Managing one’s own theme park is a dream job for many an entrepreneur. The reality is that most of us will never have the opportunity to do such a thing. Thrillville: Off The Rails gives you a chance to not only manage a park, but ride all of the rides. Is it a park-goers dream game, or will you want to get off of the ride just halfway through?
One of my favorite types of games when I was a child growing up were the simulators. I remember spending hours and hours inside Bullfrog’s Theme Park. I can also remember being so excited to play through Sim Theme Park by Maxis. After that the granddaddy of all simulators came out: Roller Coaster Tycoon. The console and handheld versions of each of those game never really ported, worked, or sold all that well. Thrillville:Off the Rails does break that mold.
We do know what these games do, right? It’s fairly simple. You build rides, hire staff, entertainment, and food vendors. You do your best to listen to the complaints and compliments of the ticket-buyers and try to build the best theme park in the entire world. It’s a fun little jaunt in which you can waste hour after hour trying to get rich, and have a massive park. Despite this, Thrillville will likely disappoint.
Instead of just becoming the park manager, the game starts by having you create an avatar that will represent you throughout the entirety of the game. This character creation isn’t bad, with many options to make a toon that is to your liking. You can name him/her or stick with the generic name like I did: Greg.
“Greg” has been commissioned by this mad scientist type named Mortimer to become the manager of the Thrillville theme parks. There are 5 parks in all that you will manage throughout the game that encompass different themes such as gardens, wild west, horror, and the future.
Whenever you are literally dropped into your park, you explore it as if you were one of the patrons in a third-person view. You walk past the outrageous rides, you see the puke and the trash on the ground. If you listen closely, you can even hear the flies buzzing about. You can walk right up to all the different attractions and booths for food and clothes and check things out, participating however you choose. This makes for an interesting perspective, and also an interesting gameplay mechanic. You can do just about anything. You can ride every ride, and you can play ever game.
Riding the rides is lackluster, but it does net you a few experience points every time you do it.
Speaking of experience points, the game has a system that rewards you for doing almost everything. If you ride a ride, you get a few points. If you take the time to hand-build a roller coaster, you can get a lot of points. If you just plop in a pre-build ride you still receive some, but not as many as the custom jobs. These experience points allow you to unlock new rides, and eventually the ability to manage a different park.
Each of the parks have a particular story behind them, and missions to complete. For example, if a reporter comes into to write a review about your park you will be tasked with giving them a tour and taking them on the best rides you have to offer, while trying to avoid the trash, puke, and broken rides as they happen. You might be given the task to remove a bully, or even to find something that is missing. Completing each of these missions in your custom-built park nets you more and more experience points.
The arcade, or skill games are fully realized mini-games within this world. Many of them are quite enjoyable. There are multiple games to choose from like short FPS jaunts through a sci-fi world shooting robots, or piloting a bi-plane through a WWI battle. You can even play a massive mechanized version of “Sock’em Bop’em Robots” or you can throw your quarters into the “machine” for Super Mario or Double Dragon style games to play through. These mini-games are a major part of the game and that’s okay; because they’re quality.
The other portion of the game is your typical theme park management. You’re tasked with building a certain amount of each ride, and hiring the maintenance crew to take care of them. When you put up a food vendor you better throw down some recycling bins and custodians to clean up after the food and the vomit. You can hire entertainers that will dance, and act for your guests. It’s the typical theme park stuff, there is not anything new or extra-ordinary here. It’s all solid gameplay.
Guess what? This game even has a story. “The Thrillville brand is fighting off the evil Global-Joy theme park brand in a battle to see who can build the best parks.” Waiting for more? That’s it!
If I had to pick one aspect in particular that shines throughout this game, it’s the sound quality. Although there is no background soundtrack, there is plenty of noise coming from the rides, games, vendors, and the patrons. Each facet of the park sounds right. Despite the lack of realism in the game, the developers did take the time to put up some quality work in this area. If only the game looked as good as it sounded.
There is a point where you realize that the graphics are dated, and obviously were only polished slightly from the original Playstation 2 port of the game. The thing is that it does not really look bad. The character models, the rides, the shops, the scenery all look smooth and colorful, and truely that is all you can really expect from a game like this!
All in all Thrillville is a lot of fun to play. Beating each of the missions from every park will probably net you a good fifteen to twenty hours of total gameplay. It’s a great throwback to the old games. If you enjoyed them, you’ll like this even more.
Thrillville: Off the Rails is available for the Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii, PC and Xbox 360. A handheld version is also available for the DS and PSP.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
It looks great for a Playstation 2 port.
There is so much to do, and so many types of gameplay that you’ll never really get bored.
Shining example of amazing sound effects!
If you don’t get bored with it after a few hours you’ll grow tired of something else.
It is the best theme park game out there for the current generation of consoles. (It is also the only theme park game this generation.)