I didn’t have the chance to visit amusement parks very often while growing up, but that didn’t stop me from adoring them. Few things could compare to the adrenaline rush — and the dizzying effect — a quick ride on the roller coaster would induce. That excitement is difficult to emulate, but RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 came pretty close. And then — though I was a bit older — Thrillville delivered a similar, albeit less substantial, spark of that same excitement. Unfortunately, after that, the amusement park management genre grew dormant. It didn’t make much sense to me; I loved designing roller coasters, and performing all of the other duties involved in managing these digital theme parks, but there were no new ones to to take the head of. That is, until now… sort of.
Adventure Park has two modes of play: campaign and free-play. The campaign starts off promisingly enough with standard theme park management fare. You’re put in charge of a number of suffering theme parks. Whether they just require better management to flourish, or are in need a complete overhaul, it’s up to you to bring them up to snuff. But a bulk of the experience is bogged-down by technical issues.
In one mission, for instance, you’re put in charge of a safari-themed park that has been struggling to sustain itself thanks to its incredibly low visitor-count. If the trend continues, the park’s sole restaurant will have to be shut-down. It’s up to you to make sure that restaurant starts making a profit. you’re given a number of objectives, namely: build the game’s few safari-themed rides, and get the restaurant to start making $1,000 a month within two-hundred in-game “days.” Seems simple enough. So I began building up a theme park, complete with elephant, jeep and helicopter rides. I also created a direct path from the park’s entrance to the restaurant. I figured “with this amount of entertainment, that restaurant will be making a profit in no time!” Despite the fact that my park was booming with business, though, over the span of what had apparently been one-hundred in-game days, the restaurant had housed only a single visitor. Hungry people were mulling around (with hotdogs over their heads to signify that they were in need of food), yet they weren’t flocking to the restaurant. It was incredibly frustrating. Then, I discovered you could move your theme park’s guests by hand.
Hoping I wouldn’t have to use that feature, though, I decided to start over. I bulldozed a hefty amount of the park’s walkways and once again made a direct route from the park’s entrance to the struggling restaurant. I also placed rides much closer together, making the park look awfully dense, but leaving nowhere for people moving along the walkways to go but toward the restaurant. Then, I waited for the guests to arrive. After a while, the park was as tightly packed as I’d planned. But once again, hardly anyone was eating at the restaurant. So I decided to initiate “plan B.” One by one, I picked up every guest I could find and haphazardly flung them at the restaurant. It wasn’t elegant, and it wasn’t at all satisfying, but it was incredibly effective. And as far as I was concerned, it was likely the only way to get the job done.
That’s one of the primary issues with Adventure Park: your incredibly needy guests have trouble finding anything for themselves. Those who carry full bladders dumbly walk past restrooms, and those who feel they can’t find any rides walk past every attraction that’s available to them. It’s frustrating, and it often makes you feel as if tediously picking up each helpless guest and placing them directly in front of what they’re clamoring for is the way the game was intended to be played. And that just isn’t fun at all.
When it comes to improving your park, the game gives you quite a bit of feedback, but what it’s attempting to convey is often a mystery. For instance, at one point a visitor said something to the effect of “… there is no lack of bathrooms here, that’s for sure…” Seconds later, another visitor said “… there is a clear lack of bathrooms…” I don’t know what to think. Was the first comment sarcastic? No changes were made as far as bathrooms go between the two comments. There are many similar conundrums created by the game’s attempt at giving you feedback, likely thanks to poor translation.
While working around the game’s issues can be complicated, and confusing, the actual creation of rides is pretty simple; some might say to a fault. The roller coaster creation tool is pretty bare-bones. No loops, no cork-screws; nothing but drops and turns can be achieved. While, admittedly, the lack of robustness in the tool will likely make it an easier one to use for those not as well-versed in coaster construction; it is not only annoyingly limited for those who want to create more ambitious coasters, but it makes some of the in-game challenges difficult to complete, such as one that demands that your coaster hits a certain speed, or informs a particular g-force.
Although Adventure Park features a disappointingly minute amount of rides, they are unlocked in a somewhat interesting way. If you manage to appease your guests, your park’s attractiveness level will grow, and you’ll unlock a few rides as a result. There are four pirate-themed rides, three western-themed, seven space/aviation-themed, four safari-themed, and four seemingly miscellaneous rides. While there are certainly not a lot of rides in total, their difference in theme makes it seem as though there are even less. This is because visitors demand that all of the rides in your park match aesthetically. Have a park made up of space-themed rides? Well, if you put a pirate-themed Ferris wheel in there, it likely wont get any business. This means that if you’re running a large park, you’re going to need to have several of the same ride within it. In an attempt to counter the lack of variety in the rides, though, each attraction has a set of upgrades that can be purchased if your park reaches a certain attractiveness level. These range from making the rides go faster, to adding music. These upgrades make the rides more desirable in some capacity, but their actual effect is never quite made clear. You can also place special objects on any rails-based attraction. These objects could be anything from timed explosions, to tunnels full of fog. These small add-ons don’t make up for the lack of rides, but I suppose they’re better than nothing.
In order to keep your theme park cleanly, pretty and functional, you’ll need to hire some workers. There are gardeners, cleaners and engineers of varying expertise. Your hirelings will work within an on-screen glowing square that can be made smaller, or larger (why you wouldn’t just make it bigger from the get-go is beyond me). Hiring workers isn’t at all new to the genre, but it functions as it should for the most part. Also worth mentioning is that Adventure Park looks pretty nice in comparison to past games of its genre; but even then, it doesn’t quite look good enough to warrant the frame-rate issues it gave to a relatively high-end computer. Similarly unfortunate is the fact that there is hardly any “theme park” noise. No screams emit from those riding roller coasters, and there is absolutely no chatter among the visitors.
When playing around in free-play, not worrying too much about the needs of your brain-dead guests, Adventure Park can at least prove to be entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s just impossible to play it – with all of its flaws – and not think about the vastly superior amusement park sims of yesteryear. It may act as a feasible introduction for those new to the genre, but considering the fact that you can buy a similar game for a smaller price – complete with more bells and whistles, and a heaping helping of polish – it would be wise to either wait for a new amusement park sim to come along, or look to the past to get your roller coaster designing fix.