The coasters with the mostest.
When I first heard about Thrillville
, I thought to myself, “This looks exactly like Roller Coaster Tycoon
,” one of my favorite empire building PC games of the last ten years or so. Then I thought, “Sigh. Does the world really need another Roller Coaster Tycoon
?” Happily, I discovered the answer was, “Oh dear God, yes.”
The premise of Thrillville
is simple. You build and manage a series of theme parks under the watchful guidance of your Uncle Mortimer, a somewhat over-acted mad scientist of the Christopher Lloyd
model. As park manager, it’s your job to create the best and most popular theme parks in the country. Each park under your command contains three themed areas (like “Dino-ville” or “Mid-e-ville”) for you to populate with your choice of roller coasters, carnival games, and junk food stalls. Sounds pretty standard, right?
Wrong, actually. Thrillville
takes the traditional empire building game format and busts it wide open with some clever new twists that let you actually experience your own creation first-hand. This becomes clear from the moment you enter the game. No more is your viewpoint suspended far above your playing area like an all-powerful (and perhaps vengeful) god. Instead you are in the park, running around like any other kid. How cool is it that you can build the roller coaster of your dreams, and then actually ride it? Answer: Pretty darn cool. Unfortunately, this also means that you can’t treat your creation like your own personal ant farm, dropping guests into fenced-in pools or flinging them off of unfinished coaster tracks. But hey, you can’t have everything.
Thrillville also includes a huge amount of mini-games for when you get tired of designing loop-de-loops. All the carnival games you place in your new park are playable, from traditional shooting galleries and go-kart races to unusual attractions like Sparkle City, a bizarre anime-influenced game in which you have to extract baby chicks from amoebas and save them from the giant Bunny Robot (seriously), and Saucer Sumo, in which you try to knock your extra-terrestrial opponents off the edge of a giant platform. These games make absolutely no sense in the context of a theme park, but who cares? They’re fun!
The mini-games liven up even the more boring aspects of park management. Every time you hire a maintenance worker, for instance, you can train them via the mini-game Groundskeeper, in which you run around the park, sucking up trash and washing off the endless splashes of vomit before time runs out. Seriously, any game that has a button for “Hose Vomit” has got to be good, right?
Another well-executed twist is your ability to interact with your guests. As park manager, it’s your job to chat up guests, pushing the rides, making friends, and yes, even flirting. When chatting, you choose between topics that read like Trivial Pursuit questions on topics like nutrition, history, science, or the environment. I know this sounds boring and suspiciously educational, but the dialogue is very well written, and turns what could be bland and repetitive into laugh-out-loud banter.
For instance, I decided to try my luck and approached a cute blonde, selecting “Lucky Giraffes”. “Giraffes,” my charming little character intoned, “can clean their own ears with their 21-inch tongue” Shockingly, the object of my affectation was not impressed, and responded, “Uh, stop trying to impress me with facts you learned off of juice boxes.” Oh, SNAP! That stopped me in my tracks.
The one thing that seemed missing from the game experience was a ‘free play’ mode. I mean, sure, the last park challenge is a totally empty park that’s yours to fill up the way you want. But once you’ve done that, if you feel like trying something new, you have to tear it all down and start again. And it means you don’t have any control over the themes in your park. If you want Ninjaville next to Horrorville, you’re out of luck. It seems like it would have been an easy thing to add to the game, and would have doubled its replay value. As it was, I nearly solved the game in a weekend.
’s look matches its feel: light and a bit cartoonish. The guests in the park, including you, all pretty much look the same. The parks themselves look good, from the realistic coaster cars whizzing overhead to fantastic thematic touches like dueling spaceships and dragon-slaying knights. And they've clearly thought through the physics of all the rides. Take a jaunt on one of the coasters with a high 'nausea' level and you'll see what I mean. You may be looking for a hose vomit button for your TV screen.
The music is handled well, in the style of Grand Theft Auto
: As you walk around, you’re listening to PARK, Thrillville
’s own radio station, featuring pithy commentary and music specific to the area’s theme. Unfortunately, unlike GTA
, you can’t change the channel, so you’re stuck with what they give you. The music, while current and popular, was a bit too Top 40 for my tastes. I would have loved a house or a metal station (think of the carnies
!) just to change the pace.
Even if your idea of a good time doesn’t include hosing vomit and getting rejected by girls, you’ll still have a wild time at Thrillville, for forty dollars. It may not be the most open ended theme park on the planet, but it’s full of different ways to have fun, and that’s what matters most. Buy the ticket, and take the ride.