Eidos is marketing Deep Red Games' Virtual Resort: Spring Break as a besotted version of more-wholesome management strategy games like Theme Park or RollerCoaster Tycoon. Scantily clad coeds and booze are supposed to take the place of kiddie rides and sodas, which is supposed to give the gameplay more of an adult edge. But the closest you get to adult content here are the bikini babes on the box cover. Spring Break's actual gameplay never strays far from the G-rated management template that everyone's been trying to copy since RollerCoaster Tycoon made designer Chris Sawyer a millionaire many times over. That's not necessarily a bad thing in this case, although anyone looking for a fresh new interpretation of what's become a very familiar formula will wind up disappointed.
Spring Break isn't as exciting a game as its box cover and premise might make it seem. It's strictly a single-player game and limited to the campaign scenarios in the beginning, although each scenario map becomes available in a sandbox mode after you beat it. In the game's 12 missions, you take control of various island resorts and attempt to complete certain objectives within a limited amount of time. The developers didn't stretch their imaginations too far in coming up with these goals. You'll need to construct a set number of facilities, attract a specific number of visitors, elevate your resort's status to a four-star destination, and so on. There are a few objectives unique to the game, although keeping visitors from being eaten by sharks and encouraging couples to "romp" on the beach by adjusting what type of beer is being served are really just sideshows to the building construction. Few of the goals have anything to do with the spring break bacchanalia that takes over the eastern seaboard of the US every March. It's true that the game features a lot of references to alcohol--you'll build beach bars, theme bars, cocktail bars, and pool bars--and has some very minor references to risqué activity, but otherwise, the beach-blanket partygoers of Spring Break really aren't that far removed from retirees on holiday in Palm Beach.
In what was apparently an attempt to make sure the game would appeal to a mainstream audience, Spring Break's developer made many of the game's missions fairly easy. A beginner might find the game to be somewhat challenging, but seasoned veterans of RollerCoaster Tycoon and its legion of imitators might be able to whip through the entire list of scenarios in a day or two. No matter what your gaming abilities, Spring Break has little replay value. The short list of buildings available limits your options to a point where there isn't much sense in revisiting a mission, as you'll have exhausted most of the possibilities getting through it the first time. There just aren't enough options to make for any real long-term interest. To provide beach safety, you always build lifeguard towers. To provide your guests with good meals, you always build one of two types of cafés and restaurants. To provide entertainment, you always build arcades and beach discos. And so forth. Every type of facility is generic, leaving virtually no room for creative freedom on your part. Every resort will feature the same buildings in the end, the only difference being the order in which these buildings are erected and perhaps a few minor things like how you price items and services for sale and how you handle the hiring of maintenance staff. Of course, these limitations also affect sandbox mode.
However, Spring Break does have a few things going for it. The game's interface is very user-friendly, and it comes with a built-in MP3 player that lets you play your own tunes (although you won't hurry to shut off the pleasant summertime tracks that come with the game). Visitor feedback makes Spring Break stand out from other management games of this sort. The personal characteristics, wants, and wishes of each guest are tracked so that you're always a click away from seeing just how pleased your guests are. Left-click on them and a pop-up menu box shows when they arrived and when they're planning to depart, their current activity, what they most desire to do, and their current amount of cash, along with slider bars indicating their level of drunkenness, sunburn, headache, and how much they need to use the restroom. On the next screen you'll see more sliders indicating the individual's beauty, babe factor, and queuing tolerance and the importance placed on price, variety, cleanliness, and safety.
Obviously, your goal for the most part is to make sure that the majority of your clients are getting what they want. As with the simplistic mission objectives, this isn't that difficult to accomplish. An event ticker lets you know what desires are popular as each mission moves along, so you always have a ready way to determine what facilities to build and when to build them. Provide a modicum of proper amenities and the people will be happy to drop lots of cash in your bars, restaurants, and Jet Ski rental shacks.
Further personal touches add more color to the game. One section of your guests' biographies reveals their best and worst experiences at your resort. These notes can include mundane observations like "the beach bar" or typical frat-boy comments like "when that girl took off her top." You can also track the last three things to run through the mind of each visitor. Many of these comments emphasize Spring Break's attempt to be a wild and crazy park management sim, but if you're trying to find amusement by clicking on random people to see what sort of wacky comment might come up, that reveals a lot about what's lacking in the core gameplay.
Goofy comments notwithstanding, there isn't much about Virtual Resort: Spring Break that stands out from the RollerCoaster Tycoon rip-offs that have clogged store shelves since 1999. The gameplay is a nondescript summary of everything that developers have put into these titles over the past few years, albeit with the noteworthy frill of detailed feedback from your guests. Even the look of the game is colorless, thanks to dated 2D graphics that get blurry when you magnify the map view and a clunky engine that chugs at higher resolutions no matter how much RAM you feed it. Overall, this is a straightforward game that is every bit as forgettable as what you did on your real spring break, after the beer began to flow.