Your goal in
, to create a theme park that entertains and dazzles the masses, is a daunting one. It sounds simple enough—but this can’t be just any old park. To truly succeed in the eyes of both you, its creator, and the visitors that come through its gates, this theme park needs to be remarkable. It needs to be the kind of place that brings smiles to the faces of every single cartoon customer that walks through its gates: wonder-filled child, skeptical teen, and cynical adult alike.
The countless creation and design tools in Planet Coaster offers that make this possible are fantastic, encompassing everything from the weird to the wonderful; from Western themed saloons to swashbuckling pirate coves. It is a truly engrossing experience, one that hides all of its complexity—and trust me when I say that Planet Coaster truly is complex—underneath a vibrant veneer of bold colour, charming characters, and ingenious details. More than anything, it feels like just what 2016, the most miserable year on record, truly needs. Over my 17-hours playing Planet Coaster, it’s made me smile more than perhaps any other game I’ve played this year.
Designing, customising, and managing theme parks is hardly a new concept, but we’ve had a break from them in the past decade. The Sims, Theme Park World, Rollercoaster Tycoon; the rise of consoles into the mainstream saw these kinds of PC exclusive games slide into the fringes, despite their popularity. Therefore, it’s no surprise at the response Planet Coaster received when it entered beta, and people saw just how deep its raft of different tools made it. But perhaps the Planet Coaster‘s greatest feat is how it ties its community of creators and designers directly into the game’s DNA. This is something that Frontier Developments has capitalised on so smartly with its persistent space sim, Elite Dangerous, and uses the same approach here.
Planet Coaster is one enormous user-driven content machine—and it’s brilliant.
Good artists borrow, great artists steal
Not only can you download and copy other people’s creations for your own use, but you can spend hours browsing through them in search of inspiration without ever actually opening them up. After booting up Planet Coaster for the first time, I spent the first three hours gawping at the number of items I could customise, the way that I could terraform any number of the biomes that you start with as a “blank slate,” and the sheer depth of how you can design almost every inch of the park, from how it looks, to how it sounds, to how it moves. Planet Coaster is surprisingly user-friendly considering how deep you can go, but there is something of a learning curve while you get to grips with how things work.
There are three different modes: Career, Challenge, and Sandbox. While it’s tempting to head straight into the Career mode, this, sadly, is where Planet Coaster is the least compelling. Career places you in one of several different pre-made parks, and gives you some basic objectives to complete. The first, for example, is a surprisingly enticing looking pirate themed park where you have to attract a certain number of guests through the gates, and build some more rides to entertain them.
The latter is super easy: all you have to do is select a ride from one of the dozens of pre-made blueprints, place your new ride in the park, and then connect an entrance and an exit to allow access. The former is just a case of having enough rides to entice more visitors through the gates. As you progress the objectives get incrementally tougher, but they don’t ever become particularly meaningful or interesting.
However, they do teach you the basics. The main takeaway is that paths and walkways are everything to the success of your park. Visitors will only go where there are pathways, which means that every shop, toilet, and ride must be connected properly, or it won’t make any money. At first, this can be confusing: many of Planet Coaster‘s build-and-create mechanics are well designed, but pathways can be fiddly, frustrating beasts when they want to be.
It took me a few hours before they properly clicked, but occasionally I still had to wrestle with the game’s often over-sensitive controls in order to get paths to sit just how I wanted them to. I’d find that paths wouldn’t quite connect how I wanted, and I still find it odd that there seems to be no ability to create open spaces for people to congregate, like town squares where you can create hubs of activity that then splinter off in different directions.
The same fiddliness fortunately doesn’t apply to Planet Coaster‘s other design tools. Terraforming terrain can be tricky, particularly to get things to look natural, but I soon found that I could quickly fix any errors I made, using the smoothing and roughening paintbrushes to make hills look like hills, and valleys look like valleys. The same goes for painting surfaces. Each of the biomes you choose at the main menu has a basic theme, so you decide whether you want your park set somewhere hot and tropical, or crisp and alpine, but you can then paint surfaces depending on what you want to create. Beaches, rocky plateaus, and meadowy stretches of grass require a subtle touch to get them looking organic and not artificial, but practice truly makes perfect.
http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/11/planet-coaster-review-theme-park-game/ via http://arstechnica.com #CIO, #Technology