For the last few months, we've been bringing you coverage surrounding THQ's upcoming Facebook game MargaritaVille Online, which will launch officially on the platform sometime this winter, along with an iPhone / iPad version that will come in January. For a few lucky Parrotheads, however, the game's Closed Beta does offer access to the game early, into what's called the Buffett Beta Club. We've had a chance to go in-depth with this early, non-final build of the game, and can already tell you that it's one of the most polished and best looking titles we've seen released on Facebook to date.
If you do happen to sign up for the Closed Beta, be warned that you'll have to download the Unity Engine onto your computer in order to run the game. This is a completely safe process, and it's been used in other Facebook games as well (see: N.O.V.A., for one), to make them run more like console game experiences (with smoother frame-rates, better graphics, etc.). As for the game itself, you'll start in stuffy, business casual attire, but can customize your character's gender, hairstyle, eyes and mouth. You'll land on the beach of Puerto Mi Casa, where you'll find that the sand is littered with debris and the buildings, like the Oasis bar, are just recovering from a hurricane.
You'll immediately go to work helping your new friends clear out the debris, and will then learn exactly what it takes to live the life of relaxation in MargaritaVille (for one - ditch those business clothes, and try on some flip-flops instead!). The game is quest-based, sending you first and foremost through a detailed story, seeing you becoming the owner of the Oasis Bar, and of a boat that you can use to go fishing, among other "achievements," if you will. You'll unlock other areas on the island, like a dense jungle or more stores in MargaritaVille itself, all while taking some time to play some unique mini-games in between.
As owner of the Oasis Bar, you'll have access to Stills, which produce coins over time, with different amounts of coins being available for each different Still. Of course, better Stills may take longer to produce those coins as well, so there's the expected trade-off often seen in such social games. You can also decorate the Oasis as a sort of home-away-from-home with new chairs and tables for your patrons, along with decorations like palm trees, tiki torches and even lawn flamingos. If it's tropical, or even just a bit kitsch, you'll likely find it available to purchase.
While you're waiting for your money to regenerate in your bar, you can feel free to explore the island. Some areas are blocked either by broken bridges or forms of bamboo obstacles, so you'll need to either ask your friends for parts to rebuild those bridges, or look elsewhere on the island for building materials for machetes, hammers, and even shovels to interact with these obstacles, clearing the way to other things. This is one of those cases where the game is so large, and there's so much to do that it can almost be overwhelming, but if you place your focus on one particular quest (rather than trying to multi-task through everything simultaneously), or on one particular area of the island, you'll be able to study its intricacies and appreciate them all the more. Who knows? You might find a Treasure Chest buried behind some palm fronds, or will see some coconuts that you can slingshot out of a tree for more energy.
Speaking of, you're limited in your gameplay time by having to wait for your energy to recharge. Unfortunately, most every action in the game requires energy, from opening barrels or chopping down bamboo stalks to digging for treasure or playing mini-games. These mini-games themselves require energy in bulk to complete, but then last just as long as you can. For five energy, you can play "Hammock Time," a version of Bejeweled that asks you to fill the meter by making matches to progress through rounds. Another game has you limbo-ing by clicking your mouse when a pointer falls into a green section on an ever-moving line. You'll be able to shoot flamboyant Party Pirates with a slingshot before they come ashore, or can toss your fishing line into a group of fish to catch your next meal. Each proper mini-game (like the Bejeweled or limbo variations) grant you various rewards at the end, like coins and experience points, and will give you a chance to earn various achievements for your profile. As for Jimmy Buffett himself? He apparently likes spending time fishing out on his boat, riding the waves.
Again, this current version of MargaritaVille Online isn't perfect, so if you do find yourself lucky enough to snag a closed beta spot (simply head to the game's fan page and try to access the game as normal - if there are closed beta spots open, you'll get in), don't be thrown by any click-recognition issues you might see. As it stands, we'll make sure to let you know when the full version of MargaritaVille Online launches on Facebook, but for now, why not try to get into the closed beta? What better way to chase off old man winter than with a trip to the beach!?
Are you excited to try MargaritaVille Online on Facebook? What do you think of these kinds of story-based, 3D game worlds? Sound off in the comments.