Review

ScreamRide

The Coaster Has Stalled
by Joe Juba on Mar 02, 2015 at 05:01 PM
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release:
Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on: Xbox 360

I have spent many happy hours tormenting patrons in the Roller Coaster Tycoon series. Though ScreamRide doesn’t have the simulation elements of Frontier’s most famous theme park experience, it still has nauseating and dangerous contraptions that push riders to the edge of their sanity. Sadly, your interactions with these thrill rides feel thin and constrained, but ScreamRide isn’t completely without charm.

The campaign is framed as an experiment designed to test the effectiveness of various roller coasters and other equipment. In gameplay terms, this gives you three primary activities to choose from. Demolition challenges are my favorite of the bunch; these are reminiscent of the Burnout series’ infamous Crash Mode. I often broke out laughing as I launched a capsule or coaster (with riders inside) and watched as it barreled into structures, triggered explosives, and caused general havoc. The physics aren’t dialed up enough to create truly satisfying chain reactions, but watching the destruction is still fun.

Engineering stages are more like puzzles, charging you with laying down coaster pieces to finish a track according to certain criteria. You may have to use specific pieces, keep nausea levels low, or carefully avoid timed hazards. I enjoyed how the planning and deliberation of this mode contrasts against the action of the other two, slowing down the pace and forcing you to think. Finally solving a difficult scenario is rewarding, but the cumbersome building interface feels more like an obstacle than a tool to help you succeed.

Lastly, the racing levels put you in control of the coaster. You accelerate, brake, lean, and activate turbo boosts as you ride the twisting rails. This is definitely the most exhilarating of the modes, but it also can be the most frustrating. Simply finishing the levels isn’t hard, but getting the maximum commendations (more on that later) is aggravating – especially since your car’s derailing feels so inconsistent.

The three activities provide variety, but in every case, the later levels have more obstructions and less of what makes the game entertaining. Demolition becomes more about precision and less about destruction. Engineering relies on small adjustments rather than problem solving. The timed runs are about careful maneuvering instead of speed. This means that the early levels feel the most focused and fun, and the modes get more annoying as you unlock more stages.

Levels are grouped into different zones, and you need to perform well to earn commendations and progress to the next set. That’s not a problem for the early section, but accessing the final zones requires you to go back and replay earlier stages, hoping to squeeze some extra medals out of levels that weren’t that interesting the first time around. Considering that the levels are less fun the further you progress, this structure has you working harder to enjoy the game less, which isn’t worth the hassle.

If plowing through the campaign sounds like a slog, you might be tempted to just dive into sandbox mode, which lets you craft your own equipment freestyle. Unfortunately, the two activities are related; lots of cool pieces remain locked until you progress in the other challenges, so you can’t completely invest in your own creations until you get far enough in the main modes. Even then, the potential to make cool contraptions is diminished by the same interface issues that plague the engineering challenges, making it difficult to give shape to the creations in your imagination.

The bulk of the thrills in ScreamRide come early, then taper off as the experience becomes more complicated. After that, the frustrations stack up and make everything feel like a chore – not the ideal mood for a game about amusement park attractions.

The Edge
The gameplay is basically the same between the two versions of ScreamRide. However, community-minded players should be aware that the ability to share your created levels (and experience other user’s creations) is exclusive to Xbox One.
ScreamRide

Your interactions with these thrill rides feel thin and constrained, but ScreamRide isn’t completely without charm. 

6.5
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Game Informer's Review System
Concept Ride coasters, destroy buildings, and build thrill rides of your own
Graphics The colorful and clean visuals give off an appropriately cartoonish vibe
Sound Repetitive music and unremarkable voice work keep the audio landscape bland
Playability Controls for the engineering sections are clumsy, but otherwise everything works fine
Entertainment ScreamRide becomes less fun as the mechanics get more involved and the requirements to unlock new levels rise
Replay Moderately High