wow, this looks well good i wanna play it!
We love simulation games. Give us any of the Theme games and we'll happily sit there messing with ticket prices or organising surgeons all days. It was with interest, then, that we learnt that Thrillville, LucasArts' theme park game, was coming to Wii. Can it hold a candle up to the other games with a similar 'theme' already out on the market?
Rather than sitting you in a boring office, Thrillville has a completely hands-on approach. You take on the mantle of the park manager, but instead of merely sending your drones out to do your work for you, you are asked to take everything on personally. Controlling your character in a third person view point, you must physically walk around yourself to find sites for building new attractions within your park, set off marketing campaigns, perform market research by talking to your patrons, train your staff and even test out all the rides and stalls. Personally we think there's just a little bit of cost-cutting and all-round cheapness of the owners of the theme parks here to make the one person do all of this, but we digress...
We created the nerdiest looking thing we could, and off we went. You start out in a pre-built theme park and are swiftly given a once-over on all of the basics before being shunted out to do things on your own. Luckily, it's pretty simple to pick up. Although you're free to handle your park however you like, your priority is of course to look after your customers and bring in more money, thus upping your popularity and giving you the chance to expand your empire. By building new things and testing out attractions, plus just about everything else, you are awarded 'Thrill Points', which are basically experience points that cumulate until you progress up a level and receive a new ranking, giving you more resources to do what you like.
However, the best way to get Thrill Points is by fulfilling missions. While it's possible for you to run around doing as you please, developers Frontier have added some structure to the title by giving you lists of optional missions to carry out. These can range from 'talk to some guests' to 'upgrade your rollercoasters' and so on. None of them are particularly taxing, but they help to focus the game experience.
With the third person viewpoint, you're able to walk around the park on your own, and this makes up the majority of Thrillville. By approaching guests, you can initiate dialogue with them to find out what makes them tick, what they think should be added to the park and find out where they heard about the place from (in order to help you focus on certain publications for advertising to bring in the demographics that you want – advertising is as simple as going into the menu, flicking through a list of places you can possibly advertise and clicking on them, paying a lump sum as you go). You can also generally chit-chat with them or make oft ill-fated attempts to flirt with members of the opposite sex. When speaking to guests, a friendship metre appears at the bottom of the screen, and if you interest them this rises. Once you hit a certain point the person you are talking to is added to the not-at-all-MySpace-inspired MyCrowd list, where you can warp directly to them at any time to see how they're doing. As well as standard consumers pottering around, you also have critics stalking about who will demonstrate how eager the mainstream press is to deliver honest opinions by only giving your park decent reviews if you bribe them.
Building things is as easy as clicking on an empty lot, selecting what you want to create and twisting the nunchuk either left or right to rotate it into the position you want (the rotation would have probably worked better just on the analogue stick with the Wii remote used to point where you wanted it to go to be fair, but it does the job). From there you can paint your new attraction or 'trick it out' with various symbols such as film reels. You can also test it out...but more on that later. The main aspect that is being pushed with Thrillville is the ability to build your own rollercoasters, and rightly so – it's one of the highlights of the game. Rather than just asking you to click and drop pieces into place, once you've entered the 'coaster building mode you twist your Wii remote around to make the ride just how you want it. If you want it to go up into the skies, dive down and turn right, you just need to hold the remote up and keep pressing A to set down pieces, then move it round so it faces down and repeat, then twist it to the right. It is a bit gimmicky and has problems in not recognising where you want it to go sometimes, but it shows that some thought has gone into it rather than it being a straight port. More of this, please. While you're building, you can also hit Z to bring up a menu of 'Whoa features', such as loop-de-loops, which can can be added to your rollercoaster to up the thrills. If you can't be bothered finishing off your ride after you're done all your big show-pieces (or if you can't find a way to end it if you've been too extravagant) you can press C to bring up an automated track-finisher. It's a very welcome and helpful idea, especially with some of the beasts we've been creating. Designing race courses and mini golf courses is done in the same way as rollercoaster building, although obviously without all the stunts and flaming hoops.
