Fans of Theme Park, rejoice! Park Beyond by devs Limbic Entertainment and publishers Bandai Namco possibly have the fix that you have been seeking! Out across PlayStation 5, Xbox X/S and PC on 16th June, are you ready to create the ultimate theme park?
Become the Theme Park Master!
I have been fortunate to have had a play on Park Beyond prior to the closed beta. Was it the thrilling “off the rails” game I was hoping for? Would it invoke my past Theme Park memories? Let’s find out.
The preview that I played included the first 3 missions of the campaign and some time on Exploration Park within the sandbox mode.
Upon loading up Park Beyond I had an inclination as to what I was expecting. Some sort of walled grassy area where I could deploy rides and connect with paths. Right? Yes, but not just yet!
A quite intricate movie played whereby you awake from your sleep and bounce the alarm clock off the wall into the bin. As the character moves around their room, everything is in first person. You quickly gather that you are some kind of designer of interesting and futuristic-looking rollercoaster ideas. As you sit back and sip on your tea, your character throws a paper plane out of the window and it is collected by a girl named Blaze. She is an engineer/mechanic that becomes your first guide in creating your first rollercoaster. It’s time to start!
It is time!
Starting inside a sprawling city, your quest is to construct a rollercoaster track to follow the path of the paper plane. Using the mouse and keyboard you are quickly taught the basics of creating the track. Simply clicking and moving the mouse allows you to curve the track while holding down a key then raises and lowers it. The law of physics does apply, to a degree. You must choose between using standard track and chain-driven tracks to get the rollercoaster train up an incline should it not have enough momentum.
The experience is smooth as you can freely move the camera around into any orientation as well as zoom in and out. The track is constantly being tested by a test train which thankfully you can speed up to help you quickly ascertain how the track is developing.
While creating the track is one part of the rollercoaster, you are introduced to special features via the choices that you make during your conversations with Blaze. For example, I installed a cannon to help cross the lake. The actual process was very easy and you can see the trajectory path of the coaster train to ensure that you land where you need to. After that, it was just a case of installing the remaining track to complete the rollercoaster’s seemingly one-way journey to the theme park.
You are treated to a ride on your newly created rollercoaster whereby you can experience all the thrills of the ups, downs and jumps in first person. Thankfully no VR option!
Onwards and up!
The next mission of the main campaign has you fixing up an old run-down theme park. You are introduced to a very excitable park manager Phil, as well as a less enthusiastic Izzy who deals with the financial side of it all.
Intros complete it is time to go back to the old Theme Park games that I loved and install paths to connect it all up. From the toolbar on the left of the screen, there are many different types of paths that you can lay, at a cost of course. Clicking from node to node creates a path between points.
With the rides, you must install entrances and exits to them for the guests. Thankfully the rides allow for multiple queue locations rather than just a single fixed point. This certainly is helpful as it allows you to be a bit more creative and a lot less restrictive.
When a ride is selected, you have full control over its status, i.e. closed and open as well as the ticket fee. There are ratings that allow you to see at a glance how profitable and popular the ride is as well as the current health of it. Demographics as to which visitors prefer the ride are also shown.
Back to the rollercoasters!
Rollercoasters are fully creative. Beginning with a start/finish section, you can be as imaginative as you want as you decide how the ride is to operate and thrill. Don’t forget to include fun modules such as ramps, canons, and the insane “off-rail” to add some spice.
While laying the track is one thing, placing prefabs from the long list such as “corkscrew right” and “double helix left” have you beginning to create a monumentally impressive rollercoaster! Depending on what you have produced allows you to then select a couple of hooks to entice the crowds. From “under the bridge” to “lift your spirits”, there is a number you can choose from should you have achieved the correct criteria on your ride to use them!
Remember to send the test train around and also have a ride yourself to fully appreciate your creation!
Hotdogs, get your hotdogs!
A theme park isn’t complete without shops and vending machines. Opening up the construction window allows you to choose from those that are currently available. As you play on, I imagine that similar to other games you can unlock more to make your park as diverse as possible. There were interesting elements to play about with, such as on a fast food hut for example. Here you can speed up service by offering less items on the menu. You can also set the prices for each item as well as look at stats and change the colour!
Visitor needs are essential for the park to be an enjoyable day out, as well as also hit those campaign milestones. Strategically placed toilets, benches and shops are essential to keep everyone satisfied. Ultimately it will help increase the park appeal.
When the park is opened, the staff and guests walk in. I had a lot of nostalgia bubbling at this point! With every cutscene, it appears that the answer you give in response to a question will affect the park. All the way from themes to who you would like to tailor the park to.
Instead of the old bubbles above the characters’ heads. In Park Beyond you have a heat map that you can deploy that allows you to choose a certain requirement, such as hunger, and then scoot around the park to see where there may be a problem. I liked this feature, it felt a lot less cluttered and easier to access.
Staff are required to keep the park safe and tidy. From the staff screen, you can employ mechanics, cleaners, entertainers and paramedics. Each has levels of efficiency, energy and experience as well as a designated salary.
After successfully accomplishing a couple of missions, I had a look at the Sandbox mode through Exploration Park. Here you are let loose with a huge grassy park with rivers running throughout. There are some rides and paths in place that you can tweak as much as you like.
Terraforming allows you to play with the terrain and you can push and pull or flatten to your heart’s content. I liked how you could alter the size of the terraformer radius as well as its intensity and fall-off so that you can quickly alter large areas if need be. Similarly, there are also water tools to create rivers, ponds and moats. You can be so creative here when customising the theme park!
While you may just wish to simply play the game by installing paths, shops and rides, Park Beyond allows you to get down to the smallest details such as adding decorations and props along with creating effects like fog emitters to produce those extra effects. When you sit down and actually start playing with each of the special effect devices you begin to truly appreciate how far you can go.
Graphics & Audio
Park Beyond looks gorgeous. It is bright, well detailed and colourful. Everything about it oozes fun and, well, theme park! The attention to detail is immense and everything can be zoomed in on and is animated. Riding on the coasters brings the thrills to life, the ability to change seats and look around gives you an amazing virtual experience.
The lighting effects are particularly good, and are enhanced by the day/night cycle which not only gives a sense of time to your gameplay but also serves to show off the enticing glow of the park after hours.
The cutscenes are good, however at times they seemed to go on a little bit longer than they probably needed. You can cut through conversations if you so desire.
The audio is spot on, with the whoops and screams of happy guests (hopefully). The music is grand and gives a real feel of the fair. When building the park it ambiently plays in the background and becomes more of an undertone to the sounds of construction and fun that are in the forefront.
I feel that Park Beyond is going to be a time-sinker. Either through playing the missions or sandbox mode you will steadily learn and refine your theme park management skills. Can you design the best rollercoaster and push the boundaries of excitement?
I was thoroughly impressed with Park Beyond. The game has clearly been well thought out with several nods to similar tycoon games of the past. The gaming experience is on par with the feeling I had when playing Two-Point Hospital for the first time, having loved Theme Hospital as a kid. When it feels that natural to play, you know something has been done right!
That said, Park Beyond is not a complete clone and has a lot of fun tools to play with that breathe fresh life into the well-respected theme park-style of games. I look forward to its full release very soon!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.