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Park Beyond Review

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We’ve all played them at some point. Whether it’s the legends of yesteryear such as RollerCoaster Tycoon and Theme Park World, or something a little more up to date, the theme park sim is a staple of many a gamer’s experience. Bandai Namco and Limbic Entertainment are the newest kids on the block, with their fantastical take on the genre with Park Beyond.

As the name suggests, the idea here is to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the thrillseeker’s paradise, without falling foul of any nasty accidents. You join the struggling company Cloudstormer, as their brand new visionary architect. The brief sounds simple – bring the exciting rides of your wildest dreams to life for everyone to enjoy.

park beyond review 1
A wonderful world awaits!

Now, first impressions matter. I think we can all agree on that. Well, the opening cinematic for Park Beyond was incredibly laggy. The jagged cinematics would also cause the sound to very briefly cut out every so often too. After a little while it bordered on unwatchable, and all I could think was “uh oh”.

This trend followed throughout the campaign cinematics, as I distinctly remember a sweeping camera shot across some water, and it began to glitch out something terrible. It reminded me of MissingNo. (look it up kids) from Pokemon as the surface started to break out into numerous rectangles in a sort of graphical seizure. Again, not great.

Still, when you’re past that and into the gameplay, I’m glad to say things largely stabilise with Park Beyond (apart from the game crashing on me at one point). 

There are a couple of modes to play in Park Beyond. The main one is the Campaign, which also doubles up as a tutorial. It makes sense to start with the eight part, story driven mission path to get familiar with how everything works.

The first mission focuses on how to build your most important feature, the rollercoaster. This is done in a step by step fashion, with you chasing a little paper aeroplane as you do so. The opening setting is in the middle of a city, which is different for a theme park sim, but does provide the necessary environment for you to get to grips with some of the more advanced techniques involved with the construction of a rollercoaster.

The game begins to open up after this, however it feels a little odd because around the first half or so of the campaign feels like one long tutorial. It all culminates in a final test, as you’re pitted against rival land grabber Hemlock who has a thing for building car parks just to spite you.

park beyond review 2
You’ll want to wait for Park Beyond to really open up

The sad thing is that ultimately you’re walked through nearly every step of the campaign. Goals are split into milestones, and you have to satisfy each group to move on to the next, until you complete the fifth group to clear the mission. So instead of figuring things out for yourself, struggling to make ends meet and all the rest of the challenges that come with such strategy sim games, you end up simply following instructions and breezing through each mission. Sometimes it just takes a little grinding to get there. However, when you do you’re treated to some sweeping aerial shots of the park you have just slaved over, which is a nice touch.

Park Beyond would benefit from broader objectives, and less of them. This would allow you to experiment with different ways of reaching your goal, and feel much less restrictive. Things certainly move that way towards the business end of the campaign, but it takes too long to happen, and then it’s finished. I understand the logic behind wanting to walk you through everything the game has to offer, but it feels a bit too “tick box” a lot of the time.

However, right at the other end of the spectrum is where the Sandbox mode comes into play. There’s an “Exploration Park” to walk you through the basics, but if you’ve played the campaign first you probably won’t learn too much here. After that you’re thrown into the Sandbox, to start from scratch. As I say, this is the polar opposite of the campaign due to there being no objectives to follow. All of the flat rides are available to play around with, and modular buildings let you erect the foundations before coming up with your own structures from a pretty wide library of assets.

However, if you’re lacking in the creativity department like myself, Park Beyond has you covered. Prefabs (or templates if you like) will save you a lot of time and hassle when looking to build a world class rollercoaster. I did try my hand at a few, but they did not look anywhere as good as the premade rides.

What I do like about Park Beyond is that there’s a backstory tying together your theme park developing antics in the campaign mode. Before you start each mission, you’ll head into a pitch meeting with key members of the company, including Izzy the executive and Phil the park veteran who is always searching for the next thrill. Other characters get introduced along the way, and you’ll be faced with several choices during each meeting that shape your goal path to complete the scenario. This means that each time you play, the parameters for success will change ever so slightly.

park beyond review 3
What will you create?

There are plenty of rides, rollercoasters, shops, amenities and other decorative items to unlock and experiment with in Park Beyond. As you can imagine, you’ll need to manage several aspects such as visitor fun and amazement levels, alongside park cleanliness and overall visitor happiness. All of these elements factor into your park rating, and boosting this will see your thrill seeker’s paradise level up.

