Playing RollerCoaster Tycoon was a great part of my childhood. Whether it was with the isometric first 2 entries of the series or the fully 3D third instalment, I loved it and spent countless hours playing it. Last year should have been an exciting time for me then with the arrival of RollerCoaster Tycoon World but I’m sure you’re all aware of how that game turned out. This, however, is not an article about the plight of the RCT series because there are two very good alternative theme park management games that are on the market; Planet Coaster and Parkitect. I feel like Parkitect is the lesser known of the two, given that it is still in Steam Early Access, but this is my review.
Firstly, WOW! I adore Parkitect, this is the perfect blend of a modern reimagination of the first two RCT games mixed in with some of the features found within RCT3. It is an isometric game which I actually prefer for these sort of games because I think it helps you to build rides.
Secondly, Parkitect is amazing value and it’s only going to get better. It’s only £15.49 which is almost half the price of Planet Coaster and this game is still in development so more features are being regularly added. It’s also open to mods which means there’s plenty of free content to download, Planet Coaster also has this feature but it also has paid-DLC too which Parkitect may eventually have but it doesn’t currently.
Thirdly, the game runs so well on my PC, which is a gaming PC but it isn’t the most powerful thing in the world, and based on its minimum system requirements, should run on most modern computers without any hiccups. It only crashed once and that’s because I decided to flood one of my parks with water whilst there were 1000 guests and many operating rides. (Don’t judge me, I know you used to drop guests in the water on the old RCT games too!)
Currently, Parkitect doesn’t have any challenges like the original RCT games did but this is due to the fact that it is in Early Access. Instead, it’s essentially like a sandbox mode, you choose the size of the park or you can select from a handful of pre-made ones, but you do have limited funds which presents a bit of a challenge as the parks typically run at a loss at the start. You do have the option of taking out a maximum of two loans at a time which can help if you want to build a bigger coaster to lure guests in but this can lead to severe financial problems if you take out too big a loan early on in the game. So I suppose you could argue that this gaming is lacking story wise. However, with the exception of Thrillville, these games don’t really have a set story, it’s down to the player to come up with what they want to do.
Gameplay is certainly impressive though. The controls are very natural and are reminiscent of the RCT games but they feel more modern, polished and smoother. Building rides, which is probably the main reason you buy this kind of game, is a treat. It allows for greater control over what you’re doing as you can choose the precise camber of the turns on the ride as opposed to having preset ones. This allows for a more realistic looking coaster.
You can also build track parts directly into the ground, something which was missing from the first two RCT games but added to the third entry, which allows for you to mimic rides like Alton Towers’ Oblivion. I made a ride that immediately dropped about 30 metres underground and didn’t resurface until the very last second; this ride proved to be particularly popular. You can save your creations so that you can use them at your next park once you decide to start again.
One thing that I particularly liked about the coaster builder was the fact that you could get live feedback on the velocity, g-force and the scenery whilst you were building it. This allowed for me to see if the track car would be able to make it up a hill after a drop or if the ride would be too intense for people to want to go on. I was impressed by the fact that the scenery was taken into account as the game encourages you to theme your rides, much like they often are in real life, which adds an element of realism. I made a ride inspired by the Matterhorn at Disneyland as it was built into a mountain. I also love how you can choose from a great variety of music to help with the theming too.
The way the shops work is also more realistic as they do require restocking which your haulers do. You can build depots, which I would conceal from my guests, to allow the stock to be nearer to the shops as opposed to at the park entrance as guests would complain if they kept seeing people hauling stock about. Moreover, you can have surplus stock issues where the prices have to be dropped due to the fact that too much has been ordered or the opposite can happen and your suppliers might h
ave a manufacturing issue which means that you won’t receive any goods for up to 3 months. There are also a great variety of shops from Chinese Food to Bubble Tea to Souvenir T-shirts which does help with the theming of different areas of your park; if you choose to theme different areas. There’s even the option for a customisable shop!
Although there are plenty of shops incorporated into the game, there aren’t many pre-built roller coasters available. This might be a negative thing for some people but I personally don’t mind as I always build my own. There are, however, plenty of thrill rides and family rides to choose from which are always a sure bet to make money. Moreover, the game has so much content available online and on the Steam Workshop so you can just download someone else’s rides or park. You can also save the rides you have built so you can use them in multiple parks if you so please.
Guests behave in a way you would expect them to in this kind of game. You can easily monitor what kind of attractions they like, don’t like and want to be built. There is also the option of market research within this game, the more you spend on it, the better the data you will get. You can also advertise the park and/or specific attractions through a variety of means including flyers, social media and TV with varying prices and degrees of success to entice more guests into your park.
Moreover, compare to the RCT games, you can get a greater insight into what your park guests do in your park by finding out how much money they have, where they have spent it, where they have walked within the park, what their favourite item from a shop is and what ride they enjoyed most. The game also notifies you when a group of guests turn up that like a certain attraction which is a hint at what you should focus on building next.
I also like it how you can actually see the vandalism if you don’t have enough security staff, something that I feel was lacking from the RCT games because even though it warned you of potential vandalism, I never saw on any. Whereas on Parkitect you see bins tipped over, broken benches and litter everywhere; it adds a sense of realism. I also like it how you can set your staff to patrol certain zones which is particularly useful when you make a vomit inducing ride.
In terms of graphics, this game is beautiful. It favours a more cartoony look than a realistic one which I personally prefer for games like these. My main reason for preferring them this way is that I think it makes the game age better and tycoon games are the sort of games you don’t really ever complete so this game should age well. I feel like this art style also helps the game performance wise as I stated earlier, the game only crashed once and that’s because I was being intentionally stupid. Other than that, this game is buttery smooth no matter how many rides or guests I have in my park which is particularly impressive for a game in development as I usually have some graphical or framerate issues with them.
In regards to difficulty and replayability, it’s hard to say too much at this stage since it’s in Early Access. However, in terms of difficulty, this is more challenging than any RCT game. Although you may start off with a decent amount of money, it takes a while to actually make any money and if you take out a loan too big, too early… you’re screwed as you can never make all of your debt back and you can’t invest anymore until they’re paid off.
Replayability wise, Parkitect is beyond replayable. Eventually, as with all games like this, you get bored of the park you’ve made and start again after learning from your mistakes in your previous park or to just experiment with something new. It especially helps that a lot of new features are being added so that draws you back as well; I can safely say I’ve already spent way too many hours on this game and it feels like I’ve only just scratched the surface.
Overall, I cannot really fault Parkitect. I genuinely love it and can be the first to admit that it was a great procrastination tool for my exam period. The gameplay is fantastic, well thought out and allows you to create realistic coasters. The graphics are brilliant and future proof whilst also allowing it to distinguish itself from RCT and Planet Coaster. This game (and this is quite a bold statement) is the best theme park tycoon game ever made in my opinion.
As much as I love the old RCT games (as well as old classics like Theme Park World and Thrillville) and admire Planet Coaster, this is just simply superior in every way and is full of charm. It’s both a beautifully fitting homage to the RCT games of old but also a great reinvention of the genre. It doesn’t feel like a clone or simply a modern version, it feels like the start of a new era for not only theme park games, but tycoon games in general. I highly recommend Parkitect to anyone, especially as it’s only going to get better with the addition of challenges and more features.