Coast­ers are the new stair­way to heaven

Games Master - - Contents -

Build a ride, ex­pe­ri­ence it in first-per­son, then fence in pun­ters so they can never leave.

Theme park sims have been around for over two decades and, a bit like the coast­ers them­selves, the genre has seen some ma­jor peaks and troughs over those years. Th­ese days, very few man­age to cap­ture the glo­ri­ous ex­cite­ment of their source ma­te­rial, but this par­tic­u­lar mod­ern take on the thun­der­ing, chun­der­ing world of corkscrews and dip­pers bucks the trend with style.

What­ever mode you’re tack­ling, the goal in Planet Coaster is to daz­zle and en­ter­tain your vis­i­tors. You need to de­sign the kind of theme park that makes your guests trem­ble with ex­cite­ment and sends them run­ning into the park won­der-filled, wide-eyed and with pock­ets full of cash to burn.

Thank­fully, Planet Coaster has crammed in enough cre­ation and de­sign tools to make sure you’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing just that. All that’s stand­ing be­tween you and build­ing the Dis­ney­land of your dreams is some imag­i­na­tion and a lit­tle bit of time.

Or a lot of time… The amount of items, rides, shops and ser­vices on of­fer is vast. Items range from the won­der­ful to the down­right strange, and al­low you to cre­ate any­thing you fancy, from wacky rides to coast­ers that teeter on the edge of Vom­itville. It’s easy to lose whole days to sim­ply ex­plor­ing the huge range of pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able.

Don’t be dis­suaded by the colour­ful, al­most cutesy look of Planet Coaster ei­ther, be­cause ly­ing be­neath is a game that’s hugely com­plex and of­fers all the in­tri­ca­cies and op­tions even the most skilled de­signer could want.

There are three dis­tinct modes: Ca­reer, Chal­lenge, and Sand­box. Broadly speak­ing, jump­ing straight into Ca­reer is the best way of get­ting started in Planet Coaster. You’re charged with com­plet­ing a cer­tain num­ber of ob­jec­tives to achieve a bronze, sil­ver or gold medal in a se­ries of sce­nar­ios. They’re largely sim­ple ob­jec­tives, such as at­tract­ing a cer­tain num­ber of vis­i­tors or earn­ing a spe­cific sum of money, but they aim to give you a ba­sic grasp of how all the var­i­ous tools work be­fore you’re set to­tally loose.

Thought park

Chal­lenge mode is the same too, but on the man­age­ment side, and it’s the mode that’s most sim­i­lar to the Theme Park World games. You’ll have to work out how to em­ploy the staff mem­bers nec­es­sary to keep your guests happy be­yond the rides. Whether that’s clear­ing up lit­ter, mak­ing sure vis­i­tors can eat, drink, poop, and vomit in ap­pro­pri­ate ar­eas, and even keep­ing your rides main­tained, there’s plenty to think about.

The sad thing is that the Sand­box mode never takes this man­age­ment as­pect much fur­ther. We would ab­so­lutely love to see Sim City or even The Sims-style tasks in­cor­po­rated into this more de­signed-fo­cused sim­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially as the re­ac­tions from the pub­lic when you zoom right in are of­ten so hi­lar­i­ous.

That be­ing said, you’ll quickly learn the most im­por­tant things in Ca­reer or

“Cre­ate any­thing from wacky rides to coast­ers that teeter on the edge of vom­itville”

Chal­lenge, in­clud­ing that paths and en­trances/ex­its are key to theme park suc­cess. Your vis­i­tors may be ea­ger to get on the lat­est ride, but they’re also a lit­tle ro­botic. They won’t ac­tu­ally go any­where that’s not con­nected to the park by a path­way. That means any ride, coaster, toi­let, shop or other fa­cil­ity with­out a path con­nect­ing it won’t get any vis­i­tors, or make you any money.

Although this may sound like a sim­ple prob­lem to solve, ac­tu­ally mak­ing the path­ways is a fid­dly, tricky busi­ness and overly com­pli­cated, at least at first. Path­way tools are in­cred­i­bly sen­si­tive. It can be so frus­trat­ing that you may even be put off by Planet Coaster’s cre­ation tools in the cru­cial open­ing hours. But don’t be. The od­di­ties of path cre­ation aren’t found in any of Planet Coaster’s other de­sign tools.