Doing so grants you access to Sofia’s lab, and you can choose from numerous unlock sets. They are themed, so choosing the right one according to your mission objectives and park needs is important. There is, however, a way to upgrade your assets even further.

Impossification (that’s right it’s a made up word). Impossifying park assets will boost them significantly, allowing them to achieve what you thought was, yep, impossible. The rides themselves are really well designed and animated, but impossification takes them to the next level. They are really entertaining to sit back and watch, and the camera allows you to zoom right in on the action.

On that subject I found the camera a bit of a mess at times. When rotating or trying to position it, I often snapped behind a building and had to wiggle my way back to where I was. Or if I was dealing with terrain of various heights, sometimes trying to select the area I wanted required as much concentration as one of those magnetic wire games. 

The ride camera sounds like a brainwave, putting you in the seat of a visitor, but no matter which seat I choose my view was obscured by the others as the camera struggled to keep up. This was especially the case in tunnels where I couldn’t see a thing. It’s a real shame because it renders a good idea almost completely redundant.

park beyond review 4
Overseeing your park…

This rather neatly brings me on to the wider issue of the controls. With any game such as Park Beyond, my first thought is always concerned with how well the control setup will map to a console controller. I played the game a few months ago at WASD on PC, and even there I found the controls to be fiddly (especially when it came to laying down paths).

In all honesty, they remain pretty clunky. When building your rollercoasters, each segment is connected by a node. It’s a faff to change part of the track if your coaster test fails, with you often having to click a tiny symbol on screen in the absence of a quick command linked to a button. I could have really done with a quick edit button there.

It takes some getting used to, but can be mastered so you’re on the way to creating some wacky mind blowing rides. Park Beyond lets you aim sky high with your ambitions, it’s just that getting there can be quite testing at times. 

Hooks are an interesting feature. These provide certain attribute boosts to your ride and you can tailor them depending on the type of visitor you want to attract. However, to unlock them you will need to build certain features into your rollercoaster, before you can switch between them. They range from a family friendly relaxed experience, to big thrills for those daredevils who visit.

However, I found my old nemesis was still causing me problems. Building paths is probably the most fiddly thing you’ll do in Park Beyond, especially getting the heights right to cross uneven terrain. This really became apparent in the island mission. It’s horribly inaccurate at times, and visitors won’t cross certain points with you left wondering why. I’m not sure if this was down to the AI or I had a break in the path, but certain parts of the park would remain deserted even if there were a few rides up and running. 

At one point my coaster was frozen too, with people trapped mid-ride, even though it was showing a “running” status. Closing then reopening the ride seemed to do the trick but I didn’t notice for a good while, until I saw my monthly income take a tumble. I also noticed my rollercoasters would stop if I switched around the hooks, so again I had to close and open them again otherwise the visitors would just queue there for an eternity.

park beyond review 5
Park Beyond oozes with character

Another small annoyance was having to click through hints and tips I had already dealt with when resuming my playthrough after taking a break, which became irritating pretty quickly.

As is usually the case with most games I play these days, I went into Park Beyond on the default difficulty level. Most of the time it felt as if I could leave things ticking over with no real peril, until all of a sudden I would notice monthly earnings slipping into the red. Closing loss-making rides and upping the entrance fee usually sorted it, but if you go bankrupt it’s game over. Ticking off objectives isn’t always a quick process, so there’s certainly a challenge to be had here.

Despite the issues, of which sadly there are numerous, I really enjoyed Park Beyond. The ambition is admirable, and there’s reams of information at your disposal, along with countless options in terms of how you develop your park. Many, many more than I can go into here in fact. However, what impressed me most was just how extravagant things could be, especially when it came to impossification. The imagination on show here is brilliant, and with some patching and quality DLC, this could be one that players will want to revisit time and time again.

Park Beyond oozes character and is dripping with imagination, but the execution is sadly lacking in parts. That said, this fantastical world gives the creative types the tools to run wild.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Pitch meetings flesh out the story
  • Impossification pushes creativity
  • Ride animations are great to watch
  • Vast amount of customisation options
Cons:
  • AI and controls are both occasionally dodgy
  • Significant performance issues in parts
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Bandai Namco
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 16 June 2023 | £49.99
Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Pitch meetings flesh out the story</li> <li>Impossification pushes creativity</li> <li>Ride animations are great to watch</li> <li>Vast amount of customisation options</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>AI and controls are both occasionally dodgy</li> <li>Significant performance issues in parts</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Bandai Namco</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 16 June 2023 | £49.99</li> </ul>Park Beyond Review
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