Your pulse is racing, you are tightly strapped into your seat, sweat starts to roll down your forehead, and you question your sanity for being where you are as you start your climb… then after the ever-so-slightest of pauses, you are suddenly falling at great rates of speed and hit with G-Forces that jet pilots experience daily. But you’re not a pilot – you are an amusement park rider. New from Frontier Developments (the studio behind the Roller Coaster Tycoon series) is ScreamRide, which focuses solely on the thrill-rides with a scientific spin. You will be both the rider and the creator of fiendishly fast and furious rides… but will it leave you feeling the adrenaline rush you seek, or just feeling queasy?
The main draw of the game is found in the Career Mode where you’ll find three game modes to choose from. The good thing is you can easily bounce back and forth between the modes so nothing becomes too repetitive. The challenges are presented as trying to push the limits of human thrill seeking for… um… science, maybe?
The first mode is called “ScreamRider”. Here you are the one riding on the coaster and experiencing all the ups, downs, and dizzying turns the various rollercoaster tracks have to offer. However, you won’t just be riding and watching the scenery go by as you have to use the analog stick to help keep your coaster car on the rails during tight turns while pulling off some awesome stunts like balancing on just two wheels or dodging obstacles on the side of the tracks. You also control the brakes and acceleration as well as collect and use power boosts to propel yourself faster for an even better score. The higher your score, the more commendations you collect and the more items that become unlocked to be used in the sandbox mode to build your own tracks. Commendations are used to unlock the next areas in the game for each game mode. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this mode as much as I did, but I found myself really getting into it and feeling that sense of speed and danger. There is a fun risk/reward mechanic at play, pushing your car to extremes while still keeping control. At one point after playing this mode for almost two hours I nearly got to a point of needing a motion sickness pill, but I did not regret my experience playing it as I had fun.
The second mode is “Demolition Expert”. Here your job is to launch pods of eager riders into buildings trying to cause as much destruction as you can while racking up as many points as you can. I felt like I was playing a more advanced 3D version of Angry Birds at times, but there’s nothing wrong with that. You have different kinds of pods that have different properties, such as those that can bounce further, those that have more control than others, those that explode on your command, or those that sprout wings and fly for a greater distance. Even after making contact with an object you still can move your pod for a short time with the analog stick using an “aftertouch”. I found this mode to be really addicting as watching your pod fly through the air and take out buildings is rather satisfying when you get a good shot in. There is almost a puzzle aspect to this mode because if you hit the right spot you sometimes set off a chain reaction to score major points, items and commendations to advance in the game.
As much as enjoyed this mode I found one issue or two, particularly with the camera and how you aim. There are two ways you launch your pods of riders. One is on a cart-type vehicle that launches off a track. The other is a spheroidal pod that is on a swinging arm. In regards to the the pods, when you have adjusted the strength of your launch and the direction you want, you hold down the launch button which puts you into slow-motion mode and a dotted line is displayed to show you where your pod will go. It can really be tricky to get the timing right for the launch angle, and you can only view it from behind; however, after some perseverance you should eventually get a feel for what does and doesn’t work, as I managed to do so. I liked that after launching you have a large number of camera angles you can switch between allowing you to admire the chaos. There are camera drones around the map that you can see while playing and these drones can even be taken out by you or flying debris for extra points.
“Engineer Mode” is the final mode in the Career Mode. Here you are placed in the role of one of the techs. Your job is to finish off incomplete tracks using track pieces that are supplied to you. You have specific goals to meet such as trying to keep the distance of the track under a certain distance, not losing any riders, or having the cart finish the track in a certain time. I didn’t mind the puzzle aspect of this mode, but I found the camera rather cumbersome to control. There were moments where it seemed to jump a lot and end up at odd angles as I moved from piece to piece of track, like it wasn’t sure how to view it properly. With this in mind, this was the mode I played the least, but I still had some enjoyment out of it. If I want all the other items that can be unlocked here I may have to struggle through it.
If you really want to get your hands dirty you can try out the Sandbox mode and create objects, rides, and whole levels using the items you have unlocked. There is quite a learning curve here, and it can feel a bit overwhelming with so many options and objects to play with, but in time you can come up with some really cool things. After you are done with your creations you can submit them to the Level Center in the form of whole levels or blueprints. You can also download and play some of the wild creations from other people, and I have to say the ones I did try out are really amazing and dizzying. Creations can be rated and favourited for future reference, and to help point out great creations to others.
The best way to describe the look of this game is that Portal and Roller Coaster Tycoon had a child and sent it to a party school. Everything has a ‘scientific test’ feel, but it is set in the outdoors. Smooth textures and neon colours adorn buildings and structures, and things crumble apart with a fair amount detail. Backgrounds are beautiful and full of colour. The water effects (your creations are out over the water) are well done and when debris hits it everything reacts properly. Riders and scientists are very well animated too. The cut scenes are amusing, but they can get a little repetitive. I need to point out that the game makes sure to let you know that no one ever dies in the game. At the end of each stage it will sometimes show your riders in a heap on the ground, only to suddenly jump up and start to laugh and cheer about the great time they just had… as implausible as it is that they could have survived what they just went through!
For the audio side of the game, it works so well it rather surprised me. Normally for these types of games the music never really stands out, but here you will be treated to Daft Punk like tunes with some dub step thrown in. It is a perfect fit when either flying through rides or blowing stuff up. Even the cut scenes and menus had me grooving to the beat. Sound effects, which mainly consist of the screams of joy from your test subjects… err… I mean riders… are perfect and never get annoying. The rest of the effects, from the explosions, the crumbling of structures, the whoosh of the coaster cars flying along the track, to the other science-themed effects work great. Voice-overs from the female computer who guides you is something of a cross between GLaDOS from Portal and the woman from the Progressive Insurance commercials. Some of the writing behind what she says is rather amusing at times, but there were a few lines where it had me scratching my head to what she said, and she could get a little repetitive. Audio can really make or break a game, and in this case it makes it that much better.
I had a lot more fun playing ScreamRide than I thought I would have. For the asking price, you get a solid amount of fun, varied gameplay, and solid audio to top it off. The only thing that can drag this game down is the camera controls at times, and some issues with aiming in Demolition mode, but these issues could well be tweaked later on. So strap yourself in and hang on, because it’s going to be a wild ride!
***This game was reviewed on the Xbox One with a code provided by the Publisher***