Back in the days I sunk countless hours into the theme park simulator, and even more at various actual parks in Australia’s Queensland. Needless to say, I have an obsession, and Frontier’s newest scratches that itch. Planet Coaster is everything good about the Roller Coaster Tycoon franchise, improved upon tenfold.
Visuals are absolutely stunning in any view — high above the park, zoomed right into the crowds or on a coaster in first-person. If VR support is included down the track, I’m not sure I’d ever stop playing.. It would provide an awesome ride simulator with which to scare your mates. Already, I’ve seen some movements that could easily induce vertigo. Planet Coaster is rocking a cartoony, almost Sims-esque look, which is only reinforced when you watch people throwing the rubbish on the ground (instead of the bins so thoughtfully provided). It’s an incredible thing to feel infuriated and amazed at the same time.
The amount of rides, coasters, sideshows and vendors is lovely. Having the ability to make your own coasters really makes opens things up for endless possibilities. Double corks? Triple loops? Sure — and hell, why not forty? As long as you can afford it, you can build it. Creativity feeds into a risk-reward system; if your creation is too scary or extreme, people may not go on it. Finding a nice balance between various attractions is even more important. Too many similar rides will bring your park’s overall happiness down, and patronage will drop.
You need to manage staff just as you do rides. Cleaners, mechanics and performers all need to be nurtured around your park as they go about their daily tasks at will. You’ll also need to juggle vendors in each non-ride building you have. All of these employees will do their jobs, but if it becomes all becomes too much for them they will complain. And they complain a lot, about the wages you pay them, or the rosters they’re placed upon.
Planet Coaster is split into three main modes. Sandbox gives you unlimited cash and a blank canvas to design your perfect park. It’s here I spent the most time, running wild and building everything I wanted. Challenge mode also offers up a blank canvas, but here you have to manage your money and complete specific challenges like building a coaster to a specific height, or another with two air time segments.
Finally, its campaign is the most traditional. Here, you have to monitor your park’s score alongside your monthly income and patronage. Each goal is broken into difficulty rankings: bronze, silver or gold. To earn a higher ranking, you need to perform better, and doing so unlocks further campaign levels to try out. It’s a crazy balancing act, maintaining a budget, dealing with staff researching new rides, and other day-to-day tasks. Gold stars are named so for a reason; they’re darn tough to achieve in some circumstances.
Frontier has done a wonderful job of maintaining the excitement, visual appeal and overall happiness of both a theme park and a theme park builder. If you’re at all interested in the genre, then Planet Coaster is a game you should be picking up today.