Management sims that hand the reigns of corporate entities over to the player tend to focus on a particular niche within a business empire – Disney is much, much more than just an amusement park, after all. RollerCoaster Tycoon was once the king of the genre, but as we’ve seen with city builders, newcomers have sprung up to steal its crown. With a few tweaks here and there, Planet Coaster could very well do so.
The first thing that should be immediately commended is how cleanly the game is represented. By taking a leaf out of The Sims’ book on UI design, things are exactly where you’d expect them to be. Newer players may find some things like bins somewhat more tricky to locate, but once you’ve explored the plethora of building options, browsing the interface should become second nature.
This simplicity and charm carries over to the bright and colourful presentation. With a whimsical soundtrack and vivid graphics, it’s somewhat odd to see just how intensive the game is in terms of hardware requirements. But it’s when you delve into the many ways the game allows you to see the action that the reason for this all comes together.
While the main camera shows you every building and person in gorgeous detail, it’s the number of camera angles available on rides that is staggering. You even have the ability to see how each individual car is doing, letting you see how your guests like the ride, or indeed how ill the ride is making them, thanks to their expressive faces. The cartoony aesthetic may not appeal to everyone, but Planet Coaster has impressive lighting at times and is very polished in quality.
Planet Coaster offers three main game modes. You could just dive into the Sandbox mode and make the park of your dreams; money being no hindrance to your creativity. However there is also the Career mode for those looking for shorter mission-based gameplay with pre-made parks, or the Challenge mode where you create a park from scratch on a budget while trying to meet criteria of each challenge that is presented to you.
There’s a decent amount of variety, depending on whether you want to build the park of your dreams or be the world’s best theme park manager. Once you do get over the initial hurdle of ensuring the park is sustainable and can generate a healthy profit for you to concentrate on building more attractions, the game becomes a cakewalk.
It’s a little disappointing that there aren’t really any unexpected circumstances that can be thrown your way, which might make the more managerial among you long for something to happen to shake the status quo. However this doesn’t feel like the main focus of the game, as there’s a lot more on offer for the designers looking to build the perfect roller coaster.
In terms of areas of refinement, Planet Coaster does have a few things that could be tweaked in general. For one, there are times where the camera is tricky to control, particularly if you’re designing your ride in an enclosed area. It’s very difficult to get the right angle in order to place objects precisely where you want them, meaning that lots of tinkering is required. For some, this may be a barrier to exploring just how robust the customisation can be.
Thankfully there is Steam Workshop support right out of the gate. With the game having had an Early Access period, there’s been plenty of time for aspiring modders to create their own rides and features to be imported into the game seamlessly. Should you decide to create your own wonderful creation, there’s the option to save your own blueprints to be shared with others. So while the base game gives you plenty of options, the fountain of mods that can be easily downloaded is staggering, useful, and easy to import.
Planet Coaster feels like a step into more modern times for the genre. There are bugbears when it comes to the camera and the subsequent patience required to build your perfect theme park, but should one have the stamina to intricately design features for their park, the possibilities are nigh on endless. Managing can feel simplistic at times, but for those who want to have the amusement park of their dreams, even if they use mods from Steam Workshop to supplement their masterpiece, Planet Coaster has it in spades. Now if only the rides could be viewed in VR…