Beach Bounce is the 4th Dharker Studios title I have played. The previous three were, Highschool Romance, Echo Tokyo: An Intro, and Negligee. The former two were fairly forgettable, and the latter was genuinely good. It’s probably safe to assume Negligee was good because Dharker Studios had a bunch of previous attempts. Beach Bounce was Dharker Studios 2nd game, and it was bad.
I have not been this bored by a visual novel since Sakura Spirit. Beach Bounce fails in almost every category. I didn’t think I’d be this harsh going in, but this game brings unpleasant feelings to mind. This visual novel was so boring that even thinking about it drains the emotion out of my facial muscles. It’s inevitable that a company that released over 30 games in five years would have a few stinkers, but fuck this is bad!
I’m going to try and start with the positives, what few I can scrounge together. The premise could have worked if it had more effective talent behind it. There isn’t anything that’s outright offensive. I initially wanted to be nicer on Beach Bounce because I just finished crap like Games&Girls and Slave Witch April. It’s sad that “the developers aren’t terrible people” is even worth praising these days, but you take what you can get.
Another positive is that this is one of the few games I’ve played with an actual polyamorous route. I thought it was interesting how Sakura’s non-monogamy plays a role in her character. It was a pleasant surprise to see polyamory portrayed authentically rather than an excuse for titillation. I also like how the game implemented the girls’ personalities into the choice of who to confess to at the end. Seeing Sakura reject you no matter what and Mineko always saying yes made the game feel less formulaic, and added much needed personality. Unfortunately, it was not nearly enough.
Lastly, I like how the game is mostly based in reality, yet has routes where you date a mermaid and a succubus. It doesn’t add to the game’s quality, but once again, it adds personality. There are periodic glimpses of what could have been an entertaining visual novel, but they are few and far between.
As for the game’s flaws, I don’t know where to begin. Yes, I say this a lot when I review bad games, but it is true. I’m trying to think about Beach Bounce’s biggest flaw, but there are so damn many. I guess the story is as good as any. It speaks to the quality of this game’s writing that I didn’t even remember that the main character has a name until I looked it up. The story is about our main character Tomoyo, who gets a new job working at his Grandma’s titular resort hotel. He then meets a bunch of girls who you can choose to romance and/or fuck.
I was not the least bit invested in these characters. Their personalities were flat and bare bones, which is a death sentence for a character driven game. The only remotely interesting character was Sakura, and she does not have nearly enough screen time. The only sort of conflict or emotion involved pertains to when Umi dies late in the game, and whether or not Beach Bounce is left to Tomoyo. In a well written game, this could have been a highly emotional scene. Unfortunately, Umi has no screen time and little character to speak of.
The only part of this scene that works is the music, which does convey a solemn and mourning atmosphere, and is one of the few memorable songs in the game. The only other track I can even remember is the main theme, and that’s only because of its overuse. Beach Bounce also tends to play happy and upbeat music during what are supposed to be emotionally charged moments. When you first hear that Umi dies, this is the track that is playing.
A well made visual novel would know to stop the upbeat happy music when a character dies. These are some amateur mistakes that should not be in the final game. Presentation is EVERYTHING in a visual novel. The original term for the genre was “sound novel.” This is the visual novel equivalent of leaving a visible boom mic in the shot. It completely takes the player out of the experience and kills immersion. This is the LAST thing you want to do in what is supposed to be a tragic moment.
Beach Bounce is also a hentai game. The Steam version does not have any sex scenes unless you patch them in, but the game is actually better that way. Beach Bounce is hideously unsexy in every way. The writing is cringe worthy and makes Tomoyo look like a complete creep. There is an unbearable amount of “men writing women” moments that make you wonder if this game’s writer even knows what a clitoris is.
The art style is just as unappealing. The character’s often look like toys with plastic limbs that bend at awkward proportions. There are often facial expressions that fall into the uncanny valley as well. The character designs look like custom RPG Maker models, if not ripped from popular anime. Yuuki is a worse looking version of Rukia from Bleach, and don’t get me started on Rei. The backgrounds do look pretty nice and detailed, and they make the setting look appealing at least.
Beach Bounce is a shoddily put together visual novel that I cannot recommend. The only way I can picture anyone enjoying this is if they are a teenager whose never seen tits before. Everything else is a boring and dull slog without the least bit of appeal. It’s genuinely surprising to compare this to something like Negligee, but the fact that Dharker Studios made over thirty games in five years tells a lot. I suspect that they divide different staff up between different games.
To my surprise, this game’s writer also co-wrote Mutiny!!, another eroge that I had a lot of positive things to say about. What is even more surprising is that this game got two sequels, both of which I plan to cover at some point. A remake called Bounce Paradise is also in development, and it looks a fuckton better than this. This all but confirms that there’s no reason to get back to the original. While I respect Beach Bounce’s intentions, the end result was a mess.
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