As a teenager, I spent many evenings sat in front of my P.C. playing Rollercoaster Tycoon. So when I heard that the developers Frontier where teaming up with Microsoft to bring us Screamride, I was enthusiastic about the imminent nostalgia.
Unlike the original Theme Park management series, Screamride takes a whole new approach and rather than building successful parks based around your roller-coasters, it’s a much simpler affair with no punters to please, no panda men entertainers, and not even a janitor to clean up the puddles of puke by the exit of your coaster.
Instead Screamride is set in the future, where hi-tech coasters are created and tested. You’re on board to perform these tests, and during the main campaign you’ll play a few very slight variations of three main modes.
Firstly as a rider, testing pre-built tracks, and hitting ‘X’ as you near the end of a special piece of track (highlighted blue) to gain turbo, and then hitting ‘A’ to use the Turbo to speed around the track to make your run as exciting and intense as possible,
Secondly there’s destruction. Specially built pods catapult to cause as much damage as possible. The first half of the game sees you launching a variety of pods either singularly, as a tri-set that splits into three, or one fitted with boosters for greater after-touch. Towards the end of the game, you’ll also be launching roller-coaster cars, but the idea remains the same; cause as much damage with your limited attempts to the surrounding buildings.
Finally, there’s creation. Usually starting with a half-built coaster, you have to finish it off and meet a few requirements. This can range from adding certain track parts, to covering a certain distance.
For every mission there’s a variety of commendations that you aim for, and while these range quite a lot throughout the campaign, the core gameplay of riding, building or demolishing all feel very similar, and once you get used to that, the learning curve is shallow. While there are some peeks in difficulty in the later areas, you will find that you’ve done more than enough to work your way towards the more difficult levels within an evening.
Fortunately there’s Sandbox mode, where you can build your own land, ranging from flat and basic to a metropolis style city, and create coasters as dangerous and crazy as you wish.
I spent an hour with very basic surroundings, creating an amazing multiple loop coaster which weaved back through and around the loops, and on my first attempt managed to fulfil the commendation I set for keeping the accelerator held down,
However due to a few unclear instructions, after saving my level and trying to share it, I had a fantastic screenshot of my Coaster, but all that had saved was a barren patch of land. I hadn’t realised you also need to save the Coaster blue-print separately.
When you have spent many hours creating your world and masterpiece, these can be shared with the community, for others to download. You can also download tracks from the community, complete with their own commendations which adds another layer of depth, but will ultimately be decided by how involved people get with the title.
Graphically, the game moves along at a blistering pace with a lovely smoothness, however I have to say that is down to how little there is going on, Sure there are some sharp, bright visuals, and some impressive destruction physics, but outside of that, there’s really not much to look at, which is disappointing to say the least.
You will see a range of animations, of your drivers in the car, cheering or looking back at the camera and also being collected by drones after completion of the level, But sadly there’s not nearly enough, and soon you’ll be seeing the same animations time and time again,
This is a similar scenario with sound, the GLaDOS style voice over, doesn’t have anything near the personality, character or humour of Portal’s A.I, and while it’s not the worst soundtrack, it’s all too forgettable.
Thankfully, that is most of the negative points out-of-the-way, because while it doesn’t look or sound the best, and feels like it was made for the Xbox 360, more than the Xbox One, it’s still great fun, and when the difficulty does peak, there’s a real sense of achievement.
With around 20 levels for each of the three modes, you’re looking at 40-50 that you’ll complete without too much trouble, and probably half of those you’ll be getting all but one or two of the commendations. But it’s the remaining levels which will offer most gamers the sort of challenge we crave.
Sandbox mode is the main area, which after unlocking a selection of special pieces and scenery through the campaign, can be used to great effect to build your own world and coasters, and with track/world sharing there’s an unlimited lifespan of new levels.
At only £29.99 Screamride is still good value. There’s enough longevity to make it worthwhile especially if you’re a community or creative gamer, but experienced action gamers might not get the same lifespan.
The most annoying thing for me though, is what Screamride could have been, We all know the Xbox One has the power, and Frontier had a fantastic base system they used with Rollercoaster Tycoon,
If the Park building, punters, and management had been thrown in, then this could have been an amazing game that would appeal to gamers of all ages, But with younger gamers hooked up on sound and graphics, sadly I feel Screamride will never quite get the recognition it deserves.