The Battle is won
This week has saw the release of two Amusement Park simulation games, RollerCoaster Tycoon World from Atari and Planet Coaster from Frontier Developments. After only a few days, it seems that there is one clear winner. Planet Coaster has a 92% positive rating from Steam customers, where RollerCoaster Tycoon World is languishing at just 32% positive. The question has to be asked, what did Atari do so wrong? Maybe however, it is a case of what has Frontier Developments done so right.
What is Right
Planet Coaster is a game with amazing customization functions, fantastic depth and superb yet cute visuals. You have three game modes to select at the main menu: Career- A fairly average mode where you are given an already functioning park. You have to complete a number of simple tasks, such as build 3 rides or raise the park rating by a certain amount. The biggest plus to this mode is merely to provide you with pretty ideas for your own creations. Challenge- Again you are given a park that already has some structure. You have finite money and massive space to make the park a success. Players must do their own research and development, as well as marketing campaigns and genuine staff management. It is quite enjoyable and definitely lives up to its name of “Challenge.” Sandbox- The game mode where you can enjoy and explore all that Planet Coaster has to offer. All rides are immediately accessible, there are no money worries, and you have a blank slate to begin with. This really allows the imagination to take over, and where the Steam community has found a niche.
Planet Coaster’s customization options are mainly centered around the scenery and facilities available for your Theme Park. There are a mind-boggling amount of building objects, covering themes from Sci-Fi to Wild West. The UI is accessible and easy to pick up, and it doesn’t take a great amount of time to turn the simple starting box of a shop into a beautifully crafted castle or Shuttle Port. All of your creations can be saved as “Blueprints” and uploaded to the Steam Community site. There they can be downloaded, scrutinized and altered by other users. The same can also be said for using other peoples creations in your own park. Some of the things already uploaded are superb, but the real fun lies in making things for yourself.
When it comes to rides, (which of course is why people, real or AI, travel to Amusement Parks) Planet Coaster does not let you down. There are a number of pre-designed rides that can be placed simply in your park. The customization factors do not, unfortunately, extend to these, but things can be still selectively used in certain areas to match a park theme. There is an Octopus Merry-Go-Round that can quite nicely fit into a Pirate/Ocean themed area, and there is the classic Teacups ride that obviously slots well into a child/family part of your park. Some of these pre-designed attractions are huge and visually striking, and they make a great addition in terms of park ratings and excitement. The down side may be large amounts of vomit!
It is Roller Coasters where Planet Coaster rightly prides itself for choice. Although you must select from a (large) set design of coaster carts, there is a huge amount you can do to make your roller coaster different from anyone else’s. You can create your own Coaster station with the same building materials that are on offer for the scenery and facilities. You can easily build your track, add loops, corkscrews and even vast caverns to send your creation through, thanks to the simple yet effective terrain molding tools. Decorations ranging from smoke machines, light displays, explosions and electrical storms give added excitement for your customers, and can all add to the park rating. These are well presented, and easy to integrate successfully into your dream park.
The game is not all perfect however. It can be difficult to adjust the view to find the right angle to see what you need to see. There is no set “Default View” that fits all your needs. Perhaps that says something about the 360 degree nature of the game, but you can find yourself constantly shifting the zoom, angle and viewpoint which does sometimes get annoying. The developers have also missed a trick when it comes to Coaster design. You can spend as long as you dare making a roller coaster seem dramatic and striking, adding rises, drops and turns at your leisure. You do sometimes meet a section of track during construction that is described as “Beyond Track Limit,” but you will not know that your creation will work until you begin the testing phase. No matter how excellent you feel your ride will be, it may not make it past the first bend. This can lead to time consuming and frustrating rebuilding. Perhaps a warning where you are reminded that the coaster will not be carrying enough speed to make it over a crest could be added at a later update.
This is merely a small thorn in the side of this excellent simulation game. It is clear that there is so much scope within the parameters of Planet Coaster that the game has what all games should be aiming for. Longevity. The building options carry a few set themes, but the possibilities for future updates are limitless. With Planet Coaster, the sky is literally the limit.
Planet Coaster- The Verdict:
If you are old enough to be a fan of the 1994 Bullfrog Games title named “Theme Park,” or enjoyed any of the first three RollerCoaster Tycoon’s, then this is a required purchase. Planet Coaster is the crowning glory in the Amusement Park Simulation genre. It can be played and revisited time after time, and each creation will bring a warm glow to your insides knowing that you made that. Small niggles with final roller coaster design could actually be seen as part of the challenge, and problems finding a god-like overview of your park may just be a personal thing that simply needs some practice to overcome. Overall, it is a superb way to spend your time.