Beach Life

Hands-On - Gestalt goes on holiday from the comfort of his own PC

It's Your Money I'm After Baby

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Made In Taiwan

As you may have gathered by now, Beach Life sets about recreating an Ibiza-style sun-drenched island paradise in digital form. Over the course of the game's dozen missions you'll get to run a variety of resorts, each with its own problems for you to solve. You may be called in to complete overdue building work, solve a food poisoning outbreak or give an old resort a new lease of life. Or you could just opt for the sandbox mode and mess around to your heart's content.

However you choose to play the game, the basics are the same as in any other management sim. A wide range of buildings are available for you to construct, starting off with a handful of key locations such as a soft drinks stall, lifeguard towers for the beaches and a hut for your cleaning staff. As you progress through the game more and more options will open up, including clubs, theme pubs and water rides to lure more guests to your island, and additional staff such as security guards and reps to make sure everyone has a good time.

There's only one real resource for players to worry about - money - but by the end of the main campaign you'll have found many ways to earn it. You can fine your guests for littering, raise sun tan lotion prices during heat waves, water down your beer and build souvenir shops to sell authentic "made in Taiwan" tat. Prices for almost everything can be adjusted, as well as salaries for your builders, mechanics, cleaners and other staff, although if you drop your pay too low they'll become disgruntled and stop to ogle your guests more often.

Burnt To A Crisp

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Night life

The other key to success in Beach Life is the satisfaction level of your guests. As in the likes of Tropico and Startopia, clicking on any character will pop up a box giving a range of stats on their current condition and mood, including how sunburnt they are, how full their bladder is and how they rate their holiday so far in terms of safety, cleanliness and "totty", amongst other factors. You'll also get a list of the last three things to go through the character's head, which can be anything from "does my bum look big in this" to "you need a gas mask to go in that toilet", a sure sign that it's time you called in the cleaners. Sometimes their comments will even be useful, informing you that the queues are too long or that you're missing a vital building.

It's not just daft comments that bring your characters to life either: the game includes a vast array of amusing little animations for each type of guest. You can track visitors as they walk around the island, go swimming, sunbathe, queue for a burger, strut their funky stuff at a club, get involved in a brawl outside a pub, go behind the bushes to relieve themselves or head down to the beach for some late night smooching. Builders will occasionally stop to wolf whistle at the girls and rub their legs Vic Reeves style, and guests suffering from over-indulgence or food poisoning can be seen turning green before stopping to vomit or heading for the toilets clutching at their stomach. There's even a special tanning system in the game which will gradually turn your guests a healthy golden brown or painful lobster red as they spend time in the sun.

Completing the authentic holiday experience is a great soundtrack with seperate day and night playlists, giving you a selection of uplifting choons during the night and more laidback melodies during the day. The likes of Laurent Garnier and Kinobe are included, and if you're not happy with Eidos' pick you can always add your own songs to the mix by simply dropping a shortcut to an MP3 into the game's music folder and then updating the in-game playlist.

Conclusion

Beach Life might not be the most innovative game ever developed, and the graphics are somewhat fuzzy when you zoom in for a closer look at your resort, but so far it's proven to be a lot of fun. There's loads of silly little touches, dozens of buildings to construct and plenty of options to fine tune, ranging from the price of your hotel rooms to the type and strength of the beer you serve at your bars. Whether it can maintain that charm throughout the entire campaign remains to be seen, but we should have a full review for you by the time the game hits shelves on September 6th.

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