Theme park simulator games have flown off the radar in recent years and their comeback in form of Planet Coaster game is a home run. Developed by Frontier Developments, the devs behind previous few Roller Coaster Tycoon games with the last one being Roller Coaster 3 in 2004. More than 10 years later Frontier delivers the best parts of previous titles and builds upon them while utilizing the full power of current tech and game development to wrap it all up in a neat package that will keep you occupied for hours on end. Let's dive into the specifics.
When starting the game you are presented with 3 options: career, sandbox and challenge mode. Career mode mostly comes with prebuilt parks and presents you with certain tasks of varying difficulty that you need to accomplish. Sandbox is where you build your park without the stress of money management and can pretty much build anything you can imagine with no limits. Challenge mode is the classic mode, most similar to first Roller Coaster Tycoon basic game mode. Here you build your park from the ground up using a minimal amount of money which you can loan and have to pay back. Basically, your goal is to build a self-sufficient park and manage all kinds of economic and other variables.
When selecting your mode and starting a game, at first the interface and the number of options can feel overwhelming but in all honesty – it's simple to use and very intuitive. Using the mouse and keyboard shortcuts you can fine tune the position of your rides, stalls, paths as well as choose further customization options like the color scheme and more. You can design your park to the most minute detail and this is most evident when custom building a roller coaster.
There is plenty of options here, from choosing the materials and the technology used in the construction, to seeing and determining the angle and speed of different parts of the coaster. The UI helps even here, with the options to display the excitement, nausea and fear the passengers experience on your ride. This system is sometimes finicky in the sense that even though your ride can feature a huge excitement factor, it still won't be very popular due to its size or another unforeseen factor. It mostly works great and forces you to think just a bit more strategically when constructing the ride of your dreams.
I mostly played in sandbox and challenge modes, with an occasional inspiration visit to the pre built career parks. In-game, outside of loans, money acquisition from rides and stalls is also highly customizable and even the ATM fee can be tweaked if you so desire. On the expenses side of things, rides have a maintenance and refurbishment costs and then there are the staff wages for janitors, mechanics, mascots and other. Although challenge mode is where you have to make due with limited resources, most of your problems can be resolved with loans and once you build a respectable park the money will easily keep flowing, making the economic side of things feel a bit one dimensional and not very challenging.
The last but not least is the Steam workshop integration and this is by far one of the best things about the game. Consider how the unmodded game is highly customizable and limited only by your imagination and add around 300 thousand mods (at the time of this review) on top and you get the picture. You could spend the whole day just exploring the insane parks that other people created using these mods as the workshop offers everything from buildings, blueprints, scenery and anything else you could think of adding to the value of the game immensely.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Planet Coaster goes for the semi-realistic visual style whereas the buildings and the scenery look more like their real world counterparts while characters look very cartoony and like caricatures of real people. The combination fits very well with the general theme of the game. It's nothing spectacular but it's pleasing to the eye.
There is also plenty of graphical options to tweak as the game can be a bit demanding, especially when your park grows a bit bigger, attracting plenty of people who swarm every pathway like ants. While testing, I encountered plenty of FPS drops when zooming to extremely busy scenes of a multilayered park full of people.
This is mostly due to the freedom you have with the camera as you can descend to street level, go on rides and see that there are so many individual elements to everything you build. Zooming in, you can see that everything remains extremely detailed which sometimes kills the framerate, especially with some of the parks from the workshop. With that being said, even if you have an older PC, there is plenty of options to dial down and still enjoy the game.
On the audio side of things, the park sounds are all on point, sometimes even nostalgia inducing with the sounds similar to the Roller Coaster Tycoon times of old. The soundtrack features a mix of happy and calm tunes some of which I really liked which was a bit surprising as most games of this type tend to neglect the sound in favor of the other aspects of the game.
Planet Coaster is an amazing theme park management simulator. The creative possibilities and seamless workshop integration make this game a Minecraft of its genre. Your imagination is the only limit in creating a theme park. If you find yourself lacking inspiration, the excellent community and their creations will surely get your back on track with plenty of ideas and inspirations. I loved my time with the game, and the little problems there were faded completely into the background to make way for the fun of creation. If you are a fan of the previous Roller Coaster games and these type of building/management sim ones, Planet Coaster is a definite no brainer.
|+ Fun gameplay||– Lack of challenge|
|+ Freedom of creation and the amount of tools||– Simplistic management options|
|+ Steam workshop integration||– Occasional technical issues|
|+ Nice visuals|