Build­ing your own roller coaster is sur­pris­ingly in­tu­itive and it’s not dif­fi­cult to cre­ate a ride that se­ri­ously im­presses both you and your guests. The most com­plex part is work­ing out how each of the var­i­ous parts work and com­bine to cre­ate the ul­ti­mate coaster. And they can be cus­tomised too, just like ev­ery other part of your park, from deck­ing out the in­side of tun­nels with lights and ef­fects, to de­cid­ing whether you want to tempt fate with a per­ilous-look­ing wooden coaster or some­thing a lit­tle less rick­ety and a lot more durable.

Ride and zoom

It’s im­por­tant to test your coaster be­fore you start ask­ing pun­ters to pay for an ex­pe­ri­ence that may kill them – which is ac­tu­ally in­cred­i­bly easy to do. How­ever, there is a strange el­e­gance in watch­ing coaster carts go fly­ing into crowds of peo­ple in slow-mo­tion, tum­bling like night­mar­ish domi­noes.

But test­ing is also in­cred­i­bly fun be­cause you can do it from a guest’s per­spec­tive. Take a tour of your park, ap­pre­ci­ate the mad loops you’ve cre­ated, re­alise that the epic drop might be a step too far as you wipe vir­tual spew from your face, and more. It’s yet an­other of Planet Coaster’s ad­dic­tive el­e­ments.

Ty­ing in to the di­min­ished role of man­age­ment tasks, Sand­box mode is also not re­stricted by any kind of bud­get. It’s here that you’re free to ex­per­i­ment with ev­ery­thing that the game has to of­fer, with­out ex­cep­tion. And even in Ca­reer and Chal­lenge, while new rides and fa­cil­i­ties do need to be re­searched be­fore they can be used, there are few other re­stric­tions to hold back your cre­ative im­pulses.

The re­sult is that you’ll spend hours find­ing out how to make the best coast­ers and ride lay­outs, along with im­prov­ing aes­thet­ics and mak­ing ev­ery­thing look as re­al­is­tic as you can. Cre­ativ­ity here is key.

And what’s great about Planet Coaster is that you’re by no means alone in your quest to cre­ate the next Six Flags won­der park. This is, af­ter all, a game from Fron­tier, the de­vel­oper be­hind Elite Dan­ger­ous. Planet Coaster, like Fron­tier’s space-sim, al­lows you in­stant ac­cess to its al­ready mas­sive com­mu­nity of theme park cre­ators with­out hav­ing to back out into Steam Work­shop.

Even in th­ese early stages, there’s plenty of con­tent made by other Planet Coaster play­ers that you can port di­rectly into your own park, ei­ther keep­ing it ex­actly as is or switch­ing out parts to add in a lit­tle of your own flavour.

This is the Lit­tleBigPlanet of theme park build­ing. Cre­ation is very much at the core of the ex­pe­ri­ence, and that’s what makes it so com­pelling.

For­mat PC Pub­lisher Fron­tier De­vel­op­ments De­vel­oper Fron­tier De­vel­op­ments ETA Out now Play­ers 1 Cre­at­ing great theme parks takes time and ef­fort, but when the end re­sults look as good as this, it’s ad­dic­tive.

Be­hind the lay­ers of de­light­fully pretty graph­ics is a deep, ex­ten­sive cre­ation sys­tem wait­ing to be mas­tered. Be­sides hav­ing fun on the rides, don’t for­get park vis­i­tors have other needs, such as eat­ing, drink­ing and go­ing to the toi­let. Un­like the path­way tools, cre­at­ing ex­cit­ing coast­ers is, thank­fully, an in­cred­i­bly in­tu­itive process. It’s as easy to spend as much time metic­u­lously build­ing scenery as it is con­struct­ing the coast­ers them­selves. Go mild or wild with loops for your coaster cre­ations. A mix of both en­sures some­thing for ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of stom­ach in­tegrity. It’s a shame you don’t have more in­ter­ac­tion with the NPCs. They’re bril­liant. Look at their lit­tle joy-filled faces!

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