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Review: Planet Coaster: Console Edition – The best theme park sim game

Review: Planet Coaster: Console Edition is successor to Rollercoaster Tycoon. Graphics, gameplay and presentation make it must play game
4.5/5 - (50 votes)

Review: Planet Coaster: Console Edition (PS5) – The Rollercoaster Tycoon games will undoubtedly be etched in the memory of the older readers among us. Sit for hours behind your (at the time) huge CRT monitor to tinker together the most nauseating rollercoasters and then drive the entrance fee to dizzying heights. Or read the minds of your visitors to find out whether they were satisfied with the park (or not at all), or drive your guests with a glitch to madness by stating with a sign that the park has no exit (and they thus sentenced to a lifetime of driving around in the “Pukemeister 3000”). Rollercoaster Tycoon was such a game out of a thousand; iconic, simple yet profound (for the fanatics) and addictive. And yet no game has since been made that has managed to tickle us in the same way. Or is it?

The intricacies of the trade

That’s where Planet Coaster comes walking through the door. This game comes from Frontier Developments who previously also worked on the expansions of Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 and even brought the full-fledged Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 into the world. The Cambridge studio is thus familiar with the genre and over the years they have grown into an independent studio, specializing in the business simulator game. This is also immediately noticeable during the first hours of Planet Coaster, where you learn the controls and the tricks of the trade through a number of crazy characters and worn-out scenarios. The voice work occasionally misses the mark because the actors have sometimes recorded their lyrics very exaggerated and therefore you prefer to hit the skip button as quickly as possible,

It is of course no surprise that there is a lot involved in building, improving and maintaining your own amusement park. Fortunately, the first scenarios do a good job of showing you how to build the different types of rides, hire staff, and keep an eye on the thoughts of your guests. The main goal for each park is of course to get the highest possible rating and that figure is not only directly related to the attractions and facilities you build for your visitors, but also to the decoration, hygiene and the entrance fees you use. It is therefore important to keep every facet up to standard. In the beginning, it soon became clear that many of the visitors felt that there was not enough to do in the park and therefore needed a number of new attractions.

Console Edition?

Because Planet Coaster appeared on the PC a number of years ago, Frontier Developments faced the challenge of converting the control to the less extensive functionalities of a controller. Of course you can move and rotate the camera respectively with the left and right levers and with a press of the L1 / R1 buttons you open a box at the bottom of the screen in which you can scroll through the different categories of roller coasters, attractions, facilities, staff and decoration for your park. This is all quite simple and also in the placement of the different constructions you can, if desired, proceed as precisely as you want. Since you are running a park you will spend a bite of your time in the different menus and tables, and Frontier Developments have done their best to make this work as easy as possible, without sacrificing depth and options for the perfectionists. Plume for that, so.

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same with regard to the controls to build roller coasters, because this does not work as well as we had hoped. Via a special scenario, the game also explains perfectly how building your own vomiting machine works. For example, sharp turns, loops and hills have drastic effects on the excitement, fear and nausea of ​​your guests, where it is of course important to keep the excitement as high as possible and the nausea as low as possible. Through real-time information and markings on your roller coaster you can immediately see where these factors peak or fall. However, as soon as you can start tinkering yourself, this falls somewhat into the water. Because the placement and timing of loops, corkscrews and hills have drastic consequences for the overall roller coaster experience,

You have all the options of the PC version at your disposal and they have really made an effort to make this workable with the DualSense and that worked out fine. With the face buttons you can build and remove pieces of the roller coaster and with the left poker you can use the turns and other features. The system also automatically continues with the trend of your previously placed piece. So if you have started a curve and placed that piece, the builder will automatically suggest a curve for the next piece. This is of course very nice in theory, but it also ensures that you are constantly turning around your construction with the camera to see if your roller coaster is going in the right direction. If your final roller coaster does not achieve the correct aforementioned scores afterwards, then this laborious process starts all over again. Connecting a mouse and keyboard – which Planet Coaster fully supports – makes it a bit more bearable, but not everyone is capable of this.

Slight challenge, but a lot of freedom

There are a total of three different modes in Planet Coaster: Career, Sandbox and Challenge. As mentioned, the Career mode starts with a tutorial to explain everything to you, after which you will encounter increasingly bigger challenges in 21 scenarios. For example, in the first levels your main objective is to build only a number of attractions and to attract a specific number of guests to your park. These are therefore relatively easy to achieve. It is therefore only in the later scenarios that the challenge comes into play, where you have to hold your monthly profit for several months, pay off your loans or get the average satisfaction of your guests above a certain level to hold.

For the real amusement park enthusiasts there are the Challenge and Sandbox modes, which are very similar. In Challenge mode, you start with a completely empty park and get limited resources to get things going, with multiple difficulty levels to select. This way you have a lower budget to work with on Hard and your attractions will also break down faster. In Sandbox, on the other hand, you can go all out with building the ultimate amusement park without having to worry about the income or managing other things, which is therefore reserved for the creative person. Frontier Developments has also built in a number of cool tools, such as the Frontier Workshop. You can upload one of your own built attractions – including themes – to the Workshop at any point. so that others can use it. It is of course also possible to take creations – even complete parks – from others and use them as a template. This opens up endless creative possibilities and some of the community’s creations are quite impressive.

Planet Coaster: Console Edition

Fine eye for detail

There is also good news in the technical field. Compared to the PlayStation 4 version, the new PlayStation 5 version focuses on a native 4K resolution with a frame rate of 60 frames per second. Because there can be quite a lot of activity in your park over time, the frame rate will occasionally dip below that fixed 60, but the console quickly corrects that and because the game is not focused on your reflexes or reaction time, that is on the gameplay area is not something that bothers you. It is mainly the eye for detail that makes the overall presentation stand out.

For example, the attractions and facilities look surprisingly sharp even up close and catch the eye with the bright and cheerful colors, which you can also adjust to taste. If you then step into one of your roller coasters in first-person and look at the faces of the visitors, you will see that the animations are detailed. This also applies to the animations of the different mascots, such as ‘Chief Beef’ and ‘King Coaster’, which will walk through your park to entertain the guests in a charming way. Your speakers will also be full of enjoying visitors, the rattle of the roller coasters and the pumping music, which really gives you the feeling that you are in your own crazy amusement park.

Planet Coaster: Console Edition

Planet Coaster: Console Edition – Conclusion

All in all, Planet Coaster: Console Edition is a worthy spiritual successor to Rollercoaster Tycoon. Seasoned veterans of the genre will probably not be challenged until later scenarios, but on the other hand there are the Sandbox and Challenge modes to spend many hours in. The game is generally fine to play with the DualSense, but is a bit sniffed when it comes to building roller coasters. On the other hand, you have the Frontier Workshop, where you can get loads of inspiration from other creations. It is also nice that the whole is well put together in the audiovisual field and with many melancholic titles such as The Last of Us: Part II, DOOM Eternal and Ghost of Tsushima, Planet Coaster is above all a charming and cheerful game that lights up this weird corona year a bit. Do you have a mouse and keyboard or do you love to meticulously perfect your park? Then add only half a point to the final score.

Positives of Planet Coaster: Console Edition

  • Great introduction to the gameplay
  • Enough scenarios to experience …
  • Audiovisually fine
  • Charming presentation
  • Control is simple without sacrificing depth …
  • Soft suggested retail price

Negatives of Planet Coaster: Console Edition

  • … that only really start to challenge towards the end
  • … but building roller coasters is a difficult story
  • Sometimes exaggerated voice acting

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