Rollercoaster designer. Financial manager. Spatial coordinator. Employment creator. Entertainment entrepreneur. Architectural engineer. Sculptor of mountains. Forerunner of rivers. With a list of job titles like these and more, you could write a CV that would blow the socks off any potential employer. Planet Coaster will have you coasting the highs and lows of what it takes to run a successful theme park. You will be responsible for everything from the placement of rides, the theming of your park, the price of hotdogs, staff wages, security, firework displays etc. all the way down to specific little details like how likely someone is to win a prize on the claw machines.
"Laughter is Timeless. Imagination Has No Age. And Dreams Are Forever"
Walt Disney - World’s Most debatably frozen man.
When you strap yourself into Planet Coaster, the first thing you will want to do is head into career mode. Unless you are a killjoy diving straight into sandbox, or a masochistic deviant who wants to go straight into the challenge mode.
Career mode is excellently presented to you and carries you through a progression of scenarios in the form of different parks. They steadily increase in difficulty and each one presents you with a slightly different set of circumstances to overcome. You unlock more scenarios quickly if you stick with each park until you smash through each of the objectives. But I would recommend playing them in order so that you do not accidentally cruise off the tracks.
From Oswald’s Park Practice Tutorial to Princess Amelie’s Fairy Tale, to King Coaster’s Royal Decree and everything in between, there are a whole host of themes and scenarios to roll into.
I found the progression to be much like the upward drag of an actual roller coaster: pleasantly being pulled along on a gentle trip until you reach the pinnacle. The pinnacle of which is Gulpee’s Island Paradise, being one set of exceptionally long challenges to tick off to completion instead of 9 bite-sized challenges, driving you straight into Chief Beef’s Meaty Challenge. This meaty monstrosity is that moment the coaster dips and you realise what is to come. Emptying your lungs in a cacophony of screaming as you barrel your way down into each of the nauseating twists and turns, wishing and praying you had got on the teacups instead.
"Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun"
Albert Einstein – The man, the myth, the legend.
Sandbox mode is the place you go to when you have had enough of the scenarios and challenges. Where you do not have to worry about such trivial things like money. The sandbox helps dry your tears after the meaty challenge has completely and utterly destroyed your love of Planet Coaster’s coaster building and reduced you to a puddle of sadness.
But it is also where you can devise your return. For me, the meaty challenge completely killed me off when it required you to build a coaster with 10 inversions, 1500 meters in length, that did NOT make people nauseous and was fun for people to ride. I spent HOURS building endless amounts of steel tracks, loops, twists and turns, always resulting in a ride that was too scary for people.
Utilising sandbox mode, I was able to freely build and test to my heart's content, to craft the perfect coaster to meet the specifications, like some sort of hell-bent, manically cackling, mad G-force wizard. When you build anything, be it a coaster, scenery, building structure etc, you can save it as a blueprint to use elsewhere. So, this is how I tenderised Chief Beef’s stupid challenge into an edible patty of succulent victory.
Oh, you can also build a whole park here freely if you want. I suppose. If you are a yellow-bellied coward!
"Just Because Something Isn't Practical Doesn't Mean It's Not Worth Creating"
Stephanie Perkins – The woman neither you nor I have ever heard of.
So let us drop into the real reason you are here. The thing you all want to know about the most! And that is of course, how the Planet Coaster handles entertainers in cosplay coaster building!
Long story short: …
…It is phenomenal!
Short story long: There is an absolute maddening amount of detail that has gone into this aspect of the game. There are different coaster types, all with different build specifications such as maximum bank angles, maximum angle of track change, if they can invert or not, whether the coaster can go in water, whether the cars spin, what kind of drive they have, if they require the car to come backwards on itself etc.
There are different types of track dependant rides you can build, from roller coasters to kart racing tracks, to pull along car tracks, to transport link rides, to log flumes and water rapids. All with their own stipulations. The game does a superb job at keeping you within the individual build specifications as it does not give you options that you can not use. For example, you do not have the option to make a long flume do a corkscrew or upside-down loop.
Intuitive track laying makes things much easier for you without holding your hand. If you are building a coaster in a park that already has rides and structures, it will gently change the track direction as it detects collisions further ahead.
You can build coasters that go underground, through mountains, and even through other rides. The game will automatically tunnel for you and the collision detection is incredibly narrow, allowing you to get super close to other structures (this is turned off in a lot of career scenarios). You can also see tracks underground easily when you are editing and smoothing.
