With games such as RollerCoaster Tycoon, Theme Park, and later Thrillville, the 90s and early 00s were a great time for fans of amusement park simulators. Unfortunately, the genre has dried up a bit, but soon Limbic Entertainment is aiming to change that with Park Beyond. To mark the occasion, publisher Bandai Namco invited us to try out the game at Europa-Park, a veritable theme park in southern Germany, near the borders of France and Switzerland.
A stroll through the bustling streets of Europa-Park made me think about why the genre faded away. There are probably many reasons, but one must surely be that few games in recent years have managed to capture the atmosphere of real theme parks despite advances in graphics. As a result, you often end up feeling a bit detached, like you’re some kind of functionary in a ministry of pleasure aimed at making people happy while not sharing the joy yourself.
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If you look around the park, there are all the basic rides, which sell a fantasy to the people who go there. With Park Beyond, we wanted to make that fantasy real.
I understand that the more abstract aspects are also part of the call. After all, these are management games, and in Park Beyond you still get a host of advanced features to tweak and tweak. But developer Limbic Entertainment has clearly tried to amp up the atmosphere by taking full advantage of the special benefits you get from operating a digital amusement park versus an actual amusement park – primarily the fact that security isn’t is more of a factor and that the law of physics, while still somewhat applying, is much more forgiving than in real life.
“In Park Beyond, the design of your theme park is at the heart of the experience. But we wanted to add something on top of that. We are introducing players to the impossibility of rides,” explains producer Marco Huppertz while directing our attention to the surrounding attraction in a bustling Europa-Park square. “So if you look around the park, there are all the basic rides, which sell a fantasy to the people who go there. With Park Beyond, we wanted to make that fantasy real and force the rides into something you couldn’t experience in real life.
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While playing, I found the results of this impossification quite varied. In a waterslide you might encounter an actual Kraken or on a roller coaster the cart might be fired from an actual cannon. The functionality also extends to staff members who, when incapacitated, can use a plethora of advanced gadgets to turn their mundane task into an entertaining activity. It’s by no means revolutionary, but it breathes a lot of life into what is otherwise a somewhat generic art style with very bright colors and cartoon characters that look like creepy dolls in their appearance.
While impossibility remains central to the game’s atmosphere, that wasn’t the main focus of the actual preview where I played two missions and messed around in the sandbox mode. After building huge roller coasters on the first mission, I was thrown straight into building my own park from scratch. It starts off pretty easy when I build flat rides like ferris wheels and carousels and then lay paths in between. Placement is easy to manage and you have great precision in terms of setting rotation and exact location.
For a roller coaster or any other attraction, you’ll need to think about the guests first.
After laying the groundwork, I’m ready to open the park, but unfortunately the guests bring with them a host of problems, and I scramble to build benches, toilets, and food stalls while hiring four or five sanitation workers. , as the primary teenage audience I’m targeting seems unable or unwilling to use the bins I’ve placed at each step of the park. Beneath the crazy, colorful surface, there are a host of mundane issues that need to be addressed, and simulation nerds are likely to have a field day with advanced features such as heatmaps showing possible improvements and the ability to improve. adjust the prices of individual items in stores.
I’m mostly here for the roller coaster. The final challenge of the game’s second mission will have you building huge roller coasters with several unique “hooks”. Apparently, this is also how you approach the challenge of building real roller coasters, I learn later, speaking to Mathis Gullon, project manager at construction company Mach NeXT: “For a roller coaster or any other attraction, you have to think about the guests first. What do you want them to do, what do you want them to feel. And then you will have to check the space you have of course, what budget also, then you can make a design of it. But really, it’s the guest, the space, the budget. »
Since this is only the second mission, budget isn’t much of an issue (later missions will be more difficult though) and I’m unlikely to run out of space. With the audience being my only real consideration at the time, I decided to go for crazy drops and crazy turns to keep bored teenagers from falling asleep. Unlike RollerCoaster Tycoon, you can’t let your guests take an unfished ride, sit back and wait for mayhem. It’s a German game after all, and a security check must be completed before you can open a ride. Also, you have to consider factors like speed and momentum, which can be controlled with special track sections that pull, slow down, or help the cart through turns.
It might seem like it’s limiting your options, but it’s not, which becomes pretty obvious when I look at the player on the screen next to me. While my roller coaster is somewhat safe and moderate despite my ambitions, his is truly insane, soaring several hundred feet into the sky and supported only by what appear to be long sticks of spaghetti, because the algorithm is clearly struggling to automatically generate support beams for a build of this ridiculous height. After the excruciatingly slow crawl up into the blue sky comes a sudden drop and then a veritable vortex of vomit inducing crazy twists and turns that for some reason I can’t figure out always ends up passing safety inspection and being approved for the guests. In short, you can create some truly unique rides, and we only got to try out a tiny fraction of the many tools during this preview.
The features of impossification, the surprisingly high number of management and customization options and, above all, the tools to build roller coasters. This all sounds very promising. But still, having played the game at Europa-Park, it’s hard not to compare the game a bit unfavorably with the real deal.
The park is a huge wonderland of varying styles, with 18 themed areas, most of them based on European countries. In comparison, Park Beyond has five different themes and many of them are quite generic like Western or Candyland, which I tried during the preview.
This may be an unfair comparison. Europa-Park has been growing slowly for fifty years, while Limbic Entertainment only completed production of its latest game, the excellent Tropico 6, three years ago. Hopefully the final months of development will further refine the already solid features, and when they’re finally ready to show off the full game, the remaining themes and all the impossible rides will yield the theme park simulator we’ve all been craving since competitors ran out of steam a decade or two ago.
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Better than a real roller coaster? We played Park Beyond at Europa-Park
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