Fans of Theme Park and Planet Coaster have something to be excited about: Limbic Entertainment and Bandai Namco’s Park Beyond is a park-building simulator with a difference.
That difference? Your goal is to bring the impossible to life. That’s right: your theme parks in Park Beyond can, and should, delve into areas that reality just can’t match. Alton Towers, or Six Flags? Boring. Why have a roller coaster that simply goes upside down when you can have one that shoots you out of a cannon?
That really is the backbone of Park Beyond, which is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC in 2023. Indeed, there’s a theme of “impossification” – a wonderful made-up word coined by the developers – running throughout the whole game. A ride you place might start out as ‘normal’, but impossify it, and you’ll make it more exciting and interesting than ever.
We’ve been hands-on with two elements of Park Beyond. We’ve played through a made-for-Gamescom demo, giving us access to an introductory level, which taught us the basics of roller coaster building. We’ve also dabbled in sandbox mode, allowing us to freely create our own park. And while our access has been limited to only a fraction of the content the full game will boast, it’s been enough to get us excited.
Let’s talk about coaster-building first. It’s a rather complicated process, and building the perfect roller coaster – with just the right amount of jumps, bumps and thrills – can be tricky. Planet Coaster, the current industry leader when it comes to park-building sims, did a great job of making it accessible, even more so when it brought the game to consoles in 2020. But it can still be fiddly. Park Beyond simplifies the process as much as possible, and in fact, over the course of the 15-minute level demo, we’d built a rather impressive coaster that ran between buildings and across rooftops in a town centre.
We used a mouse and keyboard, although the full game will have full controller support – important, since it’s launching on consoles at the same time as PC. Ease of use has been an important factor to Limbic Entertainment in Park Beyond‘s development. The team has made a real effort to ensure whether you’re using a keyboard and mouse or a controller the gameplay is seamless. Certainly, playing with a mouse was simple enough, and we can see how the straightforward controls will work well with a controller.
It’s a simple case of clicking to add new track, and choosing various options to add climbs, drops, chain lifts and special features, like tunnels, cannons and jumps. We were surprised at how quickly we managed to build something rather spectacular: the timed demo meant we weren’t able to go back and make it absolutely perfect, but for a first attempt, we think we did rather well.
You can see us build a coaster in Park Beyond‘s Gamescom demo below:
But it’s not that ease of use that sets Park Beyond apart from its peers. It features a fully-fledged campaign mode, brought to life with gorgeous, cartoon animations and full voice acting. You can get a taste of that in the video above, but the full game promises more characters to meet, and a wealth of challenges that will introduce the key aspects of the game. You see, not only does the campaign tell a story, but it’s cleverly pitched to introduce all elements of the game piecemeal, designed not to overwhelm players.
If our brief look at Park Beyond‘s sandbox mode is anything to go by, though, this is going to be a fairly straightforward game to get to grips with. Here, we were able to build ‘flat’ rides alongside coasters, with some food outlets, park decorations, and important facilities like toilets and a staff room. We only had a very small selection of rides and attractions to choose from, but after putting down a pirate ship and connecting the entrance and exit – a process that reminded us very much of the classic Theme Park – our ride was ready to go, and visitors flocked in their droves.
The more people come to your park and enjoy your attractions, the faster you’ll fill your ‘Impossification’ meter. When it’s filled, you can choose a ride (or a shop or even a staff member) to Impossify. In other words, make it out-of-this-world. That might mean putting a janitor on jet-powered boots, adding a fantastical display to your fries shop, or turning your run-of-the-mill pirate ship ride to a white-knuckle trio of spinning ships that submerge into water as they go.
Of course, building a park means messing around with all sorts of management options, and Limbic Entertainment has designed Park Beyond with different levels of complexity in mind. If players want to focus on simply building, they can do that. But those who like to get deep in the nitty-gritty of micro-management can dive deeper into a range of tools and management sheets to really get the most out of the experience. By the sounds of it, that won’t be necessary to be successful at the game, which is great news for more casual players.
It isn’t just rides and attractions that can be ‘Impossified’, either. Park Beyond comes with a range of terraforming tools, allowing you to shape the landscape around your park however you see fit. That might mean adding floating mountains, digging out huge lakes or tunnelling through the ground. The developers are really pushing the idea that the only obstacle to play is your imagination, and based on our time with the game, that really seems to be paying off.
Park Beyond still has some way to go until release, but based on what we’ve seen so far, park building sim fans are in for a real treat. It looks fantastic, it’s a joy to play, and it’s packed with a level of personality we’ve not really seen in the genre since Theme Park World. We can’t wait to play more.
Park Beyond is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC in 2023.