We don’t really get a chance to laugh at this medium a lot, do we?
It certainly wasn’t by design, I’ll tell you that. In the early years, VNs Now did attempt to have some fun with EVNs: especially when I inevitably had to review a bad one. However, bad work stops being funny after a while and, from what I’ve been told, my sense of humor is an acquired taste. Things really took a deeper header off the side of a cliff after I played The Host Holic from Red Panda Games and things always tend to get more serious when child molestation is involved.
So yeah, very little laughing in the luxurious VNs Now HQ. I suppose it is for the best because laughing when someone does give it their best go can be insulting. However, in today’s case no one put their best foot forward, so I get to finally have a chuckle after a few years. We’ve talked about AJ Tilley already this year after the abysmal launch of The Sword of Asumi in January, which was produced after several Kickstarters and a couple of years in Development Hell. Several projects are now in development under the label, but the first up to bat would be Beach Bounce: a self-described ‘tongue-in-cheek’ ‘adult’ visual novel about a young man’s exploits as an employee of a seaside resort.
And although many of you are wondering if anyone working on Beach Bounce understand the concept of ‘tongue-in-cheek’, let me throw one more at you for your consideration.
While it was originally set to be released as one full game, AJ Tilley and crew decided to make it episodic! Not ‘Episodic’ as in ‘Telltale’ episodic where there is a clear plan for story progression and enough content to make each episode feel like a worthwhile experience on its own. I mean ‘episodic’ like how a few EVN groups are starting to use the term these days: they didn’t finish the game, but still want your money so here’s what has been completed while they finish the rest.
I will save my rant on this particular shoddy excuse for another day, but we needed to know that going in. So, does Beach Bounce keep is tongue firmly planted in its cheek or does it managed to bite it off? Why do you think I started off with laughing at bad games? Also, for those who care; there will be spoilers! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Our Generic Protagonist of the hour is Tomoyo. Tomoyo travels to his Grandmother’s seaside resort after a falling out with his Father. However, upon his arrival he learns that his Grandmother has fallen ill and has been hospitalized. Tomoyo decides to stay and help around the resort any way he can and in the process meets several young women who will form his harem. Look at how tongue-in-cheek this visual novel is! I’m sure there are plenty of jokes and fun times awaiting us inside!
Yeah, for anyone who seriously wondered if this crew was capable of tongue-in-cheek humor: no, no they cannot. The shame here is that the ‘harem comedy’ has more than a few areas that can allow for a very funny take on the subgenre and the tropes that keep it going. Beach Bounce, however, takes itself far too seriously, as seen in the nearly five minutes of exposition the game starts with. The death of Tomoyo’s Mother, the subsequent separation from his Grandmother and the cartoonish levels of control his Father put on him to direct his life are told without the slight bit of sarcasm or self-awareness. The easiest target for a comedic take on a harem comedy is the typical Generic Mary Sue Protagonist that infects these things and yet you want us to believe this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek? Really?
In fact, let’s just go ahead and paint anything not dealing with Tomoyo getting into one of the girl’s pants as forced and rushed. It is the epitome of lazy story-telling to drop in dramatic tropes simply to have them there and it is something Beach Bounce does repeatedly with no intention of using them as anything more than stepping stones to get through the scene they’ve been dropped in. Do you think I’m kidding? Here is an outline one of my favorite non-sex scenes in this game. Read the outline and weep.
A few days in Tomoyo is told by one of the girls that his Grandmother is terminal. Doctors don’t know why, but they do know that she only has a few weeks to live. Tomoyo, stunned, is then dragged into a conversation with two other girls (one of whom you had the option to bang earlier) on who Tomoyo should date. No transition or pause: literally ‘Your Grandmother is going to die’ followed by ‘You should date this well-endowed, stuttering waif!’ only to snap back to something dramatic again with the girl you had the option of having sex with until finally ending with you having an option of asking out the stuttering waif.
