Planet Coaster: A Fun Ride… For The First Fifty Hours At Least.

Intro: A brief history of the genre

I have been playing amusement park management games since I was tiny. I remember playing Theme Park on the Sega Mega Drive (or ‘Genesis’ for the yanks) and recall the seemingly limitless possibilities and the awe that it inspired within me (I also remember constructing a park called ‘Bog Land’ with my sibling that was entirely made of toilets in a grid… it wasn’t a profitable venture).

theme park

On to the Playstation the games got bigger… but unfortunately it proved to be the end of the road for the developer of Theme Park. The title, Theme Park World was okay, but it really wasn’t the technological advancement that we expected. The game felt a little basic and the campaign was short and a little dull.

So disappointing, given that it came out only a couple of years after Theme Hospital, which is considered to be one of the finest management sims and a game that I feel both deserves a sequel and which I’m glad EA haven’t touched since… anyway, I digress.

Then Roller Coaster Tycoon came along on PC and became everything that Theme Park World should have been. The significant advancement in custom roller-coaster design took peoples imaginations and resulted in limitless fun and outrageous designs.

rollercoaste tycoon

Who didn’t enjoy building a coaster with no end that launched poor guests into a lake or at the neighbors?

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 stuck to the same model, providing more of the same and Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 took the world into the full 3D realm, for better, or for worse. Personally, I quite liked the change and I found the campaign in RCT3 to be by far the best of the three.

Unfortunately, the dominance of the Roller Coaster Tycoon brand seems to be coming to a close, with the release of a game that has been largely panned by critics, weirdly called Roller Coaster Tycoon World (ominous echoes of Theme Park World…). It released in close proximity to Planet Coaster and by the looks of it, Planet Coaster has won the war.

Enter Planet Coaster…

king coaster

So the last really good game in this genre was released in 2004, so for thirteen years we’ve been playing the same game and technology has moved on. Fans yearn for more.

Billed as the spiritual successor to Roller Coaster Tycoon, Planet Coaster released in direct opposition to the newest game in the RCT series… and seems to have taken the crown.

But is it any good?… well yes.

As a technical improvement on Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, it is breathtaking. Building coasters is a joyful and challenging experience with the intuitive heat-maps that tell you which parts of the coaster is particularly vomit-making or poop-pushing. You have a great deal of freedom in this regard and can largely do exactly what you want.

The big change here however is the ability to design your own buildings, building shops and rides into them and creating some stunning and themed scenery. This ability to decorate doubles as a mechanic to try to entertain your guests.

If there is nothing to look at around the queues to your rides, guests won’t want to queue for long and will get bored. Indeed if you make the entrance to a ride look schwifty enough, people will pay more to get on.

coaster castle

Unfortunately, this game does not come without it’s flaws. It has been criticized for being too easy and in places, I would definitely agree with this. The campaign is short, with a small number of scenarios, from beginner to hard levels. Beginner levels are essentially a tutorial, and won’t challenge you to any great extent.

There is serious potential here, as the game is adding new scenarios, which have been free thus far. However, at the moment, there’s just not really enough here to go on and the added content has tried to counter the lack of content with excessive difficulty, in an attempt to stop you from completing it all so quickly.

The saving grace is the Challenge Mode, which will drop you in a flat square of land and gives you a standard set of missions to complete. It’s more interesting than sandbox mode, but less interesting than a fully fleshed out and balanced campaign. It feels lazy and as a result the game feels unfinished.

Steam workshop support is great, but by giving you the option to simply download designs from other players, it might discourage you from making your own coasters and buildings. It’s nice to have it there, and I’d like to see some more scenarios from the workshop being brought into the game with proper objectives and custom rules.

I’ve had a lot of fantastic hours on this game, but I’ve done about everything that the game has to offer at this point and I’m really hoping that Frontier won’t rely on the Steam community to create its content for it.

With more scenarios and continued support, possibly leader-boards and some curated content brought into the main game from the workshop, this game has the potential to be truly great… but in it’s current state it’s merely good.

I’ll give it seven vomiting guests out of ten.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

You know what’s nice? Being able to play Counter-Strike without people looking over your shoulder and saying, “that game looks crap… those graphics are awful”. Finally, I no longer need to suppress the rage that inevitably follows this misguided outburst because the series has been given a long overdue update. The graphics aren’t the best on the market, but they don’t look out of place next to the other shooters on sale.

The second thing that’s nice about this version of one of my favorite series’ is that it isn’t CS:S. This isn’t to say I didn’t like Source (indeed I’ve racked up many hours on it over the years) I just feel that some of the shooting mechanics (hit-boxes in particular) were clunky and couldn’t really be relied upon. On CS:S, it sometimes seems that your gun is loaded with frozen peas rather than live ammunition.

Global Offensive just works much better and the gameplay seems to flow. Guns are more reliable and you now need to aim at the head to shoot someone in it (rather than the wall three feet away from their head). The gun variety is far greater than previous titles and the addition of the Molotov in particular adds a fantastic game mechanic. Unfortunately, the AWP (the fag rifle) still plays a far too large part in the game, with the first team who can afford to buy them going on to win quite a lot of the time.

The distinct lack of 24/7 servers (those that play the same map in an endless loop) is a breath of fresh air and the map changes are common. It’s just fun and brings memories of Counter Strike 1.6 flooding back… when it works.

The game is by no means perfect. The matchmaking system is… well… why is it necessary? I can understand that for the console versions it makes it easier, but making it the only way to get to the official servers seems to me a step in the wrong direction. It wouldn’t even be an issue the game did it well, but time-after-time it puts me on the same map over and over and if not that then in a server full of bots.

Then there is the glitch that will disable your mouse when you enter a game, meaning that you need to use the command console to disconnect and re-join. This issue is occurring less often since the update, but it seems that the update has introduced a fairly serious lag issue for some. Problems like this are being fixed and I have no doubt that they will be eventually ironed out, but needing to patch a patch is a sure sign of not enough testing and clumsy updating.

My final issue is a relatively minor one: there aren’t enough maps. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Counter Strikes of old having a seemingly endless stream of really good maps, but it’s a limitation that becomes all the more apparent because there is no matchmaking option that allows you to join a server where all the maps are playable. The game splits servers into hostage rescue maps or bomb maps, a really bad decision since there are only two hostage rescue maps at the moment!!

With the release of Vertigo, it seems that Valve are willing to release more maps for free, but I do wish they would combine the matchmaking lists already. After all, variety is the spice of life.

The game costs £12 (less if you get it in one of steam’s many sales) so I can’t be too critical. It’s fantastic value for money, great fun, easy to jump into and is very well populated (as is common with any counter strike game).

The only thing that might drive you away is the steep learning curve that all Counter Strikes have. You’ve really got to stick with this one and learn to die, and die often. Counter Strike will not give you any help when you’re doing badly. It won’t hold your hand. This game is not noob-friendly. It is Counter Strike and that is why I love it.

I give it 4.5 AWP’s (out of 5)