As a console gamer, I always find myself waiting for console ports of business simulation games. I was surprised by the release of Planet Coaster as I’d not seen any news about it at all. Now it is here though, and I could not wait to give it a go!
Planet Coaster is a park building sim in the vein of Theme Park or Rollercoaster Tycoon. It has an in-depth, vast library of assets, rides and shops. You can create the ultimate theme park, giving the virtual thrill-seekers more bang for their buck. The goal is to create a successful, profitable park by keeping your guests and staff happy. Maintaining the right prices, making sure your park looks incredible and catering to the guests every need is critical. This can be challenging, but it would not be a good park sim if it were not.
“It can be a bit confusing to find what you are looking for.”
Something that normally results from management sims being ported to consoles is unintuitive controls & confusing GUI (graphical user interface).
The menus that hold the items you need to build your park are at the bottom of the screen. You can cycle through them using the shoulder buttons. Once you are in there, you can navigate the menu’s using the D-Pad. Sounds simple. However, the small icons they use to itemise the sub-menus make it difficult and confusing to navigate. Fortunately, the tutorial mode will talk you through this in a charming and funny way. It is full of character, and it lets you get to grips with the controls very nicely.
“If you’re not paying attention, you will leave items floating in the air.”
I took a dip into “sandbox mode” to check it out and test the different options. It is fun, but if you have never played a park sim before then, it’ll be overwhelming. I also found the levels of customisation to be unnecessarily big and the placement tools to be quite over complicated. Instead of having a general snapping tool for placement, you have to place scenery and extras in the exact position yourself manually. If you’re not paying attention, you can have items floating in the air because you didn’t have the camera zoomed in far enough to see. This makes placing scenery an absolute chore. Unfortunately, you have to. You must add scenery to increase your park’s scenery rating, which, in turn, will affect your overall rating.
Blueprints make life easier, but if you want to get hands-on and build something from the ground up, you can. This is where those customisation options become useful and warranted. With a little bit of time investment, you can get used to these controls.
In recent years, business sims have been capitalising on humour, and Planet Coaster utilises it very well. The characters that guide you through the tutorial and continue with you throughout the career mode are both helpful and entertaining. A comedic tone can make or break an experience depending on if it is written well, but in this game, I found that even the person who regards the guests as nothing more than walking cash dispensers, is fun to listen to and even likeable.
“You could theoretically create 5 entirely different sprawling parks”
It is refreshing to see the lack of microtransactions in Planet Coaster. It seems that in Sandbox mode you have all of the items, rides, shops and staff unlocked and you don’t need to pay for new ride skins or costumes for staff. There is a DLC out (Classic Rides Collection), giving you access to some new rides to put in your sandbox park. I also expect the multiple expansions from the PC version to be released to give the game a longer lifespan. But, with the amount you have to play around with already, you could theoretically create 5 or 6 sprawling parks that are completely different from each other. The shelf life of this game is going to be quite large anyway.
Overall, I found this to be a captivating experience with all of the tools and options I needed to create my own version of Disneyland. The career mode was challenging enough, and things unlock gradually, so you never feel swamped by customisation options.