It’s 1999 & I go down to the local Blockbuster with my family. My parents would pick a film to rent that we would watch over the weekend & occasionally they would let me rent a game for a week. One of those games was Theme Park World on the Playstation 1, and would ignite my love for simulation & management games, a love I still maintain to this day. Planet Coaster was released on Xbox One & PS4 during the shit show of a year that was 2020, and saved me and most likely many others by adding a little variety to my monotonous days whilst being on furlough. It sent me back to that time I first played Theme Park World on my Playstation 1, and filled me with a kind of joy I had forgotten existed. Planet Coaster Console Edition contains everything you would expect from a theme park simulator, with tonnes & tonnes of more content than anything I’ve ever played before. Think of it as ordering beans on toast in a Michelin Star restaurant; it’s beans on toast, but the quality & detail is just next level and you will not get anything better.
Where do I start?
The game consists of 3 different modes, each with their own unique quirks to keep players interested for hours on end. Career mode sees you enlisted as the next up and coming theme park developer, with each park you progress to becoming increasingly more challenging and in depth. Each park gives you a scenario, and you must turn the park around to impress guests, keep your staff happy, and most importantly, to make some hard earned cash. Each scenario has a variety of challenges to complete, and there is a 3 star reward system in place for each one, adding some extra satisfaction for when you 3 star every scenario in the game and can finally go outside of the house. The career mode although very challenging at times, acts as a large scale tutorial for the majority of the time you spend playing it, and believe me you will need to play through the career mode to get the best understanding of the games mechanics. Although simple at its core, the games complexity comes through its customisation options, and here’s a few examples of what you can do.
These two images are of the exact same ride, but customised differently to fit the theme of the park. I spent hours on each of these (mainly because these are some of the first few scenarios in Career mode you get, and I was still learning), but you can clearly see how impressive the customisation options are. Each object is placed down using what is called the ‘Create’ tab. This is comprised of each individual object that can be placed in the game, from barrels, lighting, foliage & even just plain shapes which you can use to stack together to create buildings or anything your imagination can muster up. There is also the ‘Scenery’ tab, which is an enormous bunch of ready made scenery pieces to place down in your park, created by the games developers to save creators some ever so precious time. This is one of the few games I will say that the possibilities are genuinely as endless as your little brain nodes will allow you to go.
Another mode in the game is the challenge mode, which players of Theme Park World will get a swift nostalgia high from. Challenge mode essentially allows you to start a brand new park in an environment of your choice, with a few key limiting and varying factors depending on the difficulty setting. For example, starting a brand spanking new theme park on easy mode would mean you start with a generous amount of starting cash, a decent number of already researched rides, your ride breakdown rate is slower than usual, & your guests seem to be popping serotonin pills as they experience your park. You can probably guess though, increasing the difficulty basically means starting your new theme park will be difficult, and maintaining it in the long run will require better management from yourself. This is the perfect way to test out everything you have learned in Career mode, and you should jump into this after every few Career scenarios to avoid burnout from being limited on what you can & can’t do in the Career mode itself. The third gameplay mode in Planet Coaster Console Edition is the Sandbox mode. This is a traditional sandbox where everything is free – you don’t need to worry about the usual park management details. You can piss off your customers, you can pay your staff absolutely nothing if you want to, as long as your park is beautiful, that’s all that matters here. I have spent 50% of my 50 hours playtime in this mode, as customising & creating scenes brings out the artistic genius in me, well at least that’s what I tell myself.
What if I don’t have endless hours to create?
One feature I absolutely adore about Planet Coaster Console Edition is the Frontier Workshop. This is where you can upload any of your creations and share with the rest of the community. Whether it be a shop design, a ride design, scenery item or coaster, there are thousands and thousands of creations from other users to browse, download & add to your own parks. Don’t have a lot of free time to spend designing an awesome coaster? No problem. The workshop is simple to navigate & find exactly what you’re looking for.
Planet Coaster Console Edition includes everything you need to create the theme park of your dreams. The theme sets currently in the game are Pirate, Fairytale, Wild West, Sci-Fi, City & Festive. There is also a Planet Coaster themed set, which is comprised of modern looking items based on Planet Coaster branding. 2 DLCs have been made available for the console edition so far, which are the Spooky Theme & also the Adventure theme, the latter takes inspiration from The Goonies & Indiana Jones.
The soundtrack to this game was composed by Jim Guthrie & J.J. Ipsen, and it is an absolutely beautiful combination of acoustic guitar melodies & harmonic swirling vocals. Both composers have really captured the feel of wonder & creativity which undeniably goes hand in hand with the games tone. The whole album is on regular rotation on my Spotify, it’s just kickback and relax listening. Planet Coaster Console Edition has one of the most pleasant graphical styles I have seen in a recent console game. The colours positively burst out of your TV screen that are only enhanced by its simple yet detailed cartoony aesthetic. You can view your parks from 300ft in the air like a gracious eagle flying overhead, or set your boots on the ground and explore your park as a customer, just try not to critique it as much as them!
Theme park sims are not everyones cup of tea, and I can kind of understand why. Especially when it comes to such a broad & deep game like Planet Coaster Console Edition. Players need to have a rather vivid imagination to help them really get the most out of this game, but then there’s also the doubt from people new to games like this of “what’s the point?”. The controls whilst intuitive as they can be on console will take a little getting used to (mouse & keyboard is available however) but did not in any way cause any disruption or annoyance to me when navigating menus or creating. Every little detail in this game combines to create the best theme park sim game I have ever played; I genuinely have no recommendations on how to improve the game albeit a few minor details like the Oswald-Eugene Counter. This is exclusive to the console edition, & basically limits how many items & rides you can place on any map to keep the game running as best as it can, but so far I haven’t had any issues with this reaching its limit. Planet Coaster Console Edition is a return to form for park sims & management games; if you have been disheartened by other releases in this genre in the past decade or so (Rollercoaster Tycoon I’m looking at you; like directly staring into your soul looking at you) and want to get back into it, now is the time to do so, I couldn’t recommend this game enough.