Initially releasing back in 2016 for the PC, Planet Coaster has gained quite a great reputation as the spiritual successor to the abandoned Rollercoaster Tycoon series of games, offering a stunning and gratifying park simulator that has continued to grow in popularity. Four years on, Frontier Developments have ported the title to the latest generation of consoles, but does it manage to escape the pitfalls so many tycoon console ports have fallen into in the past?
PC exclusive titles often struggle to find their footing on a console, and it is no surprise why when you consider the precise control a mouse and keyboard gives a player, especially in games that require micro-management. Games such as The Sims have always struggled to prove to me that these types of titles can truly belong on a console using a traditional controller; with awkward controls, things get very frustrating fast. Yet somehow Frontier have done it, bringing their PC exclusive title to consoles in an almost seamless fashion, making next to zero compromises on the new generation. Being someone who has spent many hours with the PC version, the transition to console was certainly under a lot of scrutiny from myself, yet it is quickly becoming my preferred way to play.
Immediately upon navigating the joyful menus, the console edition of Planet Coaster sets itself apart from the PC counterpart by providing a well-needed tutorial on the game’s core concepts. The PC version offered no such thing, tasking players with nose-diving into one of the three core modes and essentially figure things out from there. The career mode does offer some basic goals to set your mind on, yet with no real tutorial in the PC edition, it is an incredibly daunting experience for some. Given the control scheme, the tutorial here is a fun and in-depth dive into how best to approach the game, offering tutorials on basic movement to building your first coaster. The tutorials harken back to the classic Theme Park games, with one of the narrators feeling not so far away from the Scottish advisor found in those titles, just not quite as intrusive as they once were. It is silly and can be over the top, but the tutorial is a great addition that subsets some potential aggravation a newcomer to the series may encounter if the tutorial was omitted.
Of course, the controls do take some time to get the hang of, especially if you find yourself moving over from the PC. Things are somewhat finicky, to begin with. The simple point and click nature that a mouse can provide is hard to forget, yet what is here is certainly good enough to get the jobs done. When it comes to the fine details of your rides, or the excruciating details you may wish to give a custom building, you may become at odds with the scheme. Yet for the casual tycoon enthusiast, the controls offer a streamlined and accessible entry point to the title to ensure your creative mind can begin flowing. The port also allows for the use of a keyboard and mouse, so if the controller is just too much to get your head around, the option is there to resort to the classic method.
Past the tutorial, you will most likely find yourself continuing with the career mode, which serves as a series of different parks that are all in need of some fixes to ensure the money keeps coming in. These range from building extra rides, improving the aesthetic elements of the park, to generally racking your brain on how best to make the park as profitable and cost-effective as possible. It makes for a decent challenge, with each park offering three tiers of tasks to complete that provide experience points towards your rank, which in turn results in more rides being available to add to your parks. There is also a challenge mode—which oddly seems to fit the bill of career mode more than the latter—as you must make your own park from scratch while keeping funds aplenty. Sure, it may be semantic to note these in-game mode descriptions, yet some may initially be hesitant to enter a mode labelled as “Challenge” despite it being the most user-friendly aspect of the package.
For those who want to kick back and make the park of their dreams, there is thankfully a robust Sandbox mode. In this mode, you are given unlimited funds, access to every ride and facility, and are essentially only limited by your own creative capacity. Ultimately, this may be the main selling point for Planet Coaster, as Sandbox provides an incredibly relaxing and therapeutic experience as you continue to expand upon your park and become dazzled at how many guests come flooding in thanks to the brilliant graphical presentation found here. It certainly does not look quite as pretty as it can on the PC, with guests appearing in slightly less dense numbers than what can be seen elsewhere, yet in motion you will rarely notice. The park always feels alive, with stunning lighting effects as well as some very eye-catching reflections to be found if you go down the water-park route.
Yet the real beauty of Planet Coaster is that it has something for everyone. You may be inclined to a more task-oriented game, hoping to save the worst parks from the brink of bankruptcy, or you may rather splurge cash on everything and anything to make the wackiest park ever. Even if, like me, your creative design choices go as far as “make coaster go very fast and high,” you will still find yourself giggling away as you make ridiculous business decisions with little consequences like some crazed tycoon monster (charging $111 for a decaf coffee is just oh so funny). Despite a learning curve on the control scheme and the tragic fact that guests may not ride your coaster if it is absolutely insane to the point of traveling warp-speed, Planet Coaster: Console Edition is a blast and a worthy port of an already excellent title.
[A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]