Years ago, it felt like the PC was home to dozens of simulation games that allowed players the chance to micro-manage things they thought they never could. Lemonade stands, cities, worlds, theme parks and even actual people all existed as some sort of “Tycoon” game or “Sim” variation. Though the genre isn’t as prevalent these days, it certainly still has its place in gaming. SimCity (despite its troubled launch) and The Sims are still going strong. Adventure Park is a theme park simulation game that seeks out an audience not only with fans of the dormant RollerCoaster Tycoon series but those looking for an entry into the genre. But does it provide a solid experience or is it a bland translation of a bygone era?
Starting out with a moderately extensive tutorial, Adventure Park eases players into the basics of the game. Players are given a plot of land to build a theme park on and a few basic rides are provided. Three kinds of workers keep the park in order. Gardeners take care of plant life, cleaners take out trash and look after the bathrooms, and technicians fix anything and everything that goes wrong.
Managing workers is quite easy for the most part. Players can pick up a worker and place them in a certain area and the worker will do whatever task needs to be done in the highlighted space. The workable area can be expanded or minimized and only takes a few clicks to do so. Sometimes, however, they seem a little slow to respond and it’s easiest to just drop them right in front of what needs the most work. Technicians have different levels and more expensive technicians are able to fix fancier rides, so keeping them busy and in the right location is important.
Activities such as placing rides and designing roller coasters is fairly intuitive. The real challenge is figuring out where each attraction should go and how to efficiently use the given space to maximize profit. One irksome thing about building is that once something is built or placed, it can’t be moved. The only way to move a ride is to sell it; the same goes with vegetation, decorations and coaster tracks. For perfectionists, this can become annoying and costly. At times a ride might need that extra square to be placed or the park changed over time and it needs to be relocated. It becomes problematic with the smaller parks or those prone to changing their minds.
When it comes to micro-managing their theme park, players have a moderately impressive amount of control. Vending machines can have snacks added to them with the prices of each item adjustable, rides can have performance upgrades, even individual park attendees can be analyzed for how much money they have and what they like and dislike about the park. But there are some strange choices made in execution.
Menus are fairly simplistic but can become clunky when trying to navigate through the wealth of options. Park attendee A.I. doesn’t always feel accurate but trying to manage their adrenaline by making rides exciting offers an added challenge. Designing roller coasters, however, is mostly a breeze. Adding tracks and adjusting their height is just a matter of clicking and dragging. It’s just a shame that players will only be able to make tracks with ups and downs – no loops or anything else here. Strangely enough, it appears that several rides never actually get lines. Instead, people just go “inside” the ride and pop out when it’s done. Now, how often does that happen in real life?
Adventure Park has a lot of draw and appeal from a distance but it’s when the player gets up close that they see the visual blemishes. Standards of the genre usually dictate that most of the action is going to be seen from far away. Like a theme park deity, players will be able to keep an eye on everything from up above. Humans will bustle around and attractions will come to life. There is a tendency for the landscapes to be colorful and bright when filled with lush vegetation and enormous, creative rides. It doesn’t look mind-blowing but points are given for creativity.
After zooming in on the action, the game’s graphical flaws spring up. Textures appear incredibly dated, park attendees are clones of each other with the same clothes and other little nuances become more obvious. Simulations are made to be viewed from a distance but having an equally nice close-up picture shows care. When parks grow in size and become more dense, Adventure Park can suffer from stuttering and general slowdown. Finding the optimal graphics setting can be an annoyance because the game must be restarted before changes will take place.
If there is one area the game truly lacks in, it’s the sound design. By default, a few themes play over the different parks and that’s all that can be heard. Sounding like a generalized action movie, most will prefer their own music library. When muting the music, however, the game practically becomes silent. The most consistent noise will be that of birds chirping.
Because of this, the player will think the game completely lacks ambient noise. Where’s the sound of people shouting on roller coasters? Where’s the buzzing of machines? The idle chatter of crowds? It turns out that the rides, vending machines and people make noise when the player zooms in on them. It’s an odd choice, as if the noise must be micro-managed as well. Having to force a theme park to sound like a real one causes the audio to come off as an afterthought. It’s a shame because such a lively place shouldn’t sound like a ghost town.
Putting all of these elements together makes Adventure Park translate into a relatively smooth experience. Because of that, the title never truly becomes obtuse and is a good introduction into simulation games. A good tutorial teaches the basics and the player can pick up on everything without much of a hassle.
That being said, Adventure Park also misses that something which makes it feel truly special. It is fun and has great themed rides, but it also doesn’t reinvent the genre. Players who are already fans of simulation games will likely enjoy Adventure Park because it scratches that itch of being able to create and manage virtually every aspect of something. They will even be able to look past the visual flaws and the lackluster sound design. For the right crowd, Adventure Park will have a healthy lifespan.