As said, you can test out your attractions once they are done. In the case of carnival rides and rollercoasters, this is often a case of clicking the 'ride' button and literally going on them in first person viewpoint. We've seen this before even as far back as Bullfrog's original Theme Park, but it's still fun to have a go on your own creations. They aren't the only things you can go on, though – just about everything is playable in some way, even your food stands. See, this is another main thing about the title: mini-games. This will doubtless make some of you flinch in horror, but they're actually very well implemented. If you want to test out your mini-golf course, you go into a mini-game and play the hole for real. If you want to go on one of the arcade games or shooting galleries you've made, off you go. Even training your staff is done via mini-games, such as teaching the entertainers to dance in a rhythm game or charmingly showing the janitor how to wipe up piles of sick. Many of these mini-games are pretty average, some don't work well at all (Alley Ball and the aforementioned rhythm game spring to mind), but there are some very good ones in there too, such as Bandito Chinchilla, a stereotypically Mexican side-scrolling beat 'em up with enemies such as 'El Lizard', and Stunt Rider, which sees you trying to get as many stunts on a bike as possible within a time limit. We were also pretty happy with Trampolines and the sickeningly cute Sparkle Quest. They all play like Flash games, but some are really well made. Unfortunately, there are a lot of clones in there too, with all the racing games being practically the same with different cars/themes.
There is a lot to do in Thrillville, and we're not saying this lightly. As well as being able to manage your parks, there is also a Party Mode made up of the mini-games you can play within your parks. Before we even delved into the main mode we took this on and played through every mini-game that was unlocked at that point – 40 games. The remaining 10 are unlocked during the main mode and are generally remixes of the initial games (as are some of the 40). We clearly underestimated this side of it, as it actually took us the best part of three hours to just test out all of these games (sticking with one that we liked for about half an hour, admittedly). When you imagine that these are designed for party usage, some people are going to get a lot out of it before they've even decided which games they truly want to keep playing. On top of that is the actual game of course, which is long with many different ranks and parks to conquer. It can get a bit repetitive in that you're doing the same thing over and over to build up the parks, but you can't fault the amount of content and the effort that's gone into making things interesting with the missions.
The overall presentation is pretty good, with some nice CG cutscenes, though the in-game graphics aren't going to win any beauty contests – it looks average at best, which is a shame but to be expected since it's come out on every platform under the sun. The audio side is alright technically, but ruined by the same music coming round and round very often, and the voices of the characters are pretty annoying. The audio is what made us most angry about Thrillville really – somebody at LucasArts/Frontier is clearly having a huge laugh at the expense of the Monkey Island faithful, and we felt like curling up in the corner of a room and mopping up our tears when we heard not one, but two sound samples from Monkey Island cropping up and teasing us. The first we can forgive – a monkey's squeal, which has probably been used in a couple of different games. The second is vicious, a complete rip of the Monkey Island theme shoved heartlessly into one of the mini-games. Thankfully it's one of the better mini-games, but it's not at all related and just makes our hearts pang painfully at our desire for another Monkey Island game.
Thrillville: Off The Rails is well worth a look into if you fancy a decent simulation game on your Wii, and has the double bonus of also having a fair collection of mini-games included if you have youngsters around, you've just come back from one of 'those' nights with a bunch of friends or you feel like some bite-sized play. Now, who wants to come and ride on one of our rollercoasters? We'll finish it off this time before we let people on it, we swear...
Decent theme park simulator, with some nice ideas such as the rollercoaster building with the Wii remote. Unfortunately the park building can get a bit repetitive after you're on your umpteenth one. Shame about the range of quality of the mini-games: the bad ones are really bad, but luckily the good ones are ace fun.
They don't take advantage of Wii one bit, but we've seen worse. Some of the mini-games are in beautiful 2D, so that bumps the score up. Otherwise, the in-game graphics are average.
Nothing special, but nothing bad. Fully voiced, at least. Makes us yearn for Guybrush Threepwood in parts.
Heaps of mini-games and a lot to do in the main game, this is a great package that has something for just about everybody.
Thrillville: Off The Rails is perhaps not what what Wii-owning simulation players have been waiting for, but it's worth a play until some developers get off their backsides and tap this area of the market. Frontier have done a great job in catering for everybody and offering a long game experience. Maybe next time they can focus on a game that's going to be on a few less platforms and make it truly special.
wow, this looks well good i wanna play it!