Willy Bear Beach is a visual novel/dating simulator set in an idyllic, east coast beach town. You take the role of Willy, a care-free, gay, man who runs a sundries shop. Your only goal in this game is to find a willing partner with which to have a casual encounter. Luckily, you live in a bucolic, little beach town where all your acquaintances are casual fuck buddies, saving you from posting a poorly-spelled Craigslist ad. Oh, and all the characters happen to be furry, anthropomorphic animals.
The game is the fursona (furry-persona) of the porn-artist ArtDecade (NSFW), a prominent member of the furry fandom. Willy has his own Tumblr (NSFW), on which he dresses in different outfits (SFW) and answers questions from fans. He’s been referred to as a representation (SFW) of ArtDecade’s id.
(The rest of the links are SFW)
As the product of a porn artist, featuring his pin-up fursona in a subculture that is routinely, irrationally, portrayed as sexually deviant by the mainstream media you might imagine that Willy Bear Beach would be a game where one couldn’t take SFW screencaps. The game, as it turns out, is sweet, and simple. The characters feel real and dimensional. Willy ambles through a lazy day, encountering former friends, fuck buddies and new faces. The characters make small talk that hint at deeper lives and long histories. Muhamad, the local lifeguard, talks about his matchmaking parents. Walker, a racoon and bicycle mechanic, just wants to reconnect. People don’t make a big deal out of being gay or having sex; in this game it’s normal, natural and expected. The game could easily be renamed “Friends with Benefits”. It’s engaging in the way that a good day at the beach is, lulling, quiet, and fleeting.
The brevity of this game (it is short, each storyline takes only about an hour or so to play) coupled with the diverse body types of the characters, the casual, easygoing atmosphere and real-feeling characters makes Willy Bear Beach stand out against its competitors. Coming Out on Top, features a cast of characters who appear to share the same, Grinder-ready torso and plays heavily on awkward, problematic, coming-out narrative tropes. Super Health Club (in beta) also plays heavily on idealized body notions but takes place in a gym and has an ostensible excuse. No, Thank You!!! follows the adventures of a gay man who “partakes of sexual harassment as a work pastime” against straight men. In this environment, it’s nice to have a game that’s simultaneously sex-positive, accessible and diverse.
It’s not a perfect game, the dialog, while charming can grate with its small-talkishness and sharply limited story tree can feel a tad confining, like decisions you make don’t have much consequence. However, if you want a drama-free, sex positive, choose-your-own adventure story where you go out and find some company for the night look no further than Willy Bear Beach. If you can suspend your disbelief at the omnipresent charm of this alternative universe Province Town and you’re okay playing as a literal bear, wooing other woodland creatures you’ll probably enjoy yourself.