… It is a Royal Pain in the Backside!
With the incredible attention to detail, however, there is, of course, a second side to the track. A dark, damp, moss-covered under-belly that is better left alone.
Whenever you build a coaster, you need to test it. This will give you an amazingly accurate list of data points you can scroll through, from maximum vertical G force to average speed, biggest drop, track scenery rating, etc. There is A LOT of stats to view. All of this culminates into a rating for fun, fear, and nausea.
This really is the crux of your coaster creations. You could build what you consider to be a fantastic coaster, only to have the testing system tell you it is rated far too high for fear. This in turn brings the fun rating down, and nobody will ride it. When you have scenarios that ask you to build coasters with awfully specific fun/fear/nausea ratings, on top of having other conditions such as track length, inversions, drops etc this turns what should be a fun process into a tummy wrenching process.
It is a necessary evil to help you sculpt your coaster creation genius though.
Eat the Smooth-Smooth Fruit!
Bad anime puns aside, the most important tool at your disposal is the smooth function in coaster editing. This is a quintessential tool to use as it allows you to highlight sections of your track and ‘smooth’ it out by tapping X. This gives your coaster’s twists, turns, bumps and banking a much more natural flow, reducing nausea rating.
There is so much to love about this game. So much that my word count for this review is skyrocketing! The attention to detail is really where this game delivers an immersive and addicting simulation game like no other. Yep! That even includes The Sims.
Some of the small details that make me smile:
- Zooming into litter, you can see that a lot of it is branded to the stores you have placed in the area.
- Examining customers, you can see a diverse range of customers and families. From mixed-race inclusions to gay and lesbian couples with families.
- Watching the small animations like customers throwing trash into bins, or the cleaners stuffing the bins down into a bottomless abyss.
- The stunning lighting.
- Colour blind assistance.
- Staff need breaks, pay rises and promotions.
- Nobody looks the same. There is a lot of diversity.
- You can create sky islands with the terrain tools.
There is a staggering number of tiny details in Planet Coaster. Many of which I probably have not come across. Here are a few details that do not disappoint me, but rather make me wonder why they exist.
- Mechanics only enter rides through the exit.
- The staff at ride entrances are not staff, they are just part of the scenery.
- Hardly anyone buys drinks from coffee shops. Making them irrelevant.
- You can access people’s thoughts which is great for identifying pickpockets, vandals, and the needs of customers. But when children’s thoughts are like “I am glad the ATM is free”, shows that customer age is barely relevant.
- Groups of adults will get on children’s rides even if there are no children with them.
And inevitably we have reached the section where I must tell you about some of the things that disappoint me in the game. By no means do any of these things subtract from the overall experience of the game. They are more of a list of things that I wish would work differently or were included in the game.
- There are no lifts/gondolas/water transport in the game. You need to build crazy staircases if you want elevation, or trains if you want distance covered.
- The only staff with diversity are the vendors. All the janitors look the same, as do the security and mechanics.
- Eugene, one of the quest givers is too much of a ‘nerd’ stereotype.
- Considering the diversity in the game, I am surprised that there is no disability support. It would be good to have wheelchair-friendly rides.
- The Frontier Workshop is a mess. It is clumsy to navigate and impossible to search for others’ creations.
- Customers have conflicting thoughts. I can watch a customer destroy a bench, then have ‘there are too many broken things around here’ in their thoughts. Or a customer can have ‘I don’t need a pass, I am happy to queue’ and ‘I wish the queue didn’t take so long’ at the same time. This makes the overall guest rating not as accurate as it could be.
- Some frustrating bugs in the game. Such as all janitors standing still for no reason at times.
End of The Tracks…
There were a few bumps along the way, but my final deliberations are nothing but praise. I am a sucker for picking up on small details, which is a curse and a blessing.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Planet Coaster, and I am in no way finished with it yet. I love the intricacies of the coaster creation and there is a decent amount of ride based DLC to delve into if I start feeling more adventurous.
If you are a fan of simulation games, then this is a must-have for your collection. Planet coaster is surprisingly in-depth with the amount of control you have over your park, and offers a whole host of interesting scenarios, challenges, and creative flexibility. Give this game a chance to entice you and I promise you will not be disappointed.