Park BeyondXbox Series X/S, PS5, PC ¦ sim
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the first ever theme park was the Bakken in Denmark, opened in 1583. Apparently it was a pleasure garden built near some popular springs, that featured live entertainment, dancing, and believe it or not, some early rides. No doubt the all day pass was reasonable enough at only half a pig and a dozen eggs.
Amusement parks have a come a long way since then, to the point that you probably haven’t had a good time if a ride or two didn’t induce severe vomiting.
A safer way to enjoy all the thrills and spills they have to offer is to indulge with a game version, such as this one. Having previously made Tropico 6, German developer limbic Entertainment decided to work on a completely new title; to produce this amusement park management simulation, but one with an extra twist, you can also create roller coaster rides too.
If you’ve played any of these management sims before, such as Two Point Campus, you’ll be right at home here.
If you start with the campaign, you’ll find yourself involved with the Cloudstormer company keen to expand their theme parks, so they decide to hire you as their visioneer.
To begin with, you’re tasked with managing a failing park of theirs, to get it up and running successfully. This involves overseeing all the rides, the food and drink stands, right down to if there are enough toilets. The company bigwigs will set out a number of milestones for you to achieve, and once you’ve done just that, you move onto another theme park locale, with its own set of challenges. And so it goes on.
For a first stab at a theme park sim, of which there are a number of knocking about, Limbic don’t do a bad job of things with their debut theme park title. It’s on the generic side, which is only to be expected, as it’s a tried and tested formula after all.
It is the type of game that really doesn’t feel it belongs on a console; there are various tabs you have to go in and out of, checking various bits of info on all the attractions and facilities. With a console this involves a hefty amount of the use of the shoulder buttons, as well as the D-pad, which of course would be far less faff with a mouse, making these sim type games fairly fiddly overall. To be fair, you do get the hang of it, but there must be a more streamline, console-friendly approach somehow.
As with all sim-life, it’s all about the juggling, with your main priority being to keep your paying customers happy. You can use the handy heat map on all those currently in your park to get a general idea of how they’re feeling, and tweak things accordingly depending on what those needs are. So if a number of them are hungry, plonk another restaurant in the park.
One minor gripe however is the inability to pick individual staff members up and place them conveniently near an area that needs their particular attention, like cleaning staff near a lot rubbish, for instance. Leaving it up to their own judgement takes time, and does feel like it’s a little out of your hands, which isn’t ideal for this type of game, where you essentially play God.
If you want to advance however, you have to meet the criteria of a number of challenges, as well as milestones. Some are easy enough, like placing a certain amount of bins around the park. We we’re perplexed by one challenge for the longest time, which seemed simple enough – make sure that three of your toilet facilities where making a profit of $20 or more in a month. Considering how many drinking facilities we put in, you think it was easy money, but for some reason, it was a real struggle. Not the huge roller coasters, park rides, or general day to day management issues – we we’re stumped by underperforming loos. We hit the target, eventually – but still feels like it shouldn’t have been as challenging as it was.
Speaking of which, one of the biggest was the tutorial, which nearly had us walking away from the game before getting into the nitty gritty of it all. It sees you having to build a roller coaster through a set urban area. Now one of the things that sets this apart from most of these types of games is the ability to create your own roller coasters, but it isn’t essential, particularly in the progression of the game, as the game admits itself, by including a number of default coasters you can just choose instead of creating your own. So it seems an odd thing to open your game with. It also doesn’t help that you can’t save at any point during the tutorial; you’re right, it shouldn’t be all that time consuming, but again, changing the height of the ride, its movement etc was all very fiddly and took some time. So as we were told that the game saved automatically throughout, we thought it would be OK to come out of it, and return when we could Big mistake. Not only did it not save, we discovered a glitch on restarting the game that meant we couldn’t continue. So we wiped our save. We went back into the game and it was still there. So we pulled out the big guns and deleted the entire game, and downloaded it again. Nope. Still there. At this point we we’re willing to wave the white flag, despite supposedly reviewing it, but it as it was review code sent to us by their lovely PR team, we persevered. Of course the problem was the Xbox Series X’s cloud save. Now we’re not sure if you’ve ever had to wipe your cloud save for a game, but that’s another joyless faff. We did manage to get back into it, glitch free, but man it was not a pleasant experience. We’ve noticed the game has had an update since then, so hopefully this was one of the issues that was addressed.
We’re glad we did get back into the game however, as it is a fun experience, if sim games are your thing. Constantly checking if rides are making money – if not, why not – and seeing to your customers’ needs.
And as mentioned, creating roller coasters is a great addition; it allows you to balance the business management side of things, with the ability to be more creative, which is a nice touch. And with the ability to view the ride as if a passenger is a surprisingly pleasing thrill; approaching that crest above before that inevitable sheer drop on the other end, even virtually, is more fun than it should be.
Another addition to the game is the ability to impossify; in short, it’s the ability to upgrade various aspects of your park, from staff to rides, making them just that little bit more impressive and outrageous. It’s tied to a meter, which builds up over time, before you can unleash it, but seeing some of the make-overs it achieves is pretty entertaining.
We’re still not sure that these sim games are best suited to a console experience in their current PC-orientated format, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Park Beyond and its valiant attempt to move the genre forward, if only with baby steps.
If your life isn’t complicated enough without the need to run various flawed theme parks on the side, then Park Beyond is for you. So strap yourself and enjoy the rides.