Roughly two years ago, Dharker Studios released their seventh game, Club Life, a definitive turn into the Dating Simulation, with the familiar romantic and humour touches they got us all hooked in previous titles such as Beach Bounce. Reviewing games with high expectations usually turn to be a let down, but this is not the case, as Club Life delivers exactly what fans expected; a constant and solid dating simulator.
Sean is a senior at Westmore High School, and although he is not sure what his future will be, one thing is certain; he wants high school to end as fast as possible! After the previous year’s incident, where he confessed his feelings to Laura, not only was he rejected, but also became a reason of mockery among his friends. Ever since that, he's been closed to new friendships, activities or any social interaction at all. Three years preparing his declaration of love, just to be all a waste can leave large scars. Could this new year be different?
Today, it’s the first day of his final year, and his plans are all out on the table; get in and out with the least amount of interaction as possible, and focus on his grades to hopefully graduate with high recommendations for college. School principal, Ms. Nevara, has other plans for Sean, as the only way she’s going to give him a recommendation letter is if our protagonists sign up in club activities. Sean doesn’t see this as anything but troublesome, however, he does need a good recommendation letter, so he does, and joins two Clubs.
Club Life will take players to experience the final year of Sean, the protagonist, with focusing throughout important year events, such as holidays like Halloween, and the evolution of his relationships within the school clubs. Players can choose two clubs out of three, meaning it will take multiple playthroughs to fully enjoy the game. Sean can join the Tennis Club, Swimming Team, or the Westmore Newspaper staff.
Each activity has a character Sean can date and romance with throughout the year, until the very end of the school, where players can choose who to invite to Prom night. Tennis Club is led by Melissa, a sophisticated and influential young lady who shares a strange energy with Sean… Could she somehow be connected with his past? Swimming Team most dedicated swimmer, Janet, will bring an emotional childhood story into the present life of Sean, but is it enough for him to fall for her? The third and last club is the high school newspaper, with Kylie as a photography expert, nothing can escape her lens. Can her mysterious and spontaneous side convince Sean to become more social? Or even maybe have an emotional connection? If none of these clubs work, Ms. Nevara is also a possible dating option, but with far less content associated with her, unfortunately.
In the end, players can enjoy four possible dates, but could be there an extra one hidden among town’s biggest secret? It’s for you to discover, either way, Club Life is surely a game filled with mystery everywhere, and that’s part of the plot while dating your crush. Even if one is almost completely irrelevant to the whole dating aspect, enigmatic questions such as why there is no room 117 in the school, or what is the mysterious monstrous creature everyone is spotting near the lake, will surely keep one playing just for the plot intriguing elements.
(With no compromises of what one should do, players are free to explore the multiple mysteries included in this adventure, as well what characters take on your adventures.)
As gameplay goes, Club Life is a choice-based Visual Novel, where player’s decisions will reflect on several outcomes, some paths will be closed, as well as dating scenarios, but others might open, all based on your options. Each character storyline can take up to two hours, and as said previously, it’s the type of game one replays with the certainty of finding new content. Through multiple saving slots, players can load their game and explore different routes to achieve different endings, or just stick with a story-driven narrative, that's both amazingly well written, engaging and heavenly entertaining. This is the quality Dharker Studio made fans fall for their storytelling, without doubts! Characters are interesting, each has a very unique and special personality and they manage to be different from each other, and still remain true to the story across different paths.
Visually, Club Life uses similar character designs from Beach Bounce, with resembling art direction and body expressions in a western cartoonish style, but maintaining the adult traces included. Girl renders will express themselves with a handful of emotional changes, such as anger, shyness, blushing, laughing, smiling, and a couple more facial effects. Renders don’t change much, but it’s amazing to have that level of commitment for emotional expression.
Backgrounds fulfill the perfect atmosphere for the entire game, sustaining the same art direction and style, assuring the perfect mix between character renders and active location within the game. Areas are portrayed with a pleasant visual representation, already typical in the studio’s previous titles. Special cutscenes have dedicated character designs usually representing key moments in the game, with beautiful and exceptional dedicated designs.
An adult patch is available through Dharker Studio official website entirely for free! This time, however, it adds more in terms of design than gameplay itself. Adult only scenes are mere extras where girls will go into nudity in each romantic outcome at the end of the game, and also in some special scenes that are also available in the vanilla version, but censored of course. It’s still worth it, particularly if players want to experience the game in its full potential, and enjoy explicit sexual content.
When comes to soundtracks, Dharker Studio either has a dedicated one, or a more simple choice. This time, though, we’re gifted with the opportunity to grab the DLC containing the exclusive music tracks featured in the game. Music goes extremely well within the game, featuring smooth and satisfying tunes based on each scenario. A mix between classic and melodic neo-pop with Japanese vibes serve as background for all the routes in the game.12 MP3 tracks created by Sam L. Jones can be purchased as a DLC, with an outstanding quality of 320kpbs, and it’s definitely worth it. Sam L. Jones maintains the same quality as in other titles such as Beach Bounce, making it hard to say which is better.
Club Life proves once again the quality in Dharker Studio releases, presenting a strong storyline brimming with fun and interesting moments that will make players engaged for hours, losing the track of time! An emotional and active dating romance with twists and a tenacious plot, mixed with lovely girls.