Put your arms in the air and scream!
I must admit that I am not a big fan of theme parks. All of that noise, all of those people and the sheer amount of time queuing up really annoy me. Conversely, I used to spend hours upon hours at a time creating and running my own theme parks in the likes of RollerCoaster Tycoon and Theme Park. Over the years, I would jump on every game that allowed me to rule over my own park, deciding just how much salt to add to the fires, or where to place the toilets to prevent pools of vomit overwhelming the paths.
And there were a lot of these games, it was a big thing for a while. There were two types of these games, those that allowed the player to go deep with the running of a park, and those that focused more on the creation of the actual rides. Each had their own appeal, but for whatever reason they kind of fell out of grace in recent years, leaving theme park fans only able to create their dream parks in the likes of MineCraft and such.
Then, as if some sort of memo had been sent around to various developers, just recently the genre seems to have popped up again, with a few new games offering the player a chance to set their hands at theme park creation. Surely the most highly anticipated in Planet Coaster from Frontier Developments, the studio behind one of the greatest previous games of this genre, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.
And one of the biggest reasons for this anticipation, aside from the obvious talent of the developers in this genre, is just how great Planet Coaster looks. From the very beginning, with an empty expanse waiting to be filled with all manner of rides, the environments are simply incredible. But once the park starts to grow, and people are wandering around and, for the most part, enjoying themselves, the whole thing comes to life. It is beautiful to watch, especially as the sun goes down and the lights come on. It is magical.
When it comes to the gameplay, Planet Coaster is more or less what you would expect if you are a fan of the coaster park creation genre. For those who are new to creating parks though, the core of the game will come from creating your own functioning park from scratch. Players are given plenty of choice when it comes to where to build, and an ample budget. Then it is down to the players’ creativity. From choosing where to run the paths, or place trees and benches, to the placement of burger bars, Ferris wheels and the like, players will be charged with not only where to put things, but also how to keep the guests happy and the park working properly. Various tools in the game give the player a great overview of how well their park is performing, or even how much fun a single visitor is having.
However, there is not too much emphasis on the running of the park. Sure, prices can be tweaked and staff managed, but there is not much chance of failing and the emphasis in Planet Coaster is much more on creation. To this end, there are some great tools for creating the park of your dreams, from manipulating the environment to building the ultimate roller coaster. There are plenty of different rides already available in the game, along with a few different themes to build your park around, but the creation tools ensure that there will never be a lack of content. If the player can imagine it, with time they can build it. And the tools are as simple or as complex as the player wants. There is even an auto-complete button to take care of the tricky finishing of a roller coaster.
There is no shortage of content in Planet Coaster from the start, but the inclusion of Steam Workshop support means that there will be no end of player made content to add to the library. Already, there are a huge number of new items for your park, and some of them look absolutely amazing.
So the sandbox mode is where the more creative player will be spending their time, with huge budgets and all the freedom to create that they could want. For a more focused experience, there is also a career mode and a challenge mode. The challenge mode gives players some goals to aim for, simple objectives that can give their game direction. The career mode takes thing a bit further by providing a pre-built park with some limitations to overcome as objectives are met. Both modes are enjoyable and add a great diversion to the sandbox creativity.
There are a couple of little issues with the game though. There are some great camera options when testing out the rides, it is always fun to test out a new coaster by riding it, but the camera in the main part of the game can sometimes move into awkward positions, making it difficult to actually see what is going on. Planet Coaster also feels like jumping in at the deep end. There are tutorials available, but they are just offered as videos rather than anything interactive, which essentially leaves the player to work things out for themselves.
In comparison to RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, Planet Coaster feels more like a game for the creative players, rather than the management players. As a management game, it feels sightly lacking. But for the builders, those who want nothing more than to create the best possible theme park and the most exciting rides, Planet Coaster can’t be beat. The best park building game available.