Planet Coaster (PC) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 24.12.2016

Review for Planet Coaster on PC

The building simulator is a genre that hasn't seen a lot of action recently. Besides city builders, the market has been pretty empty. In comes Frontier Developments with its newest, though, in the form of Planet Coaster. As the spiritual successor to Rollercoaster Tycoon, Frontier is hoping to recapture that depth of creativity, to let players truly create and manage the theme park of their dreams. It's a very different experience to the rival Rollercoaster Tycoon World that was released during the same month but which of the two games provides the best bang for your buck? Let's secure the harnesses and take a plunge into the unknown…

Upon opening Planet Coaster, fans are greeted by the playful Frontier Developments logo and mascot, which sets the tone for the entire game. Players are then asked to create an avatar that will represent them going forwards. The avatar creator is a little limited, however, which is certainly not the case for the rest of the game but, before, that let's talk modes. There are three modes available: Career, Challenge, and Sandbox. Career takes players through each of the tools as they take over parks and attempt to make them successful. It's a nice easy way to learn the interface and quirks. Challenge lets anyone build a park but sets goals for things like cleanliness, happiness, and more, to ramp up the pressure and to objectify things. Sandbox is where most will sink their time, though. With unlimited money, a choice of five locales, and pretty much endless customisability for terrain, rides, and buildings, it's the place to be.

Screenshot for Planet Coaster on PC

Interface-wise it's hard to think of anything that would improve the experience. It utilises a minimal, but fairly busy, and very robust interface with all the usual tycoon tools laid out in a logical order. While it's reasonably intuitive, there is still a learning curve, the impact of which is lessened by the career mode. Each tool is skinned well with plenty of whitespace and good placement on the screen, although the park manager is a little large in comparison to other pop-ups. Customisation is the bread and butter of the genre and this game doesn't disappoint, and actually building is very cathartic, as objects can be clipped through each other into unique arrangements and can be created using a very solid custom building tool, with rides being as complex or a simple as the player wishes, from an underground / overground ride, to a reasonably accurate recreation of Disney Land's Pirates of the Caribbean ride (further accentuated if custom music is added).

Each tool is intuitive with simple controls and infinite possibilities; for example, building a multi-story shopping centre is possible, and with a lot of time and effort it can be made super detailed with flowers, lighting, different materials on walls and floors, plus a variety of shops. The only thing that might be a little limiting is creating the paths as they can't just be painted in, they must be joined in strips to shop entrances, which means grand mezzanines are a little out of the game's range. Every object that gets created can be grouped together and then copied and pasted within the park or shared on Steam Workshop for other players to enjoy. There are deeper customisation choices, too, right down to what is sold on a burger at a specific shop versus another shop in the park, through to setting triggers on objects to make a leviathan pop out of a lake when the coaster goes past it.

Screenshot for Planet Coaster on PC

The five areas to choose from as a park area are well designed and spacious, with plenty of vertical space. Making use of newer computer hardware, Frontier has managed to create both well optimised and stylish visuals that are reminiscent of the older Tycoon games, while appearing superbly polished, vibrant, and, well, just damn nice to look at! The whole presentation is very clean and yet it does a good job of portraying the hectic nature of a theme park, and this is complemented musically, as the library of tracks is extensive and varied, with the added bonus of letting owners add custom music for that extra theme power, and personally this makes making ride replicas very interesting, like the aforementioned pirate's life theme for the boat ride.

Screenshot for Planet Coaster on PC

Building rides is greatly expanded and very simple. It allows for each piece of track to be separately rotated, lengthened or shortened, titled, and more, which opens up the coasters to a level of complexity above other theme park simulators. It also has a vast library of prefabricated parts, like loops and corkscrews, for people who would rather make a ride that's guaranteed to work. Of course, the auto complete tool makes a return, too. One of the best features that helps with the immersion is how each coaster must be tested against three or four criteria before it can be opened, adding a great realistic feeling. It also then grades scenery, as well as the lengths and effectiveness of said paths.

While there is very little to bring up that is bad, there are a few tiny things that might gradually put players off, one being the path system, and another being how difficult it is to fail. Rides don't currently kill people when they crash and it, therefore, doesn't shrink the visitor intake for the park, yet Frontier is listening to feedback and is still releasing patches, so it's likely to stay fresh all the way through to this time next year.

Screenshot for Planet Coaster on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Without a doubt, Planet Coaster is the definitive theme park simulator. The customisability is key; it's so in-depth and detailed that hours can be spent just crafting the scenery! With intuitive controls and expansive modes, the potential for time sinking is huge for both old-time fans of the genre and those who are willing to venture into this new territory. Polished visuals, a superb soundtrack, and immaculate systems in place, are just the icing on the top. Frontier has excelled itself in almost every way possible, making this not just an easy game to heartily recommend, but one that demands your attention.

Developer

Frontier Developments

Publisher

Frontier Developments

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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