Yes; reading that scene is this rough. There is no pause to expand on any of the characters involved in this scene or, if we’re still pretending this is supposed to ‘tongue-in-cheek’, mock the preposterous nature of what was happening. Instead we speed through this just to get back to what this game actually considers important: who gets Tomoyo’s penis. It’s so absurd and so clearly lazy I was on the floor laughing at the entire scene. It couldn’t have been written worse and this direction leads the entire game.
I know its odd spending so little time on the protagonist of the story, but there really isn’t anything about Tomoyo worth talking about. Calling him a Generic Protagonist actually covers all the bases: he is excellent at everything he does, commands the attention of several nubile young women without breaking a sweat, and yet remains clueless as the thirstier of the girls practically sits on his face. He is completely useless by any metric judging decent characters, much less good ones, to the point where he has been reduced to a black outline in the user interface…which is odd considering MangaGamer clearly has an Event Graphic that shows his face. Either way, the fact that you’ll forget he’s even there are you play the game in his shoes; continuing the unintended humor that is Beach Bounce.
Now to the buffet.
The girls are atypical of the subgenre and they are all perfectly fill their stereotypes save for one: Sakura. Sakura is the wild child of the bunch: spending her nights stripping and can be comfortably described as an idiot. Oh and since we are in the midst of the Yuri Game Jam, let me piss everyone participating in that off by mentioning Sakura’s defining character trait: she considered herself a lesbian before seeing Tomoyo across the street when he first arrived at the resort. Not only was that one look enough to make her question her sexuality, but also enough to pull Tomoyo into a one night stand all in the span of two days…without even knowing his name.
Do you see why I called her an idiot?
However, just because she is incredibly stupid doesn’t mean she doesn’t have potential as a character. If you take Sakura up on her offer to meet her at a strip club later on Tuesday (go with it), and you have too much alcohol during her performance, she will not have sex with you. It is later revealed that her bigamist Father became an alcoholic when his scandalous ways were revealed. This is actually a decent idea on how to build character: have them react a certain way early on and explain reasons behind the reaction later can be a great foundation to make not only the character feel more natural, but also the relationship.
That’s not what happened here and what could have been the building blocks of an interesting character was crapped out with the same care as you would see coming from the rear end of a horse. Why? Because we’re not really supposed to care about Sakura’s backstory. Caring requires two things: time and interest. The fact that it’s squeezed to fit into the news that Tomoyo’s Grandmother is inexplicably dying and that the stuttering waif also wants the D means that time with Sakura is trivial and the fact that Sakura has said she is only interested in Tomoyo as a ‘play mate’ and we have no options to have any deeper conversation with her in any scene she’s in makes it difficult for her to actually be interesting. Believe me, as much as I enjoyed laughing at Sakura’s shtick the fact that the writers felt this kind of weighty backstory was necessary in this particular character, only to botch it without any reconsideration, is even worse than just leaving her as a one-dimensional wild child.
The rest of the girls can be safely gauged by their interest in Tomoyo’s penis. On the top of the totem pole is Rei, a classic tsundere who, like Sakura, wants you the minute she lays eyes on you and bursts into your room demanding sex in a scene so dumb it must be experienced first hand to be believed. After that we have Nymphadora Vohilliger, yes that is her name, who is a guest at the resort and propositions Tomoyo at the end of the game after several random encounters. Then there’s Mineko; the stuttering waif who is clearly interested but too ‘s-s-s-shy’ to do anything about it. We also have Aiko; the cool sporty chick who is more interested in competing against Tomoyo than banging him at the current time. And finally there is Yuuki; the all business megane who will only be able to let her hair down through the loving embrace of Tomoyo’s penis.
However, it should be noted that at the current time, there is no way to explore anyone outside of how you choose for Tomoyo to spend his day, so unless the game suddenly allows you the extremely radical option of DIALOGUE OPTIONS when sex isn’t involved, we can put every female except for Tomoyo’s dying Granny on a timer for when their thirst gets the better of them. It isn’t engaging and like I alluded earlier, reduces this entire game to a buffet of anime clichés. If you’ve always wanted to bang a stereotype, then rejoice because that’s all the game has to offer! If you were stupid enough to donate to the Kickstarter thinking it would be more than that, go sit in the corner and rethink your life choices.
