Can a rollercoaster be too scary?
One theme park nerd’s frustrations with PLANET COASTER’S virtual guests
Theme parks are my happy place. I’ve never found a rollercoaster I didn’t immediately want to rejoin the queue for afterwards. To be honest, my not-so-secret life’s dream is to buy up the UK’s Alton Towers, live in its house, and run it solely for my own pleasure, no public allowed. Sadly, that wealthy long-lost aunt who’ll remember me fondly in her will remains long-lost.
This is why I love Planet Coaster’s eye for detail. Go on a ride, and the restraints will click down over your virtual head. You’ll see the rivets on the lift hill. And you can tinker with everything. The flipside is that its tiny virtual guests are an utter nightmare to please—always complaining about something, from the lack of bathrooms to, if you can credit it, rides being too scary. Oh, please.
I fall foul of this absurd pickiness when I break away from the templated rollercoasters and decide to recreate Thorpe Park’s Colossus. It’s aged now, but I have a soft spot for its layout. Lift hill, first drop, vertical loop, airtime hill, cobra roll, double corkscrew, four heartline rolls, then a final, cheeky little heartline roll as you return to the station. It was the world’s first ten-looping coaster back in 2002, fact fans.
Once completed, I name it Colossus 2 and ride it myself, several times in a row. In my humble opinion, it’s brilliant. I can’t get enough of those heartline rolls. Then I look at the results of my preopening test. Colossus 2 is, apparently, scoring a whopping 20.00 on the fear scale,
“The truth?” I mutt er at my screen. “You can’t handle the truth”
and a dizzying 14.54 on the nausea axis. I look at the heatmap to check which bits instil fear, and the whole damn track lights up scarlet. Even the brake run. A pop-up appears, telling me that guests will find it too scary to ride. “The truth?” I mutter at my screen. “You can’t handle the truth.” The truth might be that this travels at a faster clip than its IRL counterpart, but I never claimed to have a degree in mechanical engineering.
I open Colossus 2 regardless. Nobody rides it, not one lone thrillseeker. I’m dismayed, given that theme parks are always trying to one-up each other. The current world record for most inversions is 14; 456ft is the highest; 149mph is the speed record. Those rides attract queues lasting hours. So how is my humble coaster too much for attendees? The only way to entice riders, I find, is to decrease the height of the lift hill so that the speed drops to sluggish levels. At that point, they love it. Is this what legendary coaster designer John Wardley had to put up with?
I’m sick of having to appease these tiny tyrants, messing up my painstakingly designed park with their vomit, sapping my morale with their demands for more, and rejections of that ‘more’ when it’s offered to them. There’s only one thing for it: I close the gates to my park and treat myself to three rides on everything. Great auntie Gladys, I’ve got my eye on your fortune.
Rolls even sweeter than the cinnamon kind.
They’ll happily entrust themselves to this, but not to my coaster. Huh.
Turns out the scariest part is… all of it, apparently?