Available On: PC
Creating your own amusement park should never go out of style. Frontier Developments’ new self-published title Planet Coaster captures the magic of roller coasters and theme parks from classic games like RollerCoaster Tycoon and Sim Theme Park. Planet Coaster succeeds as a modern update to a classic formula thanks to intuitive controls and an aesthetic that keeps everything light and fun.
Pirates and Princesses
Planet Coaster includes three main ways to play: Campaign, Challenge, and Sandbox. In each mode you start with a large tract of land, several rides, and a few thousand dollars. Guests pour into your park, each with their own needs and wants. It’s your job to satisfy them all (and take their money) while researching and building new rides and venues.
The campaign includes a dozen scenarios over four different themes: Pirates, Fairy Tale, Sci-Fi, and Modern. Each park is partially constructed around a pre-designed area, such as a giant Avatar-style world tree, a pirate battle in a lagoon, or a sci-fi outpost battling a giant monster. The pre-designed sections are wonderful examples of the creative works you can build with the hefty amount of tools and thematic objects. But most of the parks are empty, and the objective goals err on the easy side.
Sandbox mode gives you a blank area, no money concerns, and opens up all the rides. It’s the place to build your dream park, or test out new roller coaster ideas. Each design you make, from a complex steel floorless coaster to a medieval-themed restroom, can be saved as a blueprint to use in future parks.
Challenges are a neat mix between Sandbox and campaign scenarios. They give you a blank area but with randomized objectives that pour in, guiding you toward goals while you build and rewarding you with cash. It’s a neat compromise for someone like me who gets overwhelmed with a blank park and limitless options, though I wish you were given more money to start with.
Planet Coaster frustratingly hangs on to the main issue of previous coaster sims – waiting around to make money. The speed-up feature is practically required at many points in the game. You can also be forced to take out early game loans as you build a few rides and wait for your funds to fill back up. Financial management was the one area that wasn’t given a boost, making Planet Coaster a bit easier and more casual than other sim games.
World Wide Coasters
One of the biggest selling points for Planet Coaster is the integration of the Steam Workshop. Right from the main menu Planet Coaster shows you a globe of other creators. Clicking a creator opens up the Steam Workshop via the overlay, letting you browse their parks, coasters, and other blueprints.
The blueprint feature is brilliantly integrated to let you upload and download any creation you want, from a decorative spaceship to a fully functioning theme park. With a few clicks you can subscribe to that creation (giving you instant updates should the creator add them) and play with that feature instantly. It’s a far cry from those 90s days of downloading files off questionable websites and sticking them in a folder, hoping everything will work.
The sharing integration relies on a healthy community to support it. Frontier feels very passionate about their creation, but ultimately will rely on fans of the genre to embrace it and fill in much of the content. The incredibly intuitive controls will help win over a lot of people.
Coaster construction is obviously a major feature, and it’s easier than ever. The builder lets you view heatwaves to identify scary parts, test your coaster’s speed while constructing it, and even change height and banking without having to delete pieces. Each piece you add is fully malleable, almost like you’re building with Play-Doh rather than chunky LEGO blocks. It’s a fantastic improvement that makes Planet Coaster feel like a modern design.
Planet Coaster has not yet been rated by the ESRB, but it’s 100% kid friendly. There’s no violence, even when unfinished rides careen off tracks. It’s all played for laughs. The art style and peppy music evoke a fun, exaggerated cartoony theme that fits really well. The realistic physics when diving into coaster construction could even be used as a useful learning tool, as well as managing your funds and keeping people happy.
Planet Coaster includes all the amenities you remember from the theme park genre – guest AI, advanced coaster construction, thematic pieces and scenery, and being able to ride everything – and then improves them all with a very user-friendly interface and seamless sharing integration. The gameplay is more intuitive than ever without losing any of the key features that make the genre so compelling. Planet Coaster is absolutely the RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 you’ve been waiting for.