I can not possible put into words how much I adore Planet Coaster. I grew up playing quite a few of the classic management games. Classics from Bullfrog like Theme Hospital and dungeon keeper, Constructor my personal favourite, and of course Roller Coaster Tycoon. I spent many, MANY hours playing that game and designing various parks and unlocking all the challenges and while Planet Coaster falls flat in a few aspects in far surpasses it in many other ways. It is the spiritual successor we’ve been waiting for.
In just few days of play I’ve hit 11 hours already – and that’s without a weekend to really get absorbed into it. On the surface it does have relatively simplistic gameplay; place rides, paths, and services. All these elements are rather similar and while there is a decent amount of choice there what makes the game great, no, amazing is the little details – and I do mean little details. While you can place down certain pre made coasters, buildings and such but also a whole mechanic around constructing your own scenes and buildings. It’s an incredibly diverse system that allows a lot of creativity.
There are a lot of materials there to use that come in a few thematic options from western, pirates, fantasy and sci-fi. The design of the various pieces is incredibly detailed and there is a decent variety of items to use from small to large pieces. There could always be more of the larger items as I feel they are fun to use, quick to implement and really well designed but what is there is enough to customise your park. The real creative elements are the various construction materials you have access to with different wall and roof styles as well as materials and this really does let you create some amazing buildings.
This all makes Planet Coaster feel much more like a sandbox then any other theme park game, and even management game I’ve played before. It actually reminds me a little bit of that old gem called “The Movies” just because of how much creative freedom you have over the end result. You have a barren park and all the tools available to retool that into an absolute wonderland from the large sweeping roller coasters and spinning carousels to the small chamber pots placed by a food stand.
This overarching emptiness is one of the reasons I love it so intently but also why I think it isn’t going to be the right kind of management game for everyone. It’s all very open-ended and you really need your own direction, your own creativity and imagination to keep that interest. To keep motivated and progressing. There is a career mode as well as a challenge mode but both these feel rather lacking to me – pointless in certain respects and hardly something that entertains or really challenges. Those aspects are all just a little tedious.
The nuts and bolts behind the scene are a little lacking as well with various statistics that have no meaning until you research them elsewhere – and even then its debatable. There is the illusion of more detailed information there too, and possible important pieces of information but then the game doesn’t make an effort to actually detail and chart these points for you to see. For you to understand where the effect is or how to alleviate it. As a management game it fails immensely for those reasons, but for the thematic elements of building an amusement park it exceeds all expectations.