Here’s a little blasphemy for you: I’ve never actually played Rollercoaster Tycoon. Tycoon games in general are a little difficult for me to get into. I’ve had them “click” with me before – for instance, I lost a frightening amount of time to OpenTTD – but usually I’ve got too much on my plate to focus so intensely on a genre with so few explosions. Sorry, boys and girls.
The point there is that you’re going to be getting a different perspective on ScreamRide from me. This rollercoaster riding/construction/dangerous misuse simulator certainly appears to be appealing to fans of that classic title, particularly since it’s got the same developers working on it, but having never played Rollercoaster Tycoon, well…I can’t really comment on how well it hearkens back. As a standalone game, though, ScreamRide certainly seems like a winner.
ScreamRide is essentially three different games in one. There’s three “career paths” to go through and each offers different gameplay and objectives. You can mix and match between styles to your liking, though you’ll generally progress through the stages faster if you focus on a single path as that determines your “security clearance” level which is used for unlocks.
ScreamRider mode lends the game its title and, oddly, feels like the weakest of the bunch. You ride through premade coasters, boosting and braking your way around in order to avoid getting murdered by falling off the track. Objectives tend to involve clearing tracks quickly and with a certain number of points – the latter of which are earned by going fast, earning and using boost and performing stunts like taking corners hard enough to end up on two wheels. ScreamRider feels like a bizarro version of F-Zero or WipeOut, so fans of that style of racer might find something to love here.
On the other hand, the Demolitions Expert mode was my personal favorite and plays a bit like an updated version of the Wii classic Boom Blox. You’ve got a ride with detatchable cabins and your job is to fling them at buildings to bring them down. This is reminiscent of classic trajectory-plotting games like Scorched Earth and Gunbound, though you’ve got a bit more control over the cabins and can apply a little somethin’-somethin’ to them after launching to ensure you hit your target. Knocking stuff down is simple fun and each stage offers bonus challenges to work on as well if you want to go the distance.
Engineering mode focuses on construction. It was probably made for people with a bit more of a creative bent than myself, but so far as I can tell it works just fine. Each stage gives you an objective to complete along with bonus objectives you can work on for extra points. Building your coasters is straightforward and easy to learn, though it can be a little finicky since you’re trying to build something in 3D space with a 2D input device. You’ll need to test your creations when you think you’re ready to finish a level, and mercifully the game will show you highlights of your coasters to help you work on the inevitable redesigns you’ll need to do; for instance, it’ll point out bits where your coaster is less thrilling than expected or where, heaven forbid, the cars stalled.
Naturally, you’ve also got a sandbox mode where you can design your own coasters. This works much like Engineering mode; you can, of course, ride your own coasters a la ScreamRider mode and can blow stuff up with unsafe designs like Demolitions Expert mode. Progressing through the different career paths unlocks more objects for use in this mode, so if you like playing around with coasters you’ll want to do well in the main game. There’s no multiplayer option available, so the closest you’ll get is building coasters in the sandbox and sharing them with other players via Xbox Live.
The presentation is a little too reminiscent of Valve’s classic Portal; you’ve got your fiendish AI, your scientific testing motif and so on. We’re a few years out from that trend, so this is less dry than it could be, and the humor’s not all too grating. Aesthetically everything is as nice as we’ve come to expect from first-party Xbox One titles. In particular, the physics on display during the Demolitions Expert stages are all kinds of great and did a lot to make that my favorite mode. Who doesn’t love blowing stuff up?
If you don’t come into the game expecting a full-fledged theme park management sim, you’ll probably enjoy ScreamRide. While the actual rollercoaster-riding mode leaves a little to be desired, the rest of the game is a lot of fun. It’s easy to recommend this one, which is encouraging; the Xbox One is a great console and it definitely needs more games. As an aside, creative sorts are definitely going to enjoy rollercoaster design, so this can be upgraded to an Editor’s Choice for that sort of gamer.