Review: Summer at Marisol Bay

Summer at Marisol Bay from LegendEx Games is an all-ages slice-of-life entry in this year’s Yaoi Game Jam, a visual novel development event that lasts two months and focuses on romantic relationships between men or boys. Join recent acting graduate Kyro as he takes up the mantle of the dread pirate Captain Bailey as part of his summer job at the Marisol Bay Resort. There’s trouble brewing, though. After a rumor spreads that one side of the resort is going to be torn down, the luxury and family-friendly sides enter a cold war, battling it out to prove their side is worth keeping. The park isn’t the only thing at risk for being torn apart, though. Between the taciturn Liam, the charming Wyatt, and all the other friends he’s made along the way, how will Kyro decide where his loyalties lie?

A review for this game was requested through the VN Game Den Review Request form, but we did not receive a special reviewer’s copy.

Lovely Sprites and a Great Cast

Right from the start, Marisol Bay comes in with bright, summery colors to match its vacation atmosphere. While they didn’t use custom backgrounds, the game doesn’t feel like it’s using premade assets. The original sprite art is polished and precise and takes enough hints from the backgrounds that the characters feel like they’re living in the same space. Even without a lot of movement, the characters are very energetic and lively with a lot of charm.

There’s also a lot of aesthetic diversity between characters. They’ve got bold, unique silhouettes and they pop with character. From straight-laced Amelia with her clipboard and summer suite, to the bold uniforms of Ms. V and Liam, to Wyatt’s ever-changing Hawaiian shirts and Kyro’s in-costume scenes. They also pulled together a fantastic group of voice actors to provide some pop and sizzle. While some of the partial voice acting lines are a little oddly placed, they make you wish that the game had full voices.

Overall, the game has an awesome cast of characters artistically, vocally, and narratively. They look and feel like real people you might be forced to interact with at your typical summer job. They have nuance and personality and give Kyro a lot to bounce off of. You feel genuinely bad for having to choose between all these new friends you’ve made.

A Little Dry

Marisol Bay has a really great overall story about coming to terms with your past and making new memories. It hits its macro story beats well, and I’d be remiss to find a scene that doesn’t have a place. It struggles a little bit, though, at the line-to-line progression. It’s not a very action-heavy story, so most of the progression is in small, interpersonal scenes that require a lot of introspective dialogue. They’re very touching moments, but the way they stack up results in that very prototypical mellow slice-of-life pace. This is stylistically appropriate and isn’t necessarily slow to read, but the text itself is inelegant. Kyro doesn’t have a very strong character voice. This is great for creating an everyman feel for the inner monologue narration, but it can also trend a little bland. It’s still a fun, easy read, but there are segments that read a little clunkier than others. Generally, though, it’s nothing more egregious than another round of editing afforded by a longer development cycle might have fixed.

Organic Relationships

Despite its minor writing flaws, Marisol Bay is a genuinely sweet story with organic interpersonal relationships. They build naturally over Kyro’s summer, both the romantic and the platonic. Nothing feels forced and their pacing feels realistic to a real world expectation. It’s not as long and emotionally trying as a slow burn, but carried through the story in such a way that when you finally get to the romantic resolution, it feels like a pleasant reward.

With a great cast and a true-to-life journey of memories and emotions, Summer at Marisol Bay is a short, heartwarming story that shows a nice amount of polish considering its short development cycle. It leaves you with a smile on your face, a skip in your skip, and a nice little warm feeling in your heart that feels like the summer sun on your skin.

Download it now from itch.io.