Despite the recent influx of indie BL visual novels and games, there are still very few developers dedicated to bringing BL gaming to western audiences. MangaGamer and more recently JAST BLUE have taken it upon themselves to localize more “mainstream” BL games, but before that there was Black Monkey Pro. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I have a love-hate relationship with the now defunct BL media distributor. They released two full 18+ BL games, Sleepover (2014) and Bacchikoi (2014; Bacchikoi Expansion Pack 2015), and a standalone kinetic novel, Offscreen Scandal (2012). And while I fully admit to loving BL media in all its (at times problematic) glory, I could not for the life of me enjoy BMP’s games. Despite their gorgeous art design and beautifully choreographed sexual content, the stories and plotlines were thin, barely enough to warrant spending 50 bucks on what amounted to glorified CG sets.
So, when BMP disbanded in 2015, I was not exactly shedding any tears, of course that wasn’t the last we’d heard of the company now branded under the new name, Herculion, with their upcoming title, Full Service still in development. And it was brought to my attention that one of the team’s former members (Mikkoukun) was also working on producing their own independent title, Camp Buddy, made possible by the collective support of over a thousand patrons on Patreon.
Camp Buddy follows the exploits of the ever optimistic protagonist, Keitaro Nagame as he and his childhood best friend explore the summer scout themed adventure camp aptly named, Camp Buddy. There he meets a colorful cast of characters, from eccentric scoutmasters to fellow scout mates, Keitaro is bound to make some great new friends and maybe even find love along the way. But, when the camp falls on hard times, it’s up to Keitaro to unite the campers and restore the camp’s reputation. Currently there are four pursuable love interests, with the potential for more in future updates of the game, though patrons have access to new content before the public.
*Since this is an 18+ game there will be some NSFW images though they are towards the end and censored… *
First, I want to applaud BLits for their work on Camp Buddy, it’s a simple game with a simple premise and it may seem a bit kiddie by most BL standards, but, for what it’s worth, this is a rather entertaining and well executed game. There were moments where I felt like I was watching 4Kids dub of Yugioh with all their talk of “the power of friendship” and the number of self righteous “there’s good in everyone” speeches will make your head spin, but, sometimes you need to take a step back from some of the more angsty drama filled BL titles and savor the simpler things in life… Don’t get me wrong, these campers go at it like rabbits, but, there’s a simplicity to the narrative that you just don’t see very often in BL media and it works. Granted, it’s more than a little cheesy…
The characters are all pretty distinct and I was amazed at just how large the cast was; there are four scoutmasters and 10 campers (including Keitaro) and each one has their own defined character traits and mannerisms. Not only that, but the game spends time fleshing out each of the characters regardless of whether or not they’re a potential love interest or not. Hell, I remember all of them by name and I was actually invested in their individual stories and motivations. Like Eduard the flamboyant pink haired camper with sass for days, or Seto the tech savy gamer dude that I’m convinced is in a secret relationship with Felix, the quiet white haired rich boy. And these are just the scouts, the scoutmasters are another thing entirely, Assistant Scoutmaster Yuri is the camp’s resident fujoshi (homegirl ships all the boys and even admits to writing slash fanfics) and who could forget Chef Aiden, who literally prances around in nothing but an apron… It’s so rare to see side characters given so much attention!
It doesn’t end there either, the love interests are just as well defined! There are four in total: Keitaro’s excitable childhood friend Hiro, who is a clearly crushing hard on his bestie and he’s a bit of an amateur chef. I usually hate childhood friend characters, but, Hiro is likable enough and his rivalry with Yoichi is cute. Yoichi with his distinctive hair and brash attitude rubs some of the other characters the wrong way, but, there’s a sensitive side hiding underneath all his tsun bun behavior. Natsumi is the goodie-goodie of the bunch always ready to lend a helping hand to the scoutmasters, but, when he lets loose he has a bit of a wild side! Last, but not least is the shota of the group, Hunter, a quiet bookworm who you just can’t help but want to squeeze~ I can honestly say that I don’t hate any of the main love interests, like the other characters, they have their own unique quirks and storylines, so there’s something for everyone. Each route is different from the others delving into a conflict that is exclusive to that particular character, though some of the same scenes do play out in each route (but, those are easily skippable).
Camp Buddy comes with a wide range of extra features that really make for a more interactive experience. Like Bacchikoi there are mini games, this time there are two, a word puzzle Journal Writing mini-game and a point and click Foreplay mode. The Journal Game is simple, you help Keitaro recall events from his time at camp in exchange for badges that can be used to unlock some of the animated scenes from the game. The difficulty on this one isn’t especially high, but I did find that some of the longer word puzzles take up a lot of time. Meanwhile, the Foreplay Mode is a bit trickier to nail, since each love interest has certain actions they don’t like. For example, Natsume isn’t really big on biting, preferring softer rubs and licking. On the other hand, Yoichi quite enjoys a few love nips. Each action either raises or lowers the Pleasure Meter and, yes, it is possible to fail.
There were also these neat animated CGs for some of the sex scenes that really help put you in the action. The only down side is that they are locked in the gallery, so you have to use badges you earn in the Journal Game to unlock them (this is a carryover from Bacchikoi). Only certain scenes are animate, there are about 21 in total, but, trust me they are totally worth seeing! The other CGs were gorgeous, exactly what I’d expect from former BMP team members, however, there were a few that were at a weird slanted angle… I dunno what that was about, but I found myself tilting my head a bit to accommodate. But, there are over 200 CGs, which is more than most mainstream games!
Earlier I mentioned that there was voice acting, some scenes have full voice acting, while others contain partially voiced phrases or words. The quality of the voice work was good, but, there were a few inconsistencies with certain pronunciations, especially with the names. There is a scene early on where three different characters pronounce Keitaro’s name three different ways and it’s a bit off putting, especially given that it happens fairly often. But, I really did enjoy the overall vocal performances, each VA did a great job of bringing their character to life, special props to Natsumi’s and Yoichi’s VA’s! The writing was pretty solid overall, the proofreader did their job this time around, so the text was free from any glaring errors like I saw in previous BMP games. The dialogue during the sex scenes was good though there were a few lines that had me cracking up, but nothing that took me too far out of the action.
I was wary of anything even loosely related to BMP, and yet my curiosity got the better of me and I found myself plopping down $50.00 for the game over the Christmas holiday and… it actually isn’t that bad… granted I’m only halfway through my second route, but, so far, Camp Buddy is a cute lighthearted BL visual novel. There’s a lot of content in this one, so it’s definitely worth the $50 price tag, because you really are paying for quality here. Though I will admit that more seasoned BL fans will find the overly optimistic plot a bit too vanilla, but, the sex scenes are anything but adding some much needed spice to the game.
There’s over 60 hours of gameplay and features, so I plan on taking my time, but if the rest of the game is as good as what I played, Camp Buddy has my seal of approval. But, as always you don’t have to take my word for it! Check out the trailer below or snag a copy of the game for yourself!
You can also check out the official game pages below and show BLits your support:
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