Did you know? There are around 5,500 theme parks with at least one roller coaster in them around the world.
That’s a lot of parks. And a lot of roller coasters. But it’s not surprising, considering how much people love them. In 2019, 521 million people visited the world’s top 10 parks. Phew. Park Beyond, the upcoming park building simulator from Limbic Games and Bandai Namco Entertainment, has drawn inspiration from some of the world’s most popular parks. But it’s also trying to do something that no real-world theme park ever could.
In our first preview of Park Beyond, we introduced the game’s concept of “Impossification”. You see, Park Beyond doesn’t want to be just another theme park builder. We’ve had plenty of those. It wants to be a tool to allow players to create something impossible, something far more exciting than real life could ever allow for. It’s a very cool concept, and one that works very well. After all, theme parks themselves are designed to be an escape from reality. You walk through the gates and leave the real world behind. But by “impossifying” your rides and attractions within your Park Beyond park, your guests are getting an even bigger escape from reality.
That impossification comes in a number of ways. Impossifying “flat” rides, as the game calls non-coaster attractions, means applying some sort of gravity-defying feature after building it. But impossifying coasters – well, the first stage of impossification, anyway – is an intrinsic part of the building process. Sure, loops and corkscrews are fun. But we can ride a coaster like that in real life. Why not get fired out of a cannon or fly through the air instead?
Park Beyond Preview: Building a Roller Coaster
Building a coaster is one of the more involved elements of Park Beyond, but its comprehensive set of tools is so easy to use, even with a controller, that creating something truly special is easy and enjoyable. Starting from a station, you can take your track in any direction, raising and lowering it as you go. You’ll need to consider the turns and angles in the track, ensuring it can always safely move: a ghost tester cart will show you if you’re on the right track. Turn too sharply after a big drop, and you might find your passengers flying to their demise. Oops.
Designing your own roller coaster is nothing new: we’ve done it for decades in Roller Coaster Tycoon and more recently Planet Coaster. Park Beyond has a fair bit in common with Planet Coaster, actually, particularly in the way that all parts of your park can be modularly designed if you so wish. And yet, even after only a few hours with Park Beyond, it all feels easier, more natural, somehow. And, of course, that constant theme of bringing the impossible to life makes it more exciting and adventurous than anything that came before it.
When building a roller coaster in a video game, you don’t really think about the planning and organisation that must go into bringing the real thing to life. Germany’s Rulantica park required 20 years of preparation in order to get planning permission in place. That’s before any ride touches the ground. And for a coaster? You’re looking at between 18 months and four years to go from design to the grand opening. It’s not an easy process, and thankfully Park Beyond takes care of all the red tape for you. It is a video game after all, where boring legal administrative tasks like planning permission needn’t exist. Your only barrier? Your imagination.
You could opt for one giant megacoaster, looping and swooping around your park, passing between flat rides and lurching over pathways. It’s quite the sight to see a coaster speeding above of where you’re walking – what a treat for your visitors. Or you could play it casual; have smaller coasters, but more of them. The tools here are comprehensive enough that you can try to recreate real-world rides, or try to set new world records. How about the highest drop, or the fastest coaster, or the most loops?
Hooking your audience
While you don’t need to worry about planning laws, you do need to concern yourself with safety. As we’ve already mentioned, creating a coaster that goes too fast might cause problems, and so you’ll need to carefully balance everything to ensure, if nothing else, that your roller coaster stays on its tracks. If it can get from the start to the finish without sending the cars hurtling off, you’re onto a winner. But the design process doesn’t stop there. For your Park Beyond coaster to be successful, it needs a “hook”.
Families, teens or adults: they are your three target audiences in Park Beyond, and you need to decide which groups each of your roller coasters are going to appeal to. Family rides need to be sensible, but not too sensible that they’re dull. Kids still like excitement, after all. Adults and teens on the other hand can take a few more white-knuckle thrills. For each chosen age group, a number of hooks are available, which you’ll need to meet in order to make your ride truly appeal to the audience. A hook for a family ride, for example, might decree it has no loops, and that it can never go over 80mph. Another hook might say it needs to go backwards for at least half of the ride.
You can keep those hooks in mind as you design your coaster, or you can take a roller coaster you’ve already built and make the necessary modifications. Sometimes it’s easy to mod to satisfy a hook; other times it requires a lot of work. But appealing to a core demographic is important. After all, Park Beyond isn’t just about designing roller coasters: it’s about running a park and turning a profit. Rides with no passengers just don’t bring in the dough.
Part of a fuller package
As excited as we are for Park Beyond‘s roller coaster building antics, though, in the grand scheme of things it’s only a slice of what the full game will have to offer. There’s a fully-fledged story mode that sees you hope into the shoes of Blaize, a pioneering young woman hoping to breathe new life into crumbling park company Cloudstormer. The campaign sees you make your way through numerous parks, reinvigorating them and making them viable businesses once again. There’s plenty of scope to put your own mark on things, of course – this is a building sim after all – but the inclusion of a story, complete with a lively cast of characters – is an interesting addition to the genre.
But even if you want to hit the ground running in sandbox mode, giving you free reign of all of Park Beyond‘s tools, you’ll find yourself engrossed in more than just building coasters. Flat rides are wonderfully designed, the shops are delightful (particularly when you’ve ‘impossified’ them) and there’s all the management tools here you’d expect: controlling ticket prices, hiring staff, researching new features.
For fans of park building sims, Park Beyond really should be high up on your ‘most anticipated’ lists. We’ve spent several hours with the game now, and the more that we see, the more excited we get. We can’t wait to truly unleash our creativity on our very own park.
Park Beyond is coming to PC and consoles in 2023. More information is available on its official website.