In the midst of the Steam January sale, I spotted a gem that I’d been keeping my eye on, waiting for the day it hit the sale rack. Planet Coaster is an exciting, roller coaster/theme park simulation game. I had been dithering over whether to buy it or not, I absolutely loved Theme Park back in the day, so this was exciting to say the least.
|Windows Release||November 2016|
|Genre||Resource Management, Construction Management|
|Price on Steam||£29.99 (Steam link)|
From the main menu there is access to a playlist of Youtube videos created by Planet Coaster themselves of the fundamentals of the games. Had I properly looked at the game before clicking on Career and starting, I would’ve been able to watch them and get a little more to grips with the park management.
The game has 3 modes for you to play – you can do the Campaigns, where you have a partially pre-built park with a ‘theme’. You can go to the Sandbox mode, which is exactly as you’d think – a large open area where you have unlimited money to go crazy and make the park of your dreams. The only prerequisite for this mode is that you choose the landscape; desert, jungle, arctic etc. Or finally there is the third game mode; Challenge. Within this game mode you are restricted from the start with what you can and cannot build, whilst having to earn your way into better parks and more exciting rides and features for your customers.
I started with the Career and went into the first available campaign ‘Captain Lockjaw’s Buried Treasures (Beginner)’. Each campaign scenario has 3 different situations and then within that you have 3 lots of objectives, conveniently rated as Bronze, Silver and Gold. Once you have completed all of the goals of a scenario, you can leave the campaign or save it to play again and keep building upon in the future. I personally really like that you can keep building upon the parks once you have completed them, as the overall designs of each scenario are usually a lot more invested and intricate than I would ever be able to make.
After you’ve earned the medals you start to level up, with the levels come more scenarios and with more scenarios, comes harder difficulties. I’m unsure what else the levels contribute towards other than restricting you from accessing the really difficult campaigns without working towards them.
The sandbox, is as you would expect, a massive empty open world, for you to play to your heart’s content and make the masterpieces you want!
Within the sandbox, you can save and share your creations with the whole of Steam through their Workshop feature. I found loads of awesome things which you can ‘Subscribe’ too, which are then available to use within any of your parks via the ‘My Blueprints’ section (but it took me a little while to realise this, whilst wondering why they weren’t working in the campaigns! That’s because it can only be used within the Sandbox mode.). One of the massive things you can also review which had been made by other people is a whole park, as opposed to rides/coasters/scenery. The one I found was from a guy called Zakman, who made a total Alpine Park, and it’s beautiful. Below is a picture from his park, this is just one of the many that I found available through the workshop.
The final mode available within the game is Challenge mode, I’ve not played this mode but from what it looks like is, it’s a restricted game mode that opens more available roller coasters, rides, scenery and services, based on the money earned and the goals that have been met. I’d imagine it’s for the more experienced players of the game/genre.
One small feature that is available within each game mode, is the notifications bar, it’s exactly like what you’d see popping up on a mobile phone. It’s a brief summary of something that has happened; and one thing you’ll continue to see is that someone has been pickpocketed and they’re not very happy. It doesn’t matter how many security staff or cameras (wall mounted or on a giant lamppost), you’ll never catch them all and you’ll hate the permanent notifications.
The ambient music within the game is really relaxing and calm as you’d like to experience when playing. One thing I noticed with the music is when you’re hovering near a ride or coaster, ambient background music is replaced with the noises from the ride, like a typical theme park would have such as the screams of the people on the rides, and the laughter and chatter of the customers walking around the park. I think it’s a really nice feature but when you’re zoomed in focusing on planting scenery so it looks fabulous, the sudden change of noise is sometimes a bit irritating, it did lead me to having to turn down the background music as I found it a bit overbearing.
Another really cool feature with the audio, is that you can upload music files to be played to people using the rides whilst the ride is ongoing, this is done through the customisation panels of each ride.
When purchasing scenery within the game, there is so many different varieties of item. You can get around 5 different signs, all advertising the same thing within the game, just they all look different. When you place the item, each piece of scenery or item has a different sound. I purchased a sign advertising my Cosmic Cow Milkshake shop and when I put it down, I got a space-esque sounding ‘Moo’. It’s tiny details like this that just makes the game even more awesome.
The game is visually very pretty, the rendering is great, there are no harsh edges and no issues with lag or FPS drops whilst creating your natural wonders. Only when loading up a full park from within the workshop or importing a fully made roller coaster or scenery from the workshop does the game stutter until each individual particle has been loaded in. The camera control available within the game is very user friendly as well, I’ve been able to zoom in to each individual person within my park and look at the expressions on their face, whilst also then being able to go underwater and have a look at the fish that are within my Pirate-ridden lake. I have no qualms or issues with any of the graphics within the game.
From my minimal previous experience of simulation games but my love of micromanagement games, I give this game a solid 8/10. It’s very pretty, easy to understand (providing you have played the game before, or watch the youtube playlist) and the controls are very simple, with handy pop-up hints, which can be disabled if you want to.
It’s a game with lots of variety, you can make everything from scratch, you can borrow designs from online, or a bit of both. You can go for a complex design or a very simple design and then just watch the money roll in, or out as I have found on numerous occasions (and I can never work out what the heck I did wrong!). Ultimately, the world is your oyster to make and create as you wish. It’s a massive tool box, filled with lots of neat and fun little tools that together can make a very enjoyable experience.