Planet Coaster is to Rollercoaster Tycoon World what Cities: Skylines was to SimCity. It’s a much better sequel to an old franchise than the official installment is, and it’s the game to buy if you’re looking for a modern take on the theme park tycoon series. Right from the outset, it was clear to me that Rollercoaster Tycoon Worlds simply doesn’t hold a candle to Planet Coaster.
First off, this looks like the obvious evolution of Roller Coaster Tycoon graphics. Fun, cartoony, cute, and positively full of personality. Everything is a real treat to watch. I’ve spent what probably amounts to hours just pausing to watch people walk into my park, pass custom-made scenery, get into a queue, and have a ride on one of my coasters. The shadows, colours, and even individual guest’s expressions are so entertaining to watch.
The detail Frontier has put into the game really shows how much they care. The ability to ‘ride’ your own coasters by watching from a rider’s perspective returns, and with the great new visuals, it remains a nice distraction. Their attention to detail really hit me on my first ride. I was waiting for the ride to start, looking around at the track I’d just finished building. In the seat beside me was a little boy, probably ‘my’ son. He kept looking up to me with excitement, his mouth moving as if he were speaking. As the ride began and we rose higher and higher, he smiled away, looking around, seeming to fidget a little. Our cart reached the crest, we went up and over a hill, and began a speedy descent along the track, hitting loops and inverts and all the craziness I’d designed. Now the boy had a scared look on his face and an open mouth that I took as an indication of his screams. Once we slowed and reached the station, he calmed down and went back to looking up to me and talking. I loved it.
The sound is almost as satisfying as the visuals. The main theme is extremely catchy, and the wide variety of music available for rides can be bolstered by your own imported tracks. Having my favourite songs play for guests as they queue for my rides is a really fun little thing to see.
Now on to gameplay. Good news: if you love the old RCT games and are looking for the next generation of those games, this is it. Frontier haven’t tried to do anything different here, and it’s a good thing. This is basically RCT4, and it’s exactly what I wanted. Plopping down rides, shops, paths, and the scenery is easy to do, as well as creating custom designs using all the pieces available. I’m no master designer, but I was able to easily make nice little burger stands and ride queues all on my own. The in-depth creation places almost no limits on creativity, and with Steam Workshop support, you can benefit from other people’s creativity with ease! I must say, though, I’m a bit disappointed with how few pre-made constructions Frontier has included, and I think the game would have really benefited from more shops and coasters that can be easily placed into parks without too much thought.
Career mode is a little bare, with much less to offer than the hours and hours of play the career mode of RCT3 provided. There are a few themed parks to take from slum to success, each scenario having three levels of objectives. All the scenarios can be blasted through in just a few hours. Fortunately, career mode is like the carousel at an amusement park. It’s nice for an easygoing ride, but it’s not why you’re there. No, you’re there for the huge roller coasters that put the ‘thrill’ in thrill ride. That’s what Challenge Mode is here for.
Challenge mode is the real Planet Coaster experience. You start with an empty lot of land and build on it and mold it until it’s a huge, successful, and profitable theme park. Staff, marketing, ticket prices, and all sorts of other things have to be taken into account to ensure the park makes people happy and makes you money.
Sandbox mode offers the opportunity to build the park of your dreams without worrying about budgets and research and all the other stresses of management. It’s is a great way to familiarize yourself with customization and building, and maybe it’s the mode for you if you don’t want to deal with any worries like budgets and happiness.
My big problem with the game is a lack of content. The gameplay here is awesome, but Planet Coaster could have used a few more months of development before release to make more rides and stall designs. RCT3 had so many more designs, coaster types, rides, and scenarios. Thankfully, the devs are promising heavy DLC support post-release before pursuing paid content, and if they make good on that then this will almost definitely be the best theme park game out there.
Planet Coaster (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Planet Coaster isn’t innovative. It doesn't change up the gameplay from Roller Coaster Tycoon, and it definitely doesn’t shy away from sticking close to its roots. What it is, is a modern take on the theme park management genre, and a spectacular one at that. Planet Coaster feels like RCT, even if it isn’t. Frontier has delivered an incredible followup to their past games. Unfortunately, it’s a little light on content at the moment. Despite this, I’m confident in saying that Planet Coaster has a great core game, and even though it doesn’t have as much in it as it should, it’s the best theme park game out there.