Despite releasing on PC back in 2016, Planet Coaster is only just making its way to consoles.
Planet Coaster: Console Edition has suffered some delays along the way, but a release date is finally in sight. It’s launching on 10th November on Xbox One, PS4 and Xbox Series X/S – yes, that means it’s a Series X/S launch title. It’ll also be available on PS5 on day one: 12th November for most of the world, and 19th November in Europe. And if you’re something of a theme park aficionado, this is a game to keep on your radar.
It’s clear a lot of work has gone into Planet Coaster: Console Edition. It’s not “just a port” of the PC game. It’s a complex sim, with lots of options and controls; transferring those over to feel natural when using a controller is, I imagine, no easy feat. But Frontier has done a stellar job of it. After spending 90 minutes playing around with the game with nothing but an Xbox controller in my hand, I can say it’s a joy to control.
Once you get the hang of the controls, moving around the park feels natural, and zooming in and out is a doddle. Interacting with attractions and objects is as simple as zooming in on them and pressing a button, and a wealth of stats and options are accessible via your menu button. It’s intuitive and easy to get to grips with – it’s hard to imagine the game wasn’t originally built with console controls in mind.
If you’re yet to play Planet Coaster on PC, you’re in for a treat with the Console Edition. This really is a delightful game. I’ve not been so engrossed in a theme park sim since Bullfrog’s Theme Park World in 1999. It has all the charm and user-friendliness that Bullfrog’s sims were known for; a wealth of advisor-like characters guide you through robust tutorials, teaching you the ropes in an entertaining and engaging way.
The game exudes personality in just about every way. I had a big grin on my face as, when testing out a spinning teacup-type ride myself, the young children sat across from me were merrily swinging their legs, having the time of their life. Panning around the ride, every person on there had a unique expression, each enjoying the ride in their own way.
The same can be said when you’re simply wandering around your park. You can zoom right in, close enough to see people’s faces and expressions, and there are no potato-printed NPCs here. Everyone’s an individual, and it really makes Planet Coaster: Console Edition feel alive. The best thing, though, is being able to hear your park-goers’ chatter as you zoom into the pathways that weave through your park. It may be a nonsense language, but you can really get a sense of how much they’re enjoying your park. And imagine my surprise when I heard a passer-by humming the Ghostbusters theme to themselves!
So, there’s plenty of joy to be had from simply wandering around your park, taking in everything you’ve created. But of course, the real fun comes in actually creating it in the first place. You can make your way through a number of campaigns, working towards certain goals, or jump in at the deep end, creating a park from scratch. Whichever way you decide to go, you’ll still have a lot of creative freedom to create the park you want. Early tutorials are somewhat locked down in what’s available to you, but they soon open up, giving you control over practically every minute detail.
Rides and attractions are drip-fed to you, with more becoming available as you spend money in research and development. And while these may be the lifeblood of your theme park, you also need to consider food and drink vendors, the wellbeing of your staff, toilet facilities, having somewhere for your park visitors to sit and rest, and, of course, plenty of decorations to ensure your park is as pretty as can be. All of these things cost money, of course, and you’ll forever be balancing your balance sheet against the wellbeing of your guests. The better your park is, the happier your guests will be. And the happier your guests are, the more money they’re going to spend. As the old adage goes, you have to spend money to make money.
But let’s get back to talking about Planet Coaster: Console Edition specifically. The game looks beautiful, and it seems to perform excellently too. Moving around your park is buttery-smooth, as is zooming in and out. Perhaps the most laborious thing is having to move through menus; having to navigate up and down is more time-consuming than simply using a mouse to click what you want – but that’s a small price to pay for the ease of playing on a console. And, for the most part, menus are laid out intuitively; nothing is ever more than a few button presses away.
It’s a game that can be as complex or as simple as you’d like it to be, too. When it comes to building roller coasters, or even simple attractions, you can use ‘blueprints’ to place an existing design down. Or you can get stuck in full-on creation mode, stringing together elements to create your own from scratch. It’s fiddly, but for those who want ultimate customisation over their theme park, it’s ideal.
My preview time with Planet Coaster: Console Edition may have been brief, and there’s much of the game I’m yet to experience, but it’s left me very excited to play more. It’s not a game I expected to be at the top of my most-anticipated next-gen day-one releases, but here we are.
Planet Coaster: Console Edition launches on PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S on 10th November, with a PS5 release following on 12th November.