Your goal in Planet Coaster, to create a theme park that entertains and dazzles the masses is a chore. It sounds simple enough, but this can’t be just any old park. To truly succeed in the eyes of both you, the creator, and the visitors coming through the gates, this theme park has to be remarkable. It has to be the kind of place that puts a smile on the faces of every cartoon customer who walks through the gates: a child prodigy, a skeptical teenager and a cynical adult.
The countless creation and design tools in Planet Coaster offers that make this possible are fantastic and include everything from the weird to the wonderful; from western themed saloons to cool pirate bays. It’s a truly captivating experience, one that hides all its complexity – and believe me when I say that Planet Coaster is truly complex – under a vibrant veneer of bold colours, charming characters and ingenious details. Most of all, it feels like exactly what 2016, the most miserable year ever, really needs. About my 17 hours of play planet coaster, it made me laugh more than maybe any other game I’ve played this year.
Designing, customizing and managing theme parks is hardly a new concept, but we’ve had a break from it for the past ten years. The Sims, Theme Park World, Roller Coaster Tycoon; the rise of consoles into the mainstream caused these types of PC exclusives to slip into the fringe despite their popularity. That’s why it’s no surprise at the response Planet Coaster received when it went into beta, and people saw how deep the array of different tools made it. But maybe the Planet CoasterIts biggest achievement is how it connects its community of creators and designers directly to the game’s DNA. This is something that Frontier Developments capitalizes on so cleverly with its persistent space sim, Elite Dangerousand uses the same approach here.
Planet Coaster is one huge user-driven content engine – and it’s brilliant.
Borrow good artists, steal great artists
Not only can you download and copy other people’s creations for your own use, but you can spend hours browsing them looking for inspiration without ever actually opening them. After startup Planet Coaster first I spent the first three hours staring at the number of items I could customize, the way I could terraform any number of the biomes you start with as a “blank slate” and the sheer depth of how you can designing almost every inch of the park, from how it looks, how it sounds, to what it is moves. Planet Coaster is surprisingly user-friendly considering how deep you can go, but there’s something of a learning curve as you get to grips with how things work.
There are three different modes: Career, Challenge and Sandbox. While it’s tempting to go straight to Career Mode, unfortunately it’s true Planet Coaster is the least coercive. Career places you in one of several pre-made parks and gives you some basic goals to complete. For example, the first is a surprisingly attractive looking pirate theme park where you have to lure a certain number of guests through the gates and build some more rides to entertain them.
The latter is super easy: all you need to do is select a ride from one of dozens of pre-made blueprints, place your new ride in the park, then connect an entrance and an exit to grant access. The first is simply a matter of having enough attractions to attract more visitors through the gates. As you progress, the objectives get more and more difficult, but they never become particularly meaningful or interesting.
However, they do teach you the basics. The main conclusion is that paths and walkways are everything to the success of your park. Visitors only come where there are trails, so every shop, toilet and ride must be properly connected or it won’t be profitable. This can be confusing at first: many of Planet CoasterThe build-and-create mechanics are well designed, but trails can be tricky, frustrating beasts when they want to.
It took me a few hours for them to click, but occasionally I still had to struggle with the game’s often over-sensitive controls to get paths the way I wanted. I’d find paths wouldn’t quite connect the way I wanted, and I still find it odd that there doesn’t seem to be an opportunity to create open spaces for people to congregate, like city squares where you can create hubs of activity that then shatter into different directions.
Fortunately, the same awkwardness does not apply to Planet Coaster‘s other design tools. Terraforming terrain can be tricky, especially to make things look natural, but I soon found that I could quickly fix any mistakes I made by using the Hill Smoothing and Roughening Paint Brushes to build hills upon hills. make valleys look like valleys. The same goes for painting surfaces. Each of the biomes you choose from the main menu has a basic theme, so you decide if you want your park somewhere warm and tropical, or bright and alpine, but you can then paint surfaces depending on what you want to create. Beaches, rocky plateaus and meadows require a subtle touch to make them look organic and not artificial, but practice makes perfect.