You gotta love a theme park, right? From Alton to Chessington us lot here in the UK are a little spoiled when it comes to worlds of adventure and super fast wild concoctions of steel that we willingly sit on in order to feel something for once in our bloody lives. Wait, what? Anyway,
If you were like me in any way as a kid you’d go to these theme parks and want to design your own roller coasters. I remember coming off The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and was hoping it would be higher, faster. Well, the wonders of Theme Park, Rollercoaster Tycoon and Planet Coaster, video games have given me an enormous array of options to build my dream coasters, even if they end up being human death traps that no company would actually build in real life, the absolute cowards.
Still, it’s been a while since this fantasy had been fulfilled, so my heart was wide open for Bandai Namco’s Park Beyond, which looked like a whole new way to enjoy building my dream theme park in a sandbox with unlimited funds. It’s a terrific way to step foot in the shoes of coaster designers across the world to see if you can do better. Unfortunately being burdened with also placing garbage bins and toilets all around your amazing theme park certainly takes some of the fun out of being a designer of one the very few ways a human feels like they can fly. That’s all I want to do, just design some madness and let it fly. Running an entire theme park is no fun at all.
Ergo, it’s all part of the package in these games and Park Beyond is no exception. You’ll start a campaign by designing a roller coaster from your bedroom to the local theme park across the town you live in by following a paper plane you throw out of the window, and you’re tasked with making sure it all connects and works as it should before the full campaign launches. It’s here where you’ll find yourself in R&D meetings and enjoying the wonders of PowerPoint presentations and learning how much you have to keep on top of in order to keep your park alive. It’s here you’ll make particular choices in order to work out the best way to run your park and achieve your objectives. Should you fail in any way you’re back in the management meetings and you’ll be choosing new ways to do things all over again. Can I please make a roller coaster now?
Your first park is, naturally, a bit rubbish but it gives you a solid indication of how to keep a park running and work through your finances responsibly. The rides may not eventually be the best ones, but being able to customise them all so there’s a theme running throughout is a genuine highlight. I loved having my rides match with the colours of the entrance, making everything look rather neat from far away.
If you’re familiar with management games of this ilk, you won’t just be worrying about painting your rides though. You’ll have to place benches, cafes, toilets, railing, ropes for people to stand behind, restaurants, staff rooms, hiring employees and doing this without running out of cash and ensuring the park looks as clean as possible and runs smoothly enough to get them all important visitor reviews. You can choose whether you’re aiming your park at adults, families or teenagers. To make it easier on yourself you can simply tick all three, though if you pick adults and start adding rides clearly based for children your park isn’t going to make much money and lose that repeat business. It’s all about that money money, after all. And I still haven’t designed a single roller coaster.
Oh yeah, it’s all about those spreadsheets. ‘Base income’ staying in the black is practically paramount, otherwise you’ll have bankruptcy knocking on your door and well, when you just want to design roller coasters that can suck the fun out of it somewhat. Look, I know this is a personal issue and I’m very aware this is a management sim where you run a theme park, not a game where you design roller coasters the entire time but come on, you just want to do the fun stuff and I was kinda hoping I could employ some staffers to focus on that stuff for me? Still. You do have to keep an eye on the Park Level, which is split between Park Appeal, Fun Rating and Cleanliness. Fun Rating is all about the rides so ensure you’re building super dope experiences for your guests to enjoy along with hiring entertainers to stand on corners and keep the guests amused whilst they wait in the long queues for the rides. Cleanliness kinda explains itself. Hire a bunch of cleaners and have plenty of bins around to ensure the general public isn’t dropping crap all over your floor. The dirty scum that they are, poisoning my perfect theme park.
Once your Park Level rises you can unlock cooler attractions which naturally reach more peeps to come check out what you have on offer. Of course, this comes with the balancing act of more expensive rides coming in with balancing your books and ensuring the awesome new Ferris Wheel doesn’t bankrupt your entire park. It can get very tricky to keep the money afloat whilst adding new attractions, though if you keep the same attractions without upgrading for too long the crowds will stop coming to your park. It can get mightily frustrating, but having all of your plates spinning at once is a satisfying feeling, you’ll just have to take a deep breath and count to ten in order to put up with the nonsense.
So there are plenty of badass attractions you can offer your adoring public already built into the game but I’m here for one thing and one thing only, and that’s to build some restaurants.
The roller coaster creation tool is superb. Yes, I’ve spent most of my time playing this game in the mode, and being able to go absolutely banana cuckoo with your creations (why yes, let’s take the carriage off the track for several seconds in the hope that they’ll land on the other side and rejoice! Sometimes they did. Sometimes. You can create the kind of rides Alton Towers wish they had the balls to actually create. Park Beyond wants you to go even crazier though with Impossification, the crown jewel of Park Beyond.
You want to achieve Impossification? You can’t just unlock it, fools. You’ll first need to earn Amazement which comes packed with the rides that are a little more hardcore. If you fill up your Amazement bar you can achieve Impossification which increases the productivity and whatnot of staff around the park, and to Impossify shops it’ll take two charges, that boosts the fun rating of the guests. Huzzah! If you’re bold enough to save up to five Impossify charges then you can add them to your rides and turn them into incredible feats of masterworks such as sending your Rocket Ship guests literally into space or having them fight actual full-size mechs in Robot Wars. It’s an incredibly fun addition to the game that genuinely needed something to make it stand out from the likes of Planet Coaster and this really takes the experience to another level.
So Park Beyond is pretty damn delightful, but aside from the brilliant Impossification mechanic offers little else that other theme park sims don’t. You’ll still be tearing your hair out wondering where all your money is going and becoming increasingly frustrated with the finance mechanics that seem wholly stacked against you, but hey, if you just wanna design some badass coasters and shoot your guests into the stratosphere, accept to substitute.
Whaddya mean I need more bins in my theme park? Don’t you realise that this entire park is bloody bins? There are more bins than attractions. There are more bins than people. That’s it. Shut it down. Stupid bin quota.
Whilst offering up very little from its clear influences, Park Beyond is a fun and visually thrilling theme park sim that offers a central mechanic which gives it quite the edge in the genre. It’s still hair-tearingly frustrating in places but has enough creativeness and inventiveness about it to hold the attention of long-term theme park simulator fans.
Park Beyond is out now on PC (review platform), PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S|X.
Developer: Limbic Entertainment
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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