Chances are high that if you ask anybody who had access to a computer as a kid in the 90s what games they liked to play they’ll say Roller Coaster Tycoon. The series was an integral part of an entire generation’s gaming experience. It is no surprise, then, that there has been a considerable revival to the theme park management genre as of late. Limbic Entertainment, the developers behind Tropico 6, are now trying their hand at the park management simulator with their upcoming title Park Beyond.
Published by BANDAI NAMCO, who recently just acquired a majority stake in Limbic Entertainment, Park Beyond is the quintessential theme park management experience but with a flair for the imagination. It is not simply enough to create your own twisty roller coaster with intense drops. Park Beyond instead invites you to truly create without limitations by little things like gravity and terrain. You can, without hesitation, drop a ramp in the middle of your rollercoaster so that your park guests can experience being airborne for a short time or even launch them from a cannon if you so desire. I had the opportunity to go hands-on with two missions from Park Beyond, as well as the game’s Sandbox mode, and what I experienced was nothing short of a Willy Wonka inspired fever dream of possibilities.
Park Beyond’s story mode introduces the player — a wonderstruck creative who dreams up seemingly impossible theme park rides — to a vibrantly colorful cast of characters that can help turn those fever dreams to gravity defying reality. The thrill seeking Blaize Ultra (no, really, that’s her name.) stumbles upon one of the player’s creative theme park rides after the player folds it up into a paper airplane and tosses it out of the window. This chance meeting leads to the player being introduced to Phil, an amusement park enthusiast with a willingness to go big, and the tight-lipped Izzy, the CEO of a struggling company that is very focused on the bottom line but willing to take some small investment risks. Together these characters help the player throughout the campaign to learn the basics of theme park management with an emphasis on important metrics like park attractiveness, trending products, and guest focus groups.
As with most management simulators, there will be dedicated goals for your theme park and accomplishing those goals is how you keep the lights on and the doors open for another day so that you can focus on the fun part: Building roller coasters with cannons. Building the coaster of your dreams is surprisingly easy in Park Beyond, as elements like the supports and terraforming can be done automatically thanks to the game’s robust accessibility features. While gravity takes a vacation from time to time in Park Beyond physics does still play a role in the game and so players will need to consider various elements of track design including track tilt, yaw, and speed.
During my hands-on preview I had the opportunity to test out track design using standard tracks and chain lifts, as well as a variety of modules such as cannons and launch ramps to spice up my tracks. A ghost cart could be set to follow the path of the coaster as you built that would display the cart’s speed so that you could be certain you weren’t going to fling your park guests to the heavens once they hit a ramp. Unless you were trying to do that, anyway. Park Beyond’s track design is surprisingly forgiving and willing to bend around the world that has been given to players to work with.
In one of the early tutorials, I was determined to make my track jump through a large donut sign over top of a city-based rooftop. Logistically, it didn’t seem like a stunt that would be easy to pull off as theme park games have a history of being deceptive when it comes to hit boxes for tracks. However, for Park Beyond the building system was so efficient that it didn’t matter how ridiculous a stunt or idea was. If I did happen to mess up a module enough that the ghost card would become stuck, I could simply choose the problematic node of the track and adjust it dynamically without any need to start over or delete large areas of my coaster.
Perhaps one of Park Beyond’s greatest secrets, however, is the module building system that extends toward other elements standard for a theme park. For most theme park building simulators, the ability to decorate your park or design a theme is typically limited to existing building structures created by the developers. Park Beyond certainly has those curated and themed shops readily available, but if you really want to get the most customization out of your park, you’ll want to make use of the available building tools.
Every shop type available in Park Beyond has a base structure, which players can customize the colors for and then build upon using modular building elements. The hands-on preview allowed access to two sets of themed items: the standard Park Beyond theme, and a more vibrant and livelier Candyville theme. Using the themed modular elements, a standard coffee shop could be built up to have a rooftop covered in donuts, with adequately themed lighting and additional decor to match. Large animatronics also made up the customizable theme decor, including prancing unicorns and fire spewing pink dragons that could be set to timers to suit the needs of your individual park. It’s not a flawless system, however, as there were certainly visual issues with guests and staff clipping through decor in the preview build.
That said, Park Beyond is slated for a 2023 release on PC and Xbox Series X|S consoles, leaving Limbic Entertainment plenty of time to continue smoothing out visual quirks. Park Beyond is already showing a lot of promise for its future release despite being an ambitious project for a small development team. Fans of theme park management and simulation games will certainly want to keep an eye out for Park Beyond.
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Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.