By Frank Ling, GN Writer
For many of us, amusement parks have provided some of the best memories of growing up. The sounds of roller coasters overhead, the sweet smells of huge puffs of pink cotton candy in the air, and the lure of all the sideshows and arcades was a delight. It was always a sad time when I had to leave these arresting arenas of entertainment — but between you and me, I never really grew out of the amusement park mode.
A new game has come out based upon the amusement park theme named Thrillville. The game allows you to have the opportunity to manage, build and play in your own theme park. While this scenario sounds very similar to other titles in this genre, there are notable differences between Thrillville and previous iterations on this type of game (for example, Roller Coaster Tycoon and Theme Park). But don’t worry, I’ll pay the price of admission to get into Thrillville and tell you if it’s a good time or not.
Thrillville starts off with a quick tutorial. Uncle Mortimer, an eccentric man with the mannerisms and a voice sounding like Doc Brown believes that you have all the skills and abilities to run, maintain and develop his theme parks. The game tutorials teach you how to run the various aspects of the business, such as how to build rides, ride the rides, upkeep the facilities, and poll your park guests on how they feel about the whole experience. After you complete these lessons, you are on your own to make sure that the park runs smoothly and that your customers are satisfied.
As mentioned before, Thrillville is different from other theme park games. The primary variation is that you don’t just manage the park by telling other game characters to do the work; you are instead, completely engaged in all the various aspects of running the business by actually assuming the role of your workers. More about this later.
Gameplay is simple to learn and requires no previous experience in playing simulation-type games. In Thrillville, your goal is to make money and keep your visitors happy. This is accomplished by making sure that all of their needs are met such as hunger, thirst, excitement, boredom, bladder, happiness and even nausea. These levels are constantly monitored by the business function in the game. The higher the percentage of overall happiness (and the amount of money you make) equals how successful your park is. If you’re really good at your job, you’ll be presented with the opportunity of opening up another theme park for Uncle Mortimer—there are five in all, each requiring different objectives and things for you to accomplish. In addition to the main game is the Tourney mode for multiplayer, and Party Play where you can play all unlocked arcade games. The Blueprint section saves and stores all roller coaster designs you have made.
Thrillville is mission based and will alert you to what you need to do to either improve, fix or demolish parts of your park. In one mission, one of the parks needed to be refurbished and it was up to me to go in and renovate the ailing location. Upon entering, I was swamped with little yellow splatters all over the floors and walkways of the rundown facility. These paintball-like splashes were, of course, vomit. Yuck!
But this is part of the humor of this game. Not only are your areas susceptible to individuals who toss their cookies on the rides, but numerous litterbugs throw empty cans all over your nice park, too. Your response? Hire a groundskeeper to clean the mess. Hiring staff goes under the business tab in your game display, and doing this gives you an untrained worker. You must then train them to perform their skills.
So far, pretty standard stuff for a game of this sort. But the twist to all of this is that you take on the role of the employee you’ve hired. If you decide to get an entertainer, you take on the personae of the entertainer. Do you have a game or ride that’s broken? You hire a mechanic and perform all fixing duties through that character. The idea of the gameplay is to totally involve you in the actual workings of the amusement park, and to a degree it works.
On one occasion, some of my visitors were getting bored so I hired an entertainer. I became the cheerleader in training mode, and had to dance to the beat of some catchy music ala Dance Dance Revolution. The training for any of your hires is actually done through similar mini-games. For the groundskeeper, you have to wet the floors with a spray gun to remove the vomit or collect empty soda cans with a vacuum. If you’re a mechanic, you connect wires inside of an electrical box. All the training assignments are timed and reward you with points and money for exceptional performances.
On the business end of things, you have to monitor and adjust ticket prices so that you make a profit; you’re also responsible for advertising and can place ads in various magazines to draw more visitors in. Being a little short of money for expanding your park is not a problem as a loan can always be taken out from the bank. Running the business of a theme park in Thrillville is not complicated, and this is for a reason: the developers have decided to place the emphasis on a hands-on experience within the game rather than concentrating of micromanaging. Those who were ever intimidated or hesitant to pick up a sim game of this sort should feel comfortable with this title. But that’s not to say that it isn’t challenging; business graphs and reports keep you up to date on how your attendees feel about the place, and you must constantly monitor the status of your park in order to maintain and improve it.
But come on, what would an amusement park be without rides and sideshows? In Thrillville, you’ll immediately have the chance to ride or play any feature that is in the park. These range from roller coasters to arcade games, and include just about everything in between. While the primary goal of this game is to run a successful business, you can easily be distracted by all the things you can do in the park. You’ll be able to play the miniature golf courses you install, play arcade games, ride roller coasters and enter any attractions you build. The open ended nature of Thrillville gives you plenty of time to explore and visit; many of the ride ideas are taken directly from the real world. There are Ferris wheels, bumper cars, tea cup rides, vertical take offs, and a whole host of others that will be fun to try.
Building attractions is as simple as finding appropriate space and dropping the ride or feature onto the site. The different rides and games in Thrillville will be familiar to all you amusement park enthusiasts. As with real theme parks, you can also spend a good amount of your time just walking around and looking at everything. This aspect of the game may not appeal to everyone, especially those who are used to heart pumping action titles, but it can be entertaining.
One interesting feature of the game is your ability to actually converse with the visitors in the park. This serves two purposes. First, you gain personal knowledge of what they like and dislike. Second, it gives you the opportunity to get to know your customers better. Conversations are held with park goers by pressing a button, and depending on what responses you select from a popup menu this determines how pleased your visitor is with you. In some instances, you’ll even be able to flirt with the attendees. Some of the chatter is pretty funny, and you can come off looking like a great guy or a jerk in front of the girls. If you really are liked, you’ll enter a little mini game where you can win the heart of the park visitor.
Obviously, the center of any good amusement park is the rides. In Thrillville, you’ll have your work cut out for you as you not only install rides all around the park, but you’ll also be using your available funds to research new rides in order to keep up the interest level of your guests. There is a limited amount of space and you must use this space wisely. By watching the inventory statistics carefully, you determine when the useful life of a ride is up and when to replace them with newer rides and features. The most popular rides are the roller coasters, and you’ll be able to either build one from a pre existing plan or build one from scratch. The roller coaster editor is easy to manage and putting up a hair raising nausea filled ride will be a fun experience.
The graphics of the game won’t really thrill, but are colorful and entertaining. One of the best features of the game is just walking around the theme park and participating in all the different arcade stalls, rides and sideshows as well as meeting your visitors. The overall ambience holds true to an amusement park, and the virtual parks that you attend will offer new sights and varied experiences. Sound is adequate with some pretty entertaining music played throughout the game, and replay value is pretty high considering all the different things that are available to do in each of the parks.
The gameplay, which is somewhat simplistic and slow, may prove to be a negative for those who want more action from their games. But the idea of this game is to enjoy the experience of a theme park in a virtual setting. There are no white knuckle adrenaline rushes, no shooting (with the exception of the arcade games), and no hurry to finish your objectives. Kids of all ages, as the saying goes, will enjoy the easygoing aspect of this title. If you’re into theme parks and would like to find out how it feels to not only run one but to be an active participant in the creations you make, Thrillville may just be the game for you.