Do you remember 2001’s SimCoaster? You know, the game where you had to build your own amusement park rides so imaginative and crazy they’d entice people ride on them? Well, that’s the kind-of nostalgia that developer Frontier Developments is trying to rekindle with ScreamRide.
However, it’s more updated towards today’s adrenaline-seeking masses, so things are somewhat different to what you might remember SimCoaster to be.
Before we get into the high-speed details, there is a story attached to the game as well, although we must warn you, it’s very thin. It’s more of a premise than story, but then again we guess Frontier had to glue the whole thing together somehow.
The game’s Wikipedia page over-simplifies its details by calling it a “construction simulator and a puzzle video game”, but it’s so much more than that. ScreamRide’s story takes place in 2050 where a fictional entertainment company called Screamworks employs people to test a series of rollercoasters, which the player has designed.
Highway to the danger zone
Players tackle ScreamRide’s Career Mode in three different roles: Rider, Engineer and Demolitions (expert).
Acting as a Rider is pretty straight-forward. You hop in the rollercoaster and you’re tasked with tilting the carriages around bends so that they don’t tip over, applying brakes when entering high-speed corners, or giving it a bit of gas when the going gets a bit slow for your liking.
That’s pretty much all you have to do. No really, that is all there is to do. Each level has a minimum score that you need to achieve in order to progress. Once you reach that, you can either hang around some more to try to beat the optional objectives, or just roll on out of there to the next level. For their part, optional objectives include goals like not losing any riders on a run, hitting a boost spot with perfect accuracy or completing the track under a specified time.
It’s initially fun to be in direct control of the entire rollercoaster, but the novelty wears off rather quickly. It’s not that it becomes boring, it’s just that all the tracks start looking the same once you have been upside down for the umpteenth time.
You spin me right round
Alongside riding the rollercoasters, ScreamRide asks you to take on the role of an Engineer and actually build these contraptions.
Here, it gives you some degree of freedom, but it’s usually within the confines of a specific area, and limited to a certain number of track pieces, a lot of which you can unlock during the tutorial level.
Pretty much any type of twist, turn, bank or corkscrew is available for you to bolt together in your efforts at eliciting the loudest screams from rollercoaster riders as possible, and it’s here where you can let you crativity and imagination run wild.
But there are a number of things that you need to take into consideration when planning a weapon of mass vomitus. Nausea, excitement and speed all contribute to Screams per Second (SCP), and the higher it is, the higher your score will be.
Building a coaster isn’t as easy as it sounds, as you simply can’t plonk a bunch of tracks pieces together and hope for the best. You have to build a coaster track that makes sense in terms of its dynamics and interlocking pieces and (to some degree) and even then, you have to achieve the minimum required score to pass the level.
This is often hampered by riders who don’t hold on tight enough and fall out of the cars, by scaffolding that is of an inferior quality so that cars that got too fast or bank too hard break through the track, and by the coaster’s pulling power not being up to scratch.
Oh, and you can’t ride it as in the same way as you do in Rider mode, but you can switch the camera view to the car’s cockpit.
It’s this part of ScreamRide that vaguely brings back childhood memories of SimCoaster and Rollercoaster Tycoon – although rather faintly for our liking.
Appetite for destruction
It’s rather ironic that the mode that will give you the most coaster-tastic satisfaction has nothing to do with coasters at all – well, sort of.
See, the objective of the Demolitions mode is that you need to rack up as many points as possible by flinging coaster cabins at buildings. It sounds simple enough, but the forces of gravity and the speed, angle and velocity of your car tosses all play a huge role.
As with Rider and Engineer modes, Demolition requires players to reach a minimum score in order to progress, and it will take you a couple off tries to get it right. Once you get the hang of it, though, it’s tons of fun.
But what could possibly be the premise for chucking coaster cabins with riders inside towards building? Do you even need a reason? We assure you there is one, it’s just that it’s not important. At all.
The demo mode tries to shake things up a bit by giving you different types of cabins, and employing elements like magnets and hoops to spice things up a bit.
But even though this is the most fun mode in the Career, it doesn’t keep your attention span for too long. Games like ScreamRide are great if you play it with a friend, as you can take turns to explore different strategies. Solo? It’s not that big of a deal.
ScreamRide is a fast-paced thrill initially, but one can’t help to wonder about its longevity. Yes, the three modes play out over the course of about six or seven different locations, but at their core they’re all very similar.
The challenges vary here and there, but your options remain “ride it”, “destroy it” or “build it” and once you make it past the minimum threshold for progress, there is very little to motivate you to return.
ScreamRide is a game that will keep you occupied for one or two hours on a Sunday afternoon, but over longer stretches than that, it loses its shine pretty quickly.
Don’t get us wrong: the graphic are pretty good and all the mechanics work beautifully, it’s just a matter of sustainability. It’s great in small doses, but will wreck your sanity in the long run.