The theme park simulation has fascinated many gamers for several generations. Some started with Theme Park in 1994, the majority had to marvel at RollerCoaster Tycoon in 1999, and others were able to discover a kind of ultimate version of the management-simulation of coasters with Planet Coaster in 2016. Different productions, all oriented on the fun felt by amusement parks, having left a lasting mark on the history of video games. Bandai Namco, not used to this genre, also wants to try its hand at the discipline and allowed us to test a demo of its Park Beyond during a short week.
Believing in the impossibility
The field of park simulation games is not that flourishing, when you look at the last 30 years, but the competition is still toughbecause nobody (or almost nobody) has ever failed. It is therefore necessary to redouble our efforts to offer a title that is, on the one hand, engaging and innovative and, on the other hand, interesting enough for players who have already seen and known everything in this field. So, the developers gave us some thoughts on the ambition of this new game. And Limbic Entertainment admits it without any problem: the style of Tropico 6 (the license passed into their hands after 10 years at Haemimont), both the design and the humor, was a source of inspiration. “We were inspired, but we wanted something fresher,” says the studio, which also sees a tribute to Theme Park in the art direction. “We wanted something that went further and was more exaggerated than the real thing.”
That’s why the first mission of the story mode, and the sandbox we tested, emphasizes the impossification. The what? We looked for the French translation in the dictionary, but we didn’t find it, because it is an invention of the (slightly deranged) mind of the studio. The goal is to be able to “impose” the attractions present in the park with a click. This method allows to make the craziest dreams come true on the objects built. It allows to exaggerate everything in the game, to turn this Park-like theme into a fantastic gamewith a real giant Kraken that starts grabbing small boats to send them into the air, an attraction that literally sends customers into the sky, or turning a ride into an erupting volcano. Impossibility, the great promise of the game, is what could happen IRL if we let the Koreans’ augmented reality technology mix with Qatar’s bank account and put it all in Disneyland.
Impossibility is what could happen IRL if we let the Koreans’ augmented reality technology mix with Qatar’s bank account
For this purpose, all the attractions inflate a gauge of wonder. A kind of XP bar that must be spent in one of these “improvements” each time it is filled. By the way, it will be possible to impose everything, which makes the studio ecstatic. The staff, the shops, the scenery… We tested it, and it’s true, everything can turn into a strange and amazing fantasy, even if we didn’t always understand the intention. Said like that, it sounds a little bitter boomer, but more than once we asked ourselves the question, “okay, but why?” Because it’s fun, the developers will answer. Perhaps the answer will also come to us when we take a closer look at the story mode, of which we have only seen the very beginning. And on this side, the hype is growing a lot.
A real campaign mode?
Indeed, like other games of the genre that never really proposed a real scripted mode (mainly suites of precise challenges in more or less built parks), Park Beyond hopes to propose something really innovative. The campaign mode allows you to play as a member of the Cloudstormers company, in charge of designing the wildest dreams of visitors in an amusement park. But for this, you have to convince the board of directors. So, while a global story will be developed about impossification and the different characters you will meet along the way, you will have to prepare a specification to show to your shareholders at the beginning of the game. You have to get past the few characters you meet along the way, all of whom have their own area of focus (the treasurer who only thinks about profitability, the hothead who wants to shake things up, the one who just wants to have fun…). Depending on your requests, these characters will then set several challenges to be carried out during the different missions. A planner side that adds a little management to management, so…
In the game, you have to meet these objectives, and others that will be added as the game goes on, by going through “levels” of mission achievement. This brings us to the construction mode, which is extremely complete, even if the catalog we have seen so far is rather weak, as the demo requires (we hope). Some usual themes are present (aliens, western, candy, etc.), others more strange (“DaVinci”? Steampunk?), prefabs are available for those who can’t use their 10 fingers, and several animatronics will be there to brighten your park. The title is not half-hearted in terms of management, since you can find everything you would expect, such as the state of the park (cleanliness, security, fun, quality), loans, a tab on finances, detailed statistics on your visitors, on fun, on staff, on vomit and so on. For the moment, we regret that the interface is a bit too cluttered.
Realism? No idea.
Visually, Park Beyond is quite close to the last RollerCoaster or Planet Coaster, with a comedy oriented DAIt even reminds us of Two Point games. Not very greedy on a PC that is starting to show its tongue, it is nevertheless pleasant to the eye. If the music, the sounds and other sound cues are very close to what we are used to hear (the instrumental of the construction modes sounds like Planet Coaster or Cities Skylines), its gameplay is much simpler than those games. One could even say “simplistic”. To build your coaster tracks, you just have to alternate between a rotation button, a pitch button and an elevation button, and place milestones by stretching the rails. By the way, you can create multiple hook points to modify any section of your track. And at this point, the physics can go to hell since the game doesn’t seem to bother with realistic considerations.
A coaster whose rails can almost make a noose? No problem. Climb to crazy heights with an 80° rack? Sure. Crossing a pedestrian road with a 200 km/h train? What could be more normal? Drive into a wall or a mountain thanks to the automation of a tunnel construction? No problem, it’s a game, my poor lady! Cannons, launch pads, holes: the title makes it clear, you can do whatever you want. This gameplay is a bit difficult to use when designing and placing less “fun” objects like stores. You can feel a few passages of difficulty when turning objects that are difficult to align on the grid, you also have to play between several modes of deformation of objects (like the traditional X-Y-Z mode) to move them on the map (at least on PC). Like Planet Coaster, it will take some time to get used to and master the full power of the customization or terraforming tool, since it is not like the others. But in the end, the ability to create roller coasters, and the interface that allows you to change all the colors and many options to everything you put on the map looks extremely complete. Once your coasters are finished, you can even define “catchphrases”, little phrases that will convince families or children that your ride is the best, the fastest, the most fun, the one that makes them vomit the most, etc. To tell you the truth, we didn’t expect much from this game, but we’re impatient to get out of this preview now.