From the moment you load up Planet Coaster: Console Edition and you’re treated to its wonderfully happy menu music, you know you’re in for a good time.
If you’ve played Planet Coaster on PC, where it’s exclusively been for the last four years, then you’ll already have a clue what to expect from Planet Coaster: Console Edition in terms of its core gameplay. This is the same experience, after all – but it’s been built from the ground-up with a console play in mind. Nothing has been watered down or cut out; the experience has simply been redefined for controller-based play.
And it must be said that developer Frontier has done a stellar job of doing so.
Planet Coaster: Console Edition feels like it was made for console. No compromises have been made; there’s absolutely no part of the experience that makes you think corners have been cut. Doing just about every task with your controller feels natural, and it’s very easy to create the theme park of your dreams. You can keep things as simple or make them as complicated as you like thanks to the range of tools on offer. Rides and attractions can be placed from blueprints, or you can create practically everything from scratch by placing components. Yes, even a burger shop can be completely designed from the ground-up if you want. The depth on offer in Planet Coaster is unparalleled by any other theme park simulator.
You don’t have to get so technical though, if you’d rather not. Even just by placing ready-made blueprints you can create a unique park, placing paths and decorations as you see fit. It’s not all about making it pretty and fun for your visitors, though; you need to ensure you have enough staff, that your balance sheets are going in the right direction, and that everything is safe and in working order. You’ll need a team of janitors to tidy up after messy guests, mechanics to maintain your rides and vendors to operate your retail outlets. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about any of the boring stuff, like electricity supply.
If you’re hoping that Planet Coaster: Console Edition bundles in all existing DLC content, sorry – you’re out of luck. Just the base game is here, unless you opt for the Deluxe version, which includes the Magnificent Rides and Classic Rides collections. The PC version, of course, has amassed a lot of DLC over time, including a Ghostbusters add-on, Studios Pack, Adventure Pack, Spooky Pack and more. Hopefully they’ll also make their way to console but if they do, you’ll need to buy them separately.
It’s not much of an issue, because even the base game packs in a tonne of content. There are several ways to play Planet Coaster: Console Edition, too. You can make your way through the Career mode, or jump in the deep end in Challenge mode. There’s also Sandbox, where you can let your imagination run wild. Let’s talk about Career mode first.
Career mode teaches you everything you need to know about building and running a theme park. You’ll start off with a robust tutorial before moving on to eight sets of challenges to work through. They’re all excellently presented, with fully-voiced park advisors guiding you along the way. Each set of challenges is self-contained in their own park, with various goals to reach. You might, for example, need to achieve a specific park rating, earn a particular monthly income, or attract a set number of guests. Or perhaps it’ll be a bit more specific, like building a park on a challenging landscape, or ensuring you have only family-friendly attractions.
After completing each set of challenges, you can continue to grow that particular park, or you can move on to the next challenge. But if you want to free-build starting from a blank canvas, you’ll want to head for Sandbox or Challenge mode.
Challenge mode feels more familiar to those of us who grew up with Theme Park in the 90s. Here, you start with a brand new park, but your starting budget and amount of attractions unlocked at the outset will depend on what difficulty you’ve selected. Your goal is to grow your park and your success – but it’s easier said than done if you don’t watch your bank balance carefully.
Sandbox mode, on the other hand, is all about getting creative and having fun. You’ve an unlimited amount of money, so you don’t have to worry about turning a profit; you’re free to design the park of your dreams.
From the main menu, you can also access Frontier Workshop, which allows you to access ride designs and entire parks designed by other players. You can also upload your own creations here to share with others. Essentially, then, there’s a near-unlimited amount of content to access in Planet Coaster: Console Edition.
However, there is one limit in Planet Coaster: Console Edition that you should be aware of: the Oswald-Eugene Counter. Essentially, it’s a counter hidden away in the game’s menu that warns you if you have too much stuff in your park. That limit varies depending on what generation of consoles you’re playing on; Xbox Series X/S and PS5 have around 33% extra than PS4/Xbox One.
It’s a tall enough limit, even on PS4 or Xbox One though. You’ll not reach it easily, and it’s there for good reason: every console has a processing limit, and if your park is too large it won’t keep up. On Xbox Series S, Planet Coaster: Console Edition performs beautifully. It looks great, and it’s silky smooth. Build a park that’s too big, and that performance will take a hit. Obviously, you still have a limit on the PC version of the game, even if the Oswald-Eugene Counter isn’t present. The difference is on PC, your limit depends on your PC specs. If your park is too large, you’re going to notice when your game slows to a crawl. The counter simply stops that happening.
If you’re a roller coaster aficionado, theme park sims don’t come much better than this. An incredible amount of work has gone into making Planet Coaster feel at home on console, and Frontier has done a commendable job of doing so without making sacrifices. It looks fantastic, performs admirably, and designing the park of your dreams has never been more enjoyable.