As a self-proclaimed die hard fan of older coaster games, and of going to amusement parks in general, Planet Coaster is a game I have been waiting all year to play. In all honesty, I was nervous to give a new game a chance. Would it offer the same things I loved about previous games while giving new and updated features? Or would it start to crush my nostalgia and leave me sulking back to the late '90s and early 2000s? Even though I enjoyed playing the alpha, there was still some trepidation in seeing the full release; Planet Coaster, however, exceeds any and all of my expectations.
While there are many ways to delve into the world of Planet Coaster--such as sandbox, scenarios, and career--challenge mode is by far my favorite way to play. Challenge levels range from easy to harder. I opted to go with medium and found that it kept me happily busy trying to run my park. There are multiple challenges that the player must complete, such as “Achieve a monthly profit of $1,000” or “Achieve a Park Balance Bonus of 20.” Successfully completing a challenge provides a cash reward. Notifications appear in the upper left hand corner, alerting players to a new or completed challenges. The alerts window also gives insight into what the people ("peeps") are thinking.The peeps will let the player know if their park is a good value based on ticket price, if they are annoyed with having to wait too long for a ride, or perhaps if they are having trouble finding somewhere to eat or drink.
An easy way to start off a park and attract guests is the construction of flat rides such as a carousel or Ferris wheel. Flat rides come somewhat themed by default. The swinging ship looks like a pirate ship and there are children's rides that are under-the-sea themed. With the expanse of the parks in Planet Coaster it is almost essential to have transport rides such as a monorail or train. I’m partial to the monorail myself and found that using the autocomplete option in the ride building menu is very beneficial. The game will place the track around currently established rides, buildings, and paths which makes for easy monorail manipulation from there.
One of the things I was hoping that would be improved by final release was the building of ride queues. The original ride setup and queue building was one of the things that kept me from going back to the game when it was in alpha mode. In alpha there were too many steps in an unnatural order which made setting up a new ride tedious and frustrating. However, the queue setup has been vastly improved and streamlined with the full release of the game. Build an entrance, exit, construct a path, and open the ride.
The roller coaster design and building in Planet Coaster is easy to use and really allows you to build your dream coaster. Admittedly, I struggled with it at first in the alpha. The ride length tended to be shorter, and then track tended to end up all in one spot. The previous coaster games I had played were very much click, place track, and repeat until the track met back up with the station. There were also map limitations that made it feel like coasters had to be built in the smallest possible size. It was almost difficult to break out of that mindset after having built coasters like that for years; but once I did, I had a very enjoyable time trying to build various types of coasters and weave the tracks in and out of other rides and around the park.
Even with using a pre-built coaster, the player still has to go through the coaster testing stage before opening a ride to the public. It is a minor annoyance but nothing that gets in the way of gameplay. What I would like to see improved upon is custom coaster ratings. I built a fairly small track with no major hills and sections of the track that had brakes to slow the train down. Still, the coaster excitement rating was almost identical to the intensity rating no matter what I seemed to modify. A lot of peeps deemed it too intense to ride. I have heard other players say the same thing, and I hope this is something that Frontier updates.
Unlike other game developers that release a half-finished game and then sell DLC right away, Frontier has seemingly done the opposite. The initial game debut is solid. There are a plethora of theming options and an almost endless selection of rides, coasters, and shops. Since the release of Planet Coaster there have been multiple free updates to the game. While part of the releases are the typical bug fixes, there are also new rides, challenges, theming options, and shops as well. While I'm sure there will be expansion packs released in the future, this is an almost unexpected surprise in an industry that tends to nickel and dime.
In participating in the fan communities and forums, one of the things that I kept hearing was the complaint that there wasn't enough park management. I really can't say I found this to be true. While the game is mainly focused on coaster building and theming, there is still a park management aspect that needs to be maintained in order for the park to thrive. Whether it's what type of marketing campaign to run and which demographic to focus on, looking at spreadsheets and graphs, or trying to determine how much to charge for park entrance or ride tickets. The people management aspect is new and challenging. Unlike the old days of hiring a worker and having them carry out their tasks until a scenario was completed--or they somehow ended up in a lake--the new worker peeps need to have adequate pay and training. If the player neglects to invest in the workers, they become disgruntled, close up their shops, and/or quit. I had three of my janitors up and quit all at once.
There are times that the game almost seems to be a bit overwhelming, more specifically when it comes to customization and theming. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it can be quite fun, it is easy to spend hours perfecting a building or a ride to have it blend in with the rest of the park theme. Thankfully, Frontier has done a few things to help make theming easier. The theming items can be sorted by style type: Pirate, Wild West, etc., or by building type such as benches, walls, or animatronics. They also make it extraordinarily easy to download and upload fan creations to and from the Steam Workshop. Fans can share their own creations, such as customized Western saloons or waterfall decor. There are also famous downloads that can be found, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Raptor roller coaster from Cedar Point.
Planet Coaster is a game I can truly say that I enjoy. There are many different things to do and challenges to complete and I can easily spend hours playing. With a game developer that seems to have a true interest in fan satisfaction and a strong player community, I can see myself going back to this game repeatedly and can’t wait to see what further updates come next.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.