PRESENTATION & TECHNICAL
While the story itself was good for a chuckle, things really get funny when it comes to the Presentation. Overall it’s pretty generic with the usual anime art and static 3D backgrounds. That ranges from just being okay but clearly dated, to be completely lazy and jarring (looking at you diner backgrounds). However, none of this compares to the insult that is the sound effects: the insulting being that there are none.
But instead of just not making a point of it and moving on, Beach Bounce made the butt-stupid decision to draw attention to the lack of sound effects having it as text across the screen. It isn’t every possible sound effect the game could, but the way it is splashed across the scene makes it more than a little annoying.
The real fun with the visual comes with the Event Graphics. There are two versions of Beach Bounce and the adult version has more CGs for the sex scenes. And as you can see above you, they are hilarious. These sex scenes make that Starfighter visual novel look like Shakespeare with its one-sided grunting, terrible dialogue and baffling expressions. There are only two sex scenes in this game, but if they’re all going to be written and drawn like this, that might be worth the price of admission on its own…no not really.
On the technical side Beach Bounce functions. Launch day was plagued with several bug reports, but my edition didn’t experience any fatal crashes. The actual script was in its usual poor shape though with frequent spelling and grammar mistakes and I know that sounds like the pot calling the kettle black coming from me, but I’m not charging anyone $18 to read this (I’m getting to that part soon).
Other than that the user interface is pretty bare bones all things considered. The most useful tool in its arsenal, the overworld map of the resort, would have been great if used to actually give the player options on how to spend their time. As is, the map only gives you the illusion of options while making you stick to a linear path. The same goes with the dialogue options, which only have an impact on who you have sex with. It’s all wasted: like there was a grand plan for Beach Bounce but, like Sword of Asumi before it, there just wasn’t the time and/or talent to pull it all together into something fun. Shame.
Beach Bounce currently retails for $15.99 on Steam and $17.95 on MangaGamer for the adult version. It is literally an hour of gameplay and because so much has been either rushed through or left undone, saying this has any replay value would be lying. Interestingly enough, the current plan for Beach Bounce is that the price will rise for each new episode. Theoretically, this means that we could see the price tag hit near or over $20.00 by the time all three episode are finished. Realistically? That plan has about as much chance of staying in place as a snowball in Hell.
The Sword of Asumi originally retailed for $15.99 as well when it first released. Currently, it’s at $9.99 on Steam: an admittance that it was ridiculous to set that rambling mess that high…although ten bucks is still a little on the high end for Sword of Asumi. My point is that considering the state Beach Bounce is in now, still promising its player’s basic extra features like a CG gallery and stringing together a plot that is best when laughed at, that price will drop. Following Sword of Asumi’s model and considering the schedule for the next few episodes, put your money on the entire game being lower than $15.99 at the beginning of next year. If you are morbidly curious, you can wait until then.
Beach Bounce is hilarious in a way I am sure it did not intend to be. From the idiotic drama to the stereotypical cast to the way the two sex scenes go down, this is the definition of ‘So Bad, Its Hilarious’. Bad VN are, unfortunately, unavoidable. However, if more were made like this where the team clearly stopped giving a damn when someone had the bright idea to make it ‘episodic’, it would at least be fun. Does that mean I’m going to give it a pass because at least I had fun?
Oh Hell no. Beach Bounce is garbage. At best, it’s a very expensive demo that will iron out the rough spots with each new episode and that is only if the team can acknowledge the mistakes they’ve made so far. It isn’t impossible for Beach Bounce to turn things around, but it is literally starting from the bottom of a pit it dug itself into and the sun is getting dimmer and dimmer as I looked down from the edge of the hole; laughing at what it thinks is sexy.
Good luck guys. You’re going to need it.