The game's review copy was provided by Denpasoft, the game's Western publisher.
Back in the late 90s, my then-young self discovered the pleasures of Internet pornography. In tow with my anime interest and my platonic and sexual attraction to the two-dimensional world came the love for hentai visual novels and dating sims.
One of the first titles I recall playing was the 1999 English release of TRUE LOVE ~Junai Monogatari~, a quaint little dating sim with lots of nice girls to romance and gameplay that had you min-maxing your stats in order to appeal to their specific likes. Steadily growing numbers and cute anime girls; a match made in heaven for me.
Now, almost 20 years later, from the moment I first booted up TRUE LOVE to the time I went for that one girl who ended up way too tight to penetrate, I have gotten my hands on Tropical Liquor:a dating simulator, visual novel and puzzle hybrid game that takes you on a tropical vacation aiming to give you the time of your life.
A Vacation in the Tropics
The premise of Tropical Liquor is as simple as it can be for a story of this type. You, the unnamed, but roughly characterized protagonist, a man working as a part-timer and seemingly purposelessly hopping from job to job, win a tropical vacation of your dreams for two at a luxury resort island. Wasting no time at all, you take your childhood friend Naomi with you on the trip, venture to the island paradise and begin your adventure.
On location, you are quickly introduced to the vast diverse cast of future love interests, each getting a simple intro just to establish their personalities. After briefly getting know each one of the ladies , you finally decide to change your aimless existence forever by getting a girlfriend.
If all of that seemed quite rushed to you, that's because it is. Tropical LIquor does not dilly-dally, and within the first 15 minutes of the game, you'll have all the tutorial information you would ever need to play the game competently. Apart from introducing you to all the lovely girls you'll soon be wooing, Naomi, happily chosen to be your tutorial instructor, gives you the down and dirty on how the puzzle and simulator gameplay functions going forward.
Taste the Rainbow
No respectable dating simulator can function without its cast of well-characterized, potential better halves. While Tropical Liquor doesn't disappoint in this aspect, it's not all rainbows and butterflies when you take a closer look at the female cast. The best way to describe all the girls with a rather broad brush is to say they all represent particular tropes you can commonly find in Japanese fiction.
First, you have your +1 on the tropical island incursion Naomi, who, along with being the protag's childhood friend, also serves as sort of surrogate little sister character, calling him "onii-chan" every chance she gets. Next up is Anna, the perpetual tsundere tour guide that cannot turn off her conflicting personality for even a second. Following this is Lisa, the owner of the resort you are residing in, and a rich girl seeking to get out of a rut, traveling to new and exciting places. Offsetting the previous girls is Ema, a small, stacked brown girl that, despite her meager physical size, exudes the mature vibe of a caring older sister. Almost in contrast to Ema is Kei, a sporty martial artist with a very childish, but adorable personality. Symbolizing all the charms of a yamato nadeshikois the traditional Japanese beauty, Sakurako, a very naive, but incredibly friendly maiden that has trouble interacting with men. Juxtaposed to Sakurako and Kei is Karen, a beautiful, petite and fragile silver-haired girl hiding a bitter secret. Last, but not least, is Erika, the protagonist's former classmate and the token serious girl with just a hint of sass sprinkled in.
With all the female choices Tropical Liquor offers, you generally get what you see in the first few minutes of any given conversation. There will be very few surprises for you if you've watched any generic anime in the past two decades. While the over-reliance on tropes may be tiresome to a lot of players seeking a bit more depth in character portrayals, Tropical Liquor is self-aware enough to make some of the girls at least slightly nuanced, giving most of them short, and for the most part, compelling arcs. Without those slight touches, the game would without a doubt feel very soulless and uninspired, which is unfortunately the case for the title's gameplay portion.
A Bitter Drink to Swallow
For the very soft-sounding bells and whistles of the game's character histrionics, the way Tropical Liquor plays feels like the afterthought of a very tired developer. On your way to touching the hearts and souls of any of the girls, your character has to go through the motions of talking to a select girl, learning a limited amount of facts about them through quirky visual novel portions and, lastly, increase his affection level, which will ultimately allow him to confess by the end of his 30-day vacation.
In other more complex dating simulators, the player is usually given the options of completing varied sets of tasks, each improving one or more different player statistics, which in turn translates into unlocking specific character routes and allowing one to progress the plot. Earning money in such games is usually just also another road to favor in the eyes of your target of affection, but in Tropical Liquor, that's pretty much all there is to it. As the game divides the daily clock into two periods of morning and evening, the player gets the choice to either venture out during the morning to talk to girls and learn new things about them or work for half a day, until evening, or work the whole day earning money to buy very specific presents that unlock the option to play the color-matching puzzle Liquor Game with specific girls.
