its contemporary setting, Beach Life features time-honoured gameplay that will be familiar to anyone who has dabbled with the bulk of the titles featured in the Top 10 God Games at the back of this magazine. Problems require solutions, which in turn throw up further problems, and the whole thing is one great big revolving brain teaser. Ultimately, it's just manipulating mathematics beneath an elaborate graphical interface, and you can find yourself beginning to think like a game designer: determine price, employ response, add sound, add animation...
While the setting is bang up to date, it can't really be said to be advancing the genre. You can't rotate the map, and the graphics can politely be described as dated (although in its favour it will run on your dad's PC). The interface is very menuheavy, and though the subject matter hints at mass appeal, many will be put off by the overreliance on number crunching. There is also an element of over-egging the pudding: do you really need to decorate your resort with a choice of 13 different types of shrub and 18 different types of tree? Furthermore, the 12 islands that make up the self-contained missions - such as getting 50 couples to shag on the beach -are very samey, and strategy can be vague. Essentially, it's about pre-empting complaints, although with some guests ecstatically happy, and others wallowing in a pit of despair when presented with identical facilities, it's often hard to know what approach to take. It's easy to end up simply obeying the constant stream of ticker tape messages at the bottom of the screen. If guests are complaining that they can't get a soft drink, then you build a soft drinks stall. If they're complaining that they can't get a decent meal, then you knock up a restaurant for the ungrateful shits; and there is an element of the game playing you rather than vice versa.
That's a perennial problem with the genre though, and Beach Life is certainly a quirky addition to it, with a particularly British sense of (toilet) humour. If nothing else, it ranks as the first game to mention both 'touching cloth', and 'dropping the kids off at the pool', two actions that generally occur in that order and in close proximity to each other. Just make sure you've built some bogs.
White the game doesn't do anything particularly wrong, neither does it do anything particularly new, vulgar behaviour notwithstanding. Much of the pre-release material attempted to draw comparisons with The Sims, but this has proven something of a red hearing, as there is nothing like the level of intimacy. Granted, each holidaymaker has his or her own name, needs and desires, but finding these out is an irksome process, involving clicking on an individual and reading a series of recent thoughts via another menu system. And with hundreds of guests, many only there for a few days, there's scarcely time to nurture any kind of relationship.
In the short term, it can be mildly entertaining to target a particular guest and watch them go about their business, and this is more suited to the open-ended - and aptly named -sandbox mode, where there are no time constraints. For instance, we watched a fat bloke arrive at the resort, drop off his bags, go for a burger, then immediately go for a sit-down meal followed by a pint and another burger. Not a bad start to the holiday, in anyone's book. Observing would-be lotharios can also be amusing, as they tour from woman to woman, either being laughed off. kicked in the nuts, or led to a shady place and straddled.
If we weren't expecting more from the game it would probably have received a one-page review, the same score, and we'd have all been pleasantly surpnsed. Given the amount of hype over the last six months though, it's hard not to feel a tiny bit disappointed that it is nothing more than a contemporary -albeit comical rehash of an established genre. But as such, it is still more than capable of eating up huge amounts of your time. During the course of this review, I have played the game all day, every day for the best part of a week. That's mainly because I am a professional, but I am still tempted to have another look, if only to watch fat men eat.
Assuming you have less time on your hands, Beach Life should last you considerably longer. Even once the game has been completed, there is still plenty of scope for dabbling, if only to see what happens under various circumstances. As was Ian Livingstone's goal when he came up with the concept, it can be viewed as entertainment rather than an intense game you have to win. It's perfectly feasible to leave the game running, go for your tea, and come back to find your guests spewing their guts up, leaving you to find out why. It's this type of thing that will perversely have you coming back for more.
If nothing else, Beach Life is certainly a refreshing change from goblins, orcs or historical settings, and while it can never compare with the horrors of San Antonio in peak season, it runs it a close second. If you can't make it out to Ibiza this year, it could be worth a look.