I actively seek out unique games with unique voices and this is certainly one of them. With Retired men’s Nude Beach Volleyball League, you’ll play as Len, an 80-year-old single man who feels invisible. Sad and disconnected Len signs up for the nude beach volleyball league and the game flips between visual novel narratives and volleyball matches.
Firstly, the positives. The story here has a unique and fresh voice as old men get together and have a chat over their volleyball game. Each one has a different perspective in life and whilst they have no room for character growth or nuance, its still very wholesome. One man just wants to be a kid again, another wants to spread joy and another finds life a competition. It has no subtlety but the entire game flashes past within three hours. However, some of the story aspects are quite neat. Driving between matches allows you to recall old memories. When you try to exit out the game it exits to Len’s desktop where you can find unused music, Len’s emails and notepad files. There are some really nice touches.
However all of this is undone by a volleyball game that is broken. Volleyball is simplified down to move and hit the ball like a pong game but you can’t determine the balls power or direction. Lining up with the ball is tricky as the view doesn’t let you feel like you are aligned with the ball shadow at all. Then when you are, its hit or miss as to whether the actual punt will trigger. What’s worse is that the scoring is regularly wrong, giving wrong points to the wrong person and sometimes scoring double for no reason. Then calls are made that are incorrect too and then sometimes both bugs will occur together and you’ll get the wrong call, the right score and then swap servers twice at the same time. It is a buggy mess made difficult by the view point and the odd serving cutscene which stops you seeing what is going to happen fully.
All of this makes the volleyball aspects of the game a chore to play and then it emerges even if you lose, you progress anyway. I’m sure there’s a metaphor here about the game and how it plays out but to me its 15 minutes of pure gameplay hell followed by 3 minutes of nice narration with some choices. That isn’t balances and I don’t see why I should have to wrestle a game to the floor to endure something I don’t even have to win to continue. I feel like some of this is very fixable but the core gameplay is just underwhelming and fundamentally the view and graphical stylings really don’t help things either. I wanted to like this game so much but ultimately I ended up just giving up on the volleyball aspect, making the last few matches speed through to stop the pain. A shame.
Review copy provided by developer.
Retired Men's Nude Beach Volleyball League
Some lovely narrative moments are utterly bulldozed by a janky and wildly inconsistent volleyball game.
Nice to have a story from the perspective of an 80 year old in gaming.
Volleyball is woefully underdone.
Full of bugs and glitches.
Narrative beats have the subtlety of a hammer to the head - especially early on.
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