Theme parks have the incredible ability to transport visitors to magical new worlds. I find it hard to walk through Disney World’s fairy-dust-sprinkled streets without dreaming about the amazing attractions I’d cook up if I only had a billion dollars and a team of Imagineers on payroll. Planet Coaster is a theme park creation toolkit that helps scratch that itch. While this simulated theme park proves that managing your own wonderland isn’t all fun and games, its nearly limitless creation tools allow for some grand displays sure to inspire the tycoons of tomorrow.
Planet Coaster is almost a misnomer. While roller coasters are certainly a star attraction for any theme park, that’s only one element in Planet Coaster’s larger diorama. Frontier Developments (of Roller Coaster Tycoon fame) has created a complete theme park simulator that allows you to customize little details (like the speed of your tilt-a-whirl) while managing a staff and funding advertisement campaigns to attract the masses across the country.
Of course, those masses get most excited about roller coasters that send their stomachs into zero-g. Planet Coaster’s roller coaster creation set seems intimidating at first, but it’s easy to use. I found it simple to lay out a track, add loops or hills, and then add extra curves and twists to every inch of the track. During my time with Planet Coaster, I discovered that I was a sadistic designer who took a little too much pride in the fact that guests would often step off rides and immediately vomit, but I also never felt restricted while creating these horror shows.
Those who suffer from the blank-page syndrome might find inspiration by editing one of Planet Coaster’s extensive premade tracks. The game also offers great feedback on your creations, so you know if your coaster isn’t obeying the laws of physics or if it’s too twisty and will make your guests sick. I found it very handy that I could automatically smooth out bumpy sections or autocomplete my tracks once my creative juices had started to run low.
The elasticity of Planet Coaster’s creation tools extends into the rest of the park. You can populate your playground with a variety of non-coaster rides, band stands, and shops. A wide array of scenery allows you to create sci-fi utopias, wild west sideshows, or pirate getaways. I ran into a few problems laying paths across my parks and connecting a ride’s exit back to the main park, but for the most part the only limit I felt while creating my theme parks was my own imagination.
As a creation kit, Planet Coaster is impressive. Unfortunately, as a management sim, the game feels like a slow ride on a carousel. You oversee everything from the price of your ticket sales, to the amount of money you spend on advertisements, to what new ride technology to research next; but making sure you have enough janitors to clean up after your guests isn’t nearly as exciting as building a death-defying new coaster. A Career Mode lets you jump through a series of pre-made parks and complete a series of tasks to rejuvenate each park, but these objectives are often boring or tedious, so you’re better off creating your own park from scratch.
Planet Coaster offers few carrots to continue to expand your park outside of the sheer joy of creation. Thankfully, Planet Coaster has so many tools available that that creating your own worlds of fun is often its own reward.
Planet Coaster proves that managing your own wonderland isn’t all fun and games, but its a nearly limitless creation toolkit.