Summertime Saga is a dating sim by Kompas Productions (the website describes it as an “adult orientated high quality dating sim”, though to be honest, it feels more like a harem game). It is set in the small suburban town of Summerville, and the overarching plot concerns a young man whose father has just died. The main plotlines revolve around his quest to find out the truth about his dad’s mysterious death (it soon emerges that he was in debt to some very shady characters), his need to scrape together enough money to both pay for college and pay off his father’s debts, and the need to find a date for the prom. He also has to improve his grades in various subjects to avoid redoing the year or even being kicked out of school – not something you want just before graduation.
While those are introduced at or near the beginning of the story (and no doubt will be resolved by the time the game is finally completed), the game is more of an excuse to explore the town, have adventures, interact with the other characters… and have sex with at least some of them.
The art style is idiosyncratic. Many adult games out there are made with 3D tools such as Daz 3D, Poser, or Blender and strive for a realistic look. If you’re used to those, Summertime Saga’s art can be a bit jarring at first, since it is hand-drawn and cartoony with clean lines and dark outlines. It’s not bad, just different, and you soon get used to it.
The game is written with the visual novel engine Ren’py. Unlike most Ren’py games, this isn’t a traditional visual novel that leads you through a linear story. Instead, it has a more open world feel to it. You will see a lot of the map screen, which allows you to visit the 30 locations in the town as you unlock them (some of which, like the school and the mall, containing many sub-locations themselves). Those locations include various character’s houses (or in Roxxy‘s case, trailer), the town library, the school, the beach (with a pier and a hut where you can buy tequila from Captain Terry), Hillside Mall (where you can purchase all sorts of useful items at Consum-R if you have the money, as well as visit the nerd heaven of Cosmic Comics, the Cine Saga cinema, and a sex shop called Pink) and the Planet Thiccness gym where you can weightlift and train in Muay Thai to build your stats.
There’s a lot of content here. It definitely isn’t something you’ll finish after just a few hours of play. The game, while not completed yet, is certainly mature. The first demo version came out in August 2016 and in the almost four years since then it has got up to Version 0.20.1. That’s a lot of game development – and it shows. While there’s no voice acting, there are plenty of spot sound effects such as clinking money and doors opening and closing, and lots of background sound loops make the various locations feel alive. The music is also well-done. There are plenty of subtle little touches that add vitality, such as the vehicles driving around and sunlight glinting off the waves on the map screen.
There are over twenty minigames that include things like rap-battles in the park, weeding a garden, training in Muay Thai, weightlifting, and fishing. None of them are particularly challenging, but they do effectively break up the flow of the game and add some variety.
Another nice feature is the “cookie jar”, which allows you to replay erotic scenes you have already seen. It also allows you to see which characters are still “locked” because you haven’t encountered them yet.
There is a rich seam of humour in the game. Some of it is a bit forced or even a bit childish – “The Fappening” is the in-world equivalent of “Magic: The Gathering”, your nerdy friend Erik likes to play Whorecraft and the in-world soft drink is Mountain Jizz. On the other hand, there are some good jokes and funny situations, some interactions with characters (such as with KONTARINA, Miss Okita’s robot that the MC dubs K-Bot) are amusing and will bring a smile to your face, and Roxxy’s cousin Clyde is actually comic.
Unlike some other games, the protagonist seems like a genuinely good-hearted and likeable person. He compliments people and offers to help them without much of an ulterior motive (he gives out compliments often without giving you the choice if you want to or not), and when the blue-haired artistic babe Eve doesn’t have enough money for her lunch he offers to share his with her. He’s no saint though – the MC is a bit of a pervert. A telescope allows you to spy on what the neighbours get up to in their bedrooms, and at a couple of points, he gets caught masturbating in his landlady’s bedroom with her panties. So, a nice but mixed-up young man. There are worse people to play.
The game has both tons of sex and tons of story. The sex scenes are many and varied. The primary romance routes can see you with either Mia, the cute and innocent girl-next-door type, or Roxxy the obnoxious cheerleader who initially starts off dating Dexter, (an equally obnoxious muscle-bound jock) but who may gradually warm to you. However, you can romance all of your teachers to unlock sex scenes with them, you can get a handjob in the toilets from fat and busty fellow student Judith, you can have a threesome on the beach with Roxxy and her two mean-girl friends Becca and Missy, you can have sex with your landlady’s friend Diane, you can take part in webcam shows with your landlady’s other tenant Jenny, and you can even fuck a blue-skinned mermaid-y amphibious creature if that’s your thing. Almost none of it is mandatory though, you can play the game however you want – choosing to fuck as many characters as possible, just one, or none and concentrating on the story elements (though the solution to one puzzle does force you to have sex with another character).
Those sex scenes are well done, but not particularly erotic. If you want a game with photorealistic sex scenes so you can fap to them, well, this won’t be the game for you. Personally, I didn’t find them hugely arousing, though I suppose if you’re into Rule 34 porn or Japanese hentai they might appeal to you more than they do me. They’re not exactly unsexy, just not as hot ‘n’ horny as other games manage.
The game caters to tons of different fetishes. As you explore its world you can uncover content that gives you blowjobs, threesomes (both FFM and MMF), voyeurism, MILFs, some mild BDSM (a religious character being whipped by a nun), interracial, footjobs, a glory hole, facials, boobjobs, monster girls (with the characters of Aqua, the aforementioned blue-skinned mermaid-like creature, and Daisy, an anthropomorphic cowgirl), breeding and pregnancy, hucows and lactation. There’s certainly plenty of variety here.
Some events are a bit obscure, and it may well require the use of a walkthrough to figure out how to trigger them. However, most of the puzzles are relatively straightforward and shouldn’t need too much head-scratching (especially if you are used to old school adventure games like Monkey Island). There is some grind involved, especially with getting stats high enough to trigger various quests and events, but overall the game is well balanced and it never feels too monotonous.
I do have some criticisms. You may, as I’ve said, find the art style off-putting. The way that side quests interact with the main missions can be annoying, since they don’t integrate together. For example, Jenny may ask you to loan her $60 at breakfast, but if you go and see her in her room a few minutes later she has already forgotten about it and will wait until the next scripted event in her storyline (when you see her at breakfast again) to pick it up. More annoying is the lack of a “back” button – if you miss a dialogue, then you’ve got to restore from a saved game or just wait until your next playthrough to see it. This is doubly annoying since it must have been a deliberate design choice – that back button is a standard part of most Ren’py games.
I’d also rather not see “this area is under construction” pop up on my screen. The game is still in alpha test, so there are bound to be unfinished areas, but I’d prefer it if they just weren’t active rather than having an “under construction” graphic shove that fact in my face. Another little niggle is how some of the puzzles involve an element of pixel hunting. Finding items in certain locations (the library and the park spring to mind) may require sweeping your mouse over the background graphics and seeing what lights up. If you don’t know that an item is there, it’s very hard to find it.
All these are minor quibbles though. On the whole, Summertime Saga feels polished and enjoyable. It’s one of the first adult games I ever played, and I still come back to it every couple of releases. I’d highly recommend it. The game is very well done, but it won’t be for everyone. It has a cartoon adventure feel to it, and a mischievous sense of humour. I had a lot of fun playing it and you will too – but only if you like cartoon-y adventures.