For fans of coaster builders, brace yourself for Planet Coaster and ready your blueprints. Planet Coaster offers a full package deal with park management and coaster building – heavy on the coaster building. I couldn’t stop creating for hours, trying to make the perfect ride, and the formula is definitely a tricky one to master. You can’t just whip together anything and expect it to pass with flying colors, Planet Coaster will make you work for the ratings.
Planet Coaster is a theme park simulator that allows you to build the park of your dreams. You can place food shops, bathrooms, and other locations to satiate your guests’ needs while they go from ride to ride, enjoying the park you’ve built. It offers an extensive amount of customizability to give you the full experience of park building as well, letting you purchase and place dozens of rides, or even put together some of your own. Then, you can try other players’ designs as well as share your own to be judged and played.
The game gives you all the tools you need and allows for tons of customization in creating your own park. Of high importance is placing rides and knowing which ones to put down. There are two different types of rides outside of the coasters: Gentle and Thrill. The gentle rides are for the less thrill-seeking guests, and allows them for a bit of respite on some less terrifying rides. The downfall of the gentle rides is that you can’t charge too much for them (generally around 4-8 dollars a ride).
On the thrill rides, you can get a heavy profit, but you need to make sure you have the right guests for this kind of ride. They generally have a much higher nausea rating, but also a higher excitement rating. When you have more profits, you can spend money on marketing campaigns to get specific groups of guests that may enjoy certain types of rides over others. Until then, it’s all about balance and catering to the guest’s needs.
All rides also have a key factor of maintenance. It’s important to have your ride checked by mechanics for inspection, but a really interesting (and expensive) game mechanic is the wear and tear of rides. Every once in a while you may find a ride breaks down much more frequently than others, and when you check on it, there is probably an option to refurbish the parts. This is a challenging thing to keep on top of, and if you let it go too long a ride may be down more than it’s worth to have open.
As of the December update, there is now a Prestige ranking attached to each ride as well – basically the popularity of the ride. A brand new ride will attract more guests than an older one. The developers have said if a ride is around long enough, it may regain popularity by becoming a classic. This feature is a pretty close tie-in to a traditional theme park, and adds a bit of a challenge to the harder career and challenge modes.
The feature hasn’t been very well received amongst players because they can demolish and rebuild the same ride to regain the popularity instantly. The developers said that they will add a switch to turn off prestige (and it won’t be present in sandbox or easier modes) for players who find it too much of a hindrance. I think that the feature had good intentions, but if all it takes is a quick demolish and rebuild to regain notoriety, then it kind of cheapens the experience.
Employees are an important part of running a park. You can control your employee’s wages and their training levels, as well as where they patrol to make their workload manageable and efficient. Placement of shops also play a factor in employee’s happiness – if a shop is not being used often, employees will quit. I tried giving a large wage to the employee and, still, their happiness declined (along with my profits). It really makes you evaluate your positioning of shops.
On that note, you must also make sure the paths with a lot of traffic have big enough paths for guests to get through to the rides (or bathrooms, if they need it!). Luckily, there are ways to increase the width of the paths so that you can manage the traffic when you identify a bottleneck.
If you’re planning on building a lot of scenery/buildings – learning the hot keys for rotations/movement is, in my opinion, extremely time-saving because it takes a LOT of patience to get the placement just right. Apart from this, the game has an extensive library for designing your own scenery – however you so choose to implement it. For those that need a bit of a helping hand, there are some pre-built blueprints so you can get your foot in the door and get ideas on how to use the library.
Most important of all is the roller coasters – building our own death-defying, swirling trains of terror. The way to get a guest to ride a coaster is to master the three attributes to a ride: Excitement, Fear, and Nausea. These ratings might not come as a surprise to park management veterans, but for new players, it may be a little challenging. You have to make sure all your drops are just on the right side of exciting so that the guests will want to ride it and not puke all over your exit the minute they get off.
I was kind of disappointed I couldn’t just force the guests on my ride because I am more on the sadistic side when it comes to coaster designing (Thank you, RollerCoaster Tycoon). There’s a very satisfying feeling that comes from giving the most exciting, terrifying and nauseating experience – perhaps maybe just the fact the guests can’t make it three feet before throwing up.
One of the best aspects to the game was being able to edit the track while testing so that I could see what my modifications did to increase or decrease my overall rating. It’s amazing what a slightly larger turn can do to fix your excitement rating (or throw your nausea rating through the roof). My only gripe with this feature is that you can’t test while in pause mode, which makes sense, but trying to build a coaster while your funds are only steadily increasing (or depleting rapidly) is pretty difficult. This is why some may choose to go into Sandbox mode (more on this in a moment) and create there so that they may save the blueprint and put it into action quickly. This is only really useful if you know the terrain and obstructions you’re face with though – so it’s good to keep that in mind at the same time.
Sandbox mode gives you the world to mess with and you’re free to make any park you can imagine. It’s easy to lose yourself in Sandbox mode, but if you aren’t one for unlimited creation – there’s great career modes available to test your skills. Career mode gives you three specific objectives to clear. The careers range from Beginner to Hard and, once you get to Hard, it really tests your knowledge on how to create the best park experience. If you don’t plan your attack, you’ll be left with no money and a hole you will not be able to dig yourself out of.
Challenge mode is similar to career mode. You have a blank slate to build on rather than a small start given in career mode. You have to carefully budget your allotted resources and make sure you aren’t left in a the red before you clear the challenges.
I do enjoy the management side to these games, and Planet Coaster did deliver a good amount of it. Trying to keep my staff happy was difficult at first, but once I established a reasonable salary and trained them to their highest potential, it was almost impossible to make them unhappy. Beyond that, mastering the effectiveness of stall placement and what TYPE of stall to place to keep your guests happy and in the park for the longest amount of time.
The graphics are just another point in the game’s favor. I loved watching the entertainers dazzle my guests as much as I loved watching my guests uncomfortably run to the first aid booth. You can zoom in and out to your heart’s desire and catch all of these reactions first-hand. Being able to ride your own coaster, or one of the many rides available in the game, is also a very nice perk!
Planet Coaster does a good job of coordinating between silly/fun and business. I love all the entertainers and their designs, enjoying the goofy Cosmic Cow bouncing around on a ball while making sure my park is still profitable with the detailed analytics in the overview. The developers are always listening for feedback and have shown (especially with the huge free winter update) that they care for their fans. All in all, Planet Coaster has an outstanding amount of detail and it has earned a spot on my shelf for a long time to come.