Riding roller coasters? Check. Designing your own insane coasters? Check. Causing destruction (sans death) with the coaster you just designed? It can only be ScreamRide. A new game by Roller Coaster Tycoon developers Frontier Developments, ScreamRide takes what made the RollerCoaster Tycoon games so popular and ramps it up to eleven – and ooh, what a ride.
What ScreamRide isn’t, however, is RollerCoaster Tycoon 4. Gone are minutiae of theme park management – you no longer have to worry about how many handymen you have to hire to clear the vomit from motion-sick parkgoers, instead the riding now are built for punishment, willing the coasters to push the limits of physics all in the name of eliminating boredom.
Set in 2050, people of the future are so bored with their lives that thrill-seeking is par for the course. At the ScreamWorks International Research Facility, you help find different ways to bring extreme experiences to riders, while ensuring … well, nothing much really. Nobody dies, they just fall and wait to be rescued while unconscious. So just go have fun.
ScreamRide is made out of three types of games: ScreamRider, in which you control a coaster car while keeping the riders on; Demolition, in which you launch pods filled with riders into buildings to destroy them; and Engineer – the most RollerCoaster Tycoon bit of the game, in which you complete coaster designs for maximum pleasure. All this is presented in hyper-gleeful manic graphics – basically, like most theme parks you know.
ScreamRider takes place in third-person mode – and is really a refinement of what the Coaster Cam brought us in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. Instead of just sitting back to see what your devious creations feel like with you in the driver’s seat, now you get to influence the ride a little, whether it is accelerating, slowing down or just plain making sure your ride doesn’t fly off. This might be the most arcade-y bit of the whole game, but it’s a welcome addition to the experience and just feels right. Trying to take corners at the highest speed possible while leaning on two wheels is highly satisfying (and scores extra points) – and as you careen down the tracks it comes somewhat close to riding a real coaster. If any game needed some VR headgear, this is it.
Demolition is pretty arcade-y too – if you like blowing stuff up. This is simple yet effective – you control the speed and angle of launch of various kinds of cabins, aiming to destroy various targets and the buildings that lie behind them. To help things, the buildings are rigged with explosives – hit the right spot and everything comes tumbling down, making it a properly sweet when your target strikes the right bits and everything comes tumbling down. There’s some added variety when you launch coaster cars into the buildings instead, but it’s all the same result: DESTROY EVERYTHING WITH PLEASURE, SIR.
The Engineer mode is the most akin to the RollerCoaster Tycoon experience – help finish an uncompleted track with the required ratings – either to ensure maximum fun or ultimate destruction. This usually involves a bit of trial and error so that you get the most fun rides while using the amount of track you need, and so the “autocomplete” function comes in handy. The trial and error makes it somewhat tricky (not so good for quick plays), but with each test of your track the game does highlights bits that you should change – just hope that it doesn’t involve undoing all your hard work.
If this mode is what interests you the most, there’s always the Editor mode where you can build whatever experience you want with a blank template. Completing missions (think: Most mobile games where you get star ratings and unlock new levels) unlock more items in your inventory. One caveat – it can take a while to get a grip on the controls, and with the sheer variety of items you can use to build (from types of track to scenery), it’s easy to get lost in the menus. This is one time – well, other than more shooters – where I really missed a mouse-keyboard option. Another warning: Things can get quite difficult, even in the early stages as you’re getting to grips with the game. It never gets too frustrating, but there are moments where the ride almost comes to a complete halt.
It wasn’t too long ago when the “tycoon” games ruled the roost. Everything then was a Theme or a Tycoon – Theme Hospital, for example, or Railroad Tycoon (or even the Sim-Noun games), and not forgetting Theme Park and RollerCoaster Tycoon. As someone who has played hours upon hours of each game just watching the dollars roll in, focusing on pure riding and designing is quite a refreshing – yet modern – take on the simulation genre. It definitely rewards quick plays and feeds an appetite for destruction – so while this isn’t the RollerCoaster Tycoon you remember from yesteryears, this amped-up, extreme version of the game just hits the spot when it comes to escapism. No longer will I be beholden to the whims and fancies of the parkgoer that just wants an extra bench!
ScreamRide is available now for Xbox One (S$39.90) and Xbox 360 (S$29.90). The Xbox One version of the game was used for the review.