As any self-respecting 20-something, I spent entirely too much time playing Roller Coaster Tycoon as a youth. Even today the franchise is the leader in the management sim genre, but for how much longer? There’s a new park in town, and its name is Planet Coaster.
Planet Coaster is a giant sandbox that wants you, its player to go dive headfirst into using its extensive creation tools. It wants you to, first and foremost put your vision of a theme park into the game. And it’s absolutely perfect at doing that.
The maps are large enough that you don’t need to worry about space, the pre-made content is flexible enough to be mixed and matched with everything else and the Steam Workshop support is a complete success, allowing you to add anything from the Disney Castle to Star Wars models to your park. In short, if you can think it, you can build it.
It does all of this with a charm and character that only a game with the visual polish of Planet Coaster could muster.With it colourful aesthetic and clay-like NPC’s, Planet Coaster is a joy to look upon. Every frame is a delight to look at, and each frame of animation is smooth and unique and full of charm. The genre has never looked this good.
It’s not all perfect however, for all of Planet Coasters awesome creation tools, the management aspect of the game are a complete none starter for numerous reasons. Namely, that despite being able to control almost everything, none of it feels very deep.
You can set prices for pretty much everything in the park, from rides to drinks to hats to entrance fee’s. You can adjust your staff wage bill on a person by person level, give them extra training and even promote them. And yet, none of it matters because unless you’re not paying attention, or building too quickly, the money will roll in.
There’s some good here, I like being able to set prices for everything, but it all feels so surface level that I don’t know why you’d go to the effort of doing it, and that’s a real shame as *that’s* what I want from a theme park sim. Unfortunately if you want a game where you take a failing theme park and turn it into a success, you might have to look elsewhere.
Sandbox mode is included in the game, and whilst I’d usually go with the more challenging (and originally named) Challenge Mode, I’m not sure its worth it. Sandbox mode is how they want you to play this game. Turn on unlimited money, ignore your staff and start designed the worlds premier theme park.
I wanted Planet Coaster to be the Cities Skylines of the theme park sim genre, and for many reasons it comes so close to that ideal. The game looks incredible, the content creation tools are second to none and Steam Workshop expands upon whats already available in some fantastic ways. Unfortunately I was never able to truly fall in love with it because the management aspects are so weak.
I’ve spent 32 hours playing Planet Coaster since its release, and whilst I’ve really enjoyed those hours, I’m not sure I’ll be going back in until they give me more of what I want: Management.
If you’re looking to design a beautiful theme park, then Planet Coaster is essential, but if you, like me are looking for something that asks me to make decisions about how best to run a theme park, you might want to launch that copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon once more.