Spring Break is a unique combination of a wholly North American holiday
phenomenon and the simulation or management of a virtual resort. Most
people these days would simply pass it off as a vapid Vacation Resort
Tycoon. Come to think of it, that one is probably already released, if
not in the works. Critics tend to call these types of games, "tycoon"
games, something that would raise the eyebrows of people outside the
industry. Whatever the generalization, Spring Break is a charming
title. It's like flipping through one of those Club Med or Royal
Princess cruise magazines real fast.
The point of Spring Break is to build a resort that is able to cater to
guests that drop off by the boatloads. Guests want a lot of things out
of their vacation. They might want amusement, ranging from something as
simple as a paddleboat to sophisticated theme bars and beach dance
floors. There's also the need for food, whether it's a burger from the
beach grill or a fancy upscale restaurant. The better guests are
treated, the more chance you have of gaining a profit. And these
profits, in turn, are invested back into your park. Wait, that was a
slip, your resort. However, to build any of these, you need a sizeable
infrastructure, including builders to actually commence construction of
the buildings, mechanics to maintain them, cleaners to make the area
sanitary and other necessary personnel.
Like most business simulations, Spring Break lets you tweak salaries and
prices in a continual battle to find the most profit at the least
cost-capitalism par excellence. However, there is also the
consideration of space when it comes to a resort and optimizing it to
cater to the patterns of your guests is also another factor in squeezing
the most profit out. Obviously, you want to place things in a logical
way. Drinks, alcohol and ice cream all clustered in one corner of the
island are not the best way to distribute profits. Buildings that are
too cramped, for example, yield shallow lines and sap potential revenue.
Everything is not about stodgy business practices and balance sheets in
Spring Break. There's a good use of color, especially the light blue
user interface, to keep everything light-hearted, like a vacation
resort. This mood is reinforced by an excellent soundtrack. It
captures the idyllic daytime scenery with its easy-listening but
switches to tracks with more bass and dance emphasis during the night.
Some of the tracks even feature a little vocal action. Altogether, it
is the music and the color palette that plunges you into the resort
world. In fact, there were times I felt like I was looking at the
travel magazine ads, wishing I were on the sandy beaches myself.
Spring Break divides the bulk of its time between a sandbox mode and a
dozen set scenarios. Both modes of play are exclusive to one another.
The dozen scenarios typically feature badly run resorts and require you
to bail them out, whether it is from lack of entertainment, too many
drowned guests or lack of sustenance. All of them have a set time limit
to them with the longest ones ranging to about ten days. Most of them
are completed in about four or five days game time. That translates to
about less than an hour of real time for a quick and efficient player.
While you may not get the point of the mission on first try, you'll
likely pass it without too much trouble if you focus on the problem at
hand. A lot of the pre-built resorts look great but they have potential
flaws before they become a profit machine but the scenarios demand you
to put resources to achieving the objectives, instead of improving the
overall welfare of the resort. So, as long as you are able to keep your
head straight and your activities focused, you're pretty much guaranteed
During my play with Spring Break, I found I enjoyed the sandbox mode a
lot better and then, when I thought about the scenarios, I thought how
much better it would be if both of them were united. If, for example, I
could take on challenges and complete objectives when I felt my resort
was ready. Then I thought, hey, didn't Sid Meier and Will Wright put
that in SimGolf? They did and in retrospect, it looks like that was a
much better system, where you could take those challenges and objectives
when you felt like it.
Ultimately, the scenarios are going to be a little too short to keep
anyone interested for as long a time as Rollercoaster Tycoon or The Sims
has been on the charts. Spring Break's sandbox mode is also limited by
the fact that there is little depth in the game. Yes, you can build a
theme bar after you build a soft drink stand but what about the
products? My mind returns to the progenitor of this genre: Bullfrog's
underappreciated Theme Park. Developers of that game knew there were a
set number of buildings you could offer in an enclosed 'thematic'
setting. That same flaw plagues Spring Break. How many resort-type
buildings could you offer without it being too overwhelming? The
geniuses at Bullfrog thought upgrades through different product
offerings or makeovers would be a way to recycle old buildings and make
everything fresh again. Spring Break, unfortunately, is inflexible in
There are also other quirks with Spring Break. The employees on your
resort tend to like 9-5 jobs. I like 9-5 jobs too but when it comes to
the hospitality sector, I think shift-work is the norm. I tried putting
some workers on night shifts permanently and despite doubling their pay,
their productivity and happiness fell in tandem night after night. Some
things, like building new features to a resort, are best done around the
Did I also mention there is something risqué about Spring Break? The
installation process, which features stylized artistic drawings of women
in bikinis and female chest assets really gives the wrong attitude about
the game. The actual game is relatively harmless, even the in-game
'romps' between the two sexes. Moreover, the sex is not exactly an
integral part of the game. In fact, I think the game's artwork is going
to be read as misleading. Those expecting something more than just
sultry will be disappointed but the developers have good cause. I think
the market is so much bigger now that the Leisure Suit Larry type
products would only target a small niche.
In its simplest barebones state, Spring Break is all about oiling the
capitalist machinery. Through research, you're supposed to get the
customer experience so right that your business becomes a revenue
generating machine, like Starbucks or Krispy Kreme. Aside from that,
Spring Break does have its charms, most notably through its humorous
anecdotes, sexual overtures, source material and vibrant aesthetics.
Unfortunately, like all spring getaways, this trip of laughs and fun in
the sun is ultimately a short and abbreviated one.