When I first heard about planet coaster, I was both excited and apprehensive. It has been a very long time since the days of Rollercoaster Tycoon (Chris Sawyer Productions) and even longer since the good old days of Theme park (Bullfrog Productions) – Would this be another let down?! Those previously mentioned games were, at their time, awesome. However, these days we expect so much more from our games – better dynamics, more interesting story lines and (vastly) better graphics. So I am sure you can see my apprehension. It wouldn’t be enough to be as good as those other games – it had to be better.
I was lucky enough to receive access to the Alpha of this game. I tentatively waited at the edge of my seat as it downloaded. Once the game was loaded, I noted that (at this time) there are two modes available – sandbox and challenge. I understand that there will be other modes, such as “campaign” mode accessible by launch, not to mention other maps to manipulate. I chose Sandbox to get a taste of the game and to start working out the buttons (who needs a tutorial anyway!).
I was impressed. There are a number of rides and attractions to put into your park, right from the teacups ride to The Sun Scorcher. As for the rollercoasters, there were a few made up ready to go and then there is the option of building your own. It is a bit finicky to get going, but oh the sense of achievement when the coaster goes all the way around the track without it coming flying off and murdering a whole bunch of people! (Yes, that actually happens). There are also all sorts of fun extras and props you can add to your rollercoaster too – I favored the big wave of water shooting up just as the carriage was going by (probably soaking all aboard). From the research I have done around this game, I am lead to believe that at a later time there will be the option available to submit your rollercoasters online (on the steam workshop) for other people to not just look at, but be able to download for themselves (and adapt them as they see fit).
There are, as always, some bits that are less fantastic about this game. Some of the controls are hard to fathom (although, bear in mind that the tutorial will be up and running by the time the game is actually launched), although you can highlight and pick up entire sections of your park and move them elsewhere in one go, which really beats the old delete and rebuild from previous simulators. Placing objects in the right place is tricky – there are currently no snap points, so it can take ages to line something up right. This is especially annoying for perfectionists – the path ways often end up wonky!
In the grand scheme of things, this is only a small issue compared to all the really positive attributes of this game. I love how you can design specific areas, such as a fantasy area for the younger families, with props such as castle towers, thatched cottages, sleeping or guarding dragons and knights that march up and down. One of the premade rollercoasters actually have the coaster going through a prop castle – it looks fantastic. You can also change the color and styles of the generic buildings, such as shops, bathrooms and food establishments.
Now down to the important bit – the rollercoaster building system. You start by picking the kind of coaster you like the look of; although most things are interchangeable. Once you have picked this, the fun begins. The tools used to create a coaster are fairly easy to use once you get into it. There are helpful options to insert your own loop-the-loops and tons of different styles of terrifying combinations to choose from. There is also an option to make a steep drop, where you can select the amount of time that your passengers are just hanging staring down into the abys. There are options to change the colors of the tracks to suit your theme and don’t forget to add those props to make it look awesome!! By far my favourite feature of the rollercoaster building section is the option to “auto finish” your rollercoaster – which means that when you have finished with the fun bits and don’t fancy messing around trying to get the last few bits to meet up at the end, this helpful button will do it for you. Once your rollercoaster is finished you have to test it before anyone in your park will ride it – this will also calculate the levels of fear, nausea and thrill. Some park members are total thrill seekers, others are not and will not go on rides that rank too high in the fear meter. There is a great option to go into “coaster mode” and watch your creation in action.
Managing the park in challenge mode takes some thoughtfulness. You start with a certain budget and then have to increase it as you go along. Your staff (the ones that work in the shops or the maintenance guys you employ) also require attention. Their happiness levels will decrease if you neglect to give them training every so often. Nothing that can’t be fixed with an increase to their pay cheques though! Planet Coaster requires you to look at how much your park is earning, who you are catering for and how much money they are likely to spend (considerably more than they planned if you put down some ATM’s!!). You will need to carefully budget everything to ensure you can get the most out of your playing experience by increasing the admission prices of the rides, food and gift stores – without making them so expensive that no one will want to pay.
Overall, I would argue that this is a rollercoaster and park management simulator game worthy of purchase. I have had great fun playing the Alpha and will certainly be buying the full addition once it is available to buy at a later date! Currently on their official website () if you pre order your copy now, you will be able to take part in the beta access in November.