The Liquor Game, a traditional in-universe drinking game, is a simple puzzle game where the player has to memorize a combination of differently-colored titles representing ice cubes in a tall glass of alcohol. Once the booze is poured into the glass, all the tiles turn into the color of the poured drink, prompting the player to match the right tiles together. A successful round of the Liquor Game depletes your love interest's stamina pool, with the game concluding once the opponent or the player, having made too many mistakes, run out of stamina completely. In specific situations, as the player's affection with his female companion grows, the girls will gradually strip all of their clothes until they are completely nude, save for a small band-aid covering their slits.
While there are power-up items you can buy in the shop (along with other presents for the girls), helping you in various ways during the Liquor Game by way of affecting the participants' stamina levels or your ability to see tiles obscured by the drinks, they don't necessarily add much complexity to the matching puzzle gameplay. Even as you unlock higher affection levels with the girls and venture into higher difficulty levels of the Liquor Game, the tile patterns aren't mixed up all that much, and by your tenth or so session, you will more than likely have memorized a few of the repeating patterns by heart.
Going through a minimum of three Liquor Games per character is usually all you will need to do in order to maximize a girl's affection level. The rest of your clean sweep towards a love confession will be spent learning mostly trivial personal details through short conversations that I already mentioned earlier. Luckily, for the dull slog that the puzzle and simulation sections are, there is some decent payoff available for your genital area.
Now This is My Kind of Vacation
It's probably not a secret to many eroge enthusiasts that Sayori, the contemporarily popular Japanese artist behind the immensely notable Nekopara series, has loaned her talents to Tentacle Games. Not only did she bring her A-game in terms of cute and highly attractive character designs, she also made sure that once the girls take their clothes off, you will have a literal hard time not rubbing one out. While the stripping parts of the Liquor Game and dating parts of getting to know each girl resulted in cliched, but still humorous wardrobe malfunctions due to the main hero's clumsiness, these aren't the only bits of sexual content the game has to offer.
Once you successfully confess to your most desirable companion, you will be rewarded with a short, but surprisingly sweet and intense sex scene. With all pretense out the door — and perhaps a little uncharacteristically for some girls — they all turn into heated cocksucking and cum-guzzling sex maniacs, resulting in fountains of love juices and several orgasms during just one night of lovemaking. Another element that surprised and left a positive impression is the more-than-decent amount of sexual fetishes covered during those very brief sex scenes. As you may expect from a game focused on romantic conquest, most of the intimate encounters start off pretty vanilla, but soon evolve to cover a wide array of sexual positions and kinks with women that you wouldn't normally expect to be into these kinds of things. Variety is the spice of life, and I'm glad Tropical Liquor understands this to such a degree. Portraying the intensity of any of these scenes would, of course, be impossible without Sayori's expert use of angles, perspective and use of vibrant colors on aptly drawn, silky smooth skin and defined muscle tones.
A big part of what makes the sex scenes in Tropical Liquor so enjoyable is also the spot-on voice acting performances for each and every single one of the girls. From the luscious, moist kisses, to the moans and groans during actual intercourse, every single voice actress put everything she had into making you have an eargasm. On a personal note, if you ever wanted to hear a woman's brain simply melting in the throes of pleasure, I recommend you pursue Anna's route first; you won't be disappointed.
Dude, Where's my Passport?
Ultimately, Tropical Liquor has an almost equal amount of good and bad things going for it. The time and almost joyless effort it takes to get to the truly enjoyable moments might frustrate a lot of people. Most good porn games manage to suck me in even without my own need for sexual relief; with Tropical Liquor,I was forced to take many breaks between play sessions in order not to get burned out with the lackluster gameplay. Considering the game is already very short to begin with, I cannot honestly recommend it to anyone other than big fans of Sayori's artwork and to those desperate enough to go through some mild boredom to reach it.
While I don't necessarily think that Tropical Liquor is a bad game at its core, it can without a doubt get quite tedious. In hindsight, that might be even worse for an eroge rather than just being downright bad. When you sit down to play something that is supposed to have your heart pumping with excitement and instead results in a big, loud yawn fifteen minutes in, you're better off just jacking it to anything else.
Perhaps realizing its own faults, Tropical Liquor is currently available on Steam at a reasonably low price of $9.99, with a free Denpasoft patch available to those that want to get the full adult experience.