Welcome to the Sappiest Place on Earth!
Ah yes, the amusement park. Eating junk food, going on rides, and kicking the
guy in the mouse suit. A place of fantasy and mystery, where you can live out
your dreams and barf in a garbage can.
But what would it be like to create such a world of wonder for young and old
alike? If the guys at Bullfrog have anything to say about it, it’d be interesting
for a while, but ultimately shallow and, well, sort of ugly. Yes, Sim Theme
Park for the PSX (wow, a sim game not made by Maxis) is all these
things and more.
Your goal is to build a bunch of amusement parks and make some dough on the
side. No plot or point – this is a simulation game, after all.
At first glance, the game looks pretty cute. You start with a large field that you can fill with a plethora of rides, shops, attractions, and other buildings. Of course, you only start out with a small number of rides, and you have to hire some researchers to get more. After designing your first layout, you open the gates and welcome the suck… um, visitors into your beautiful park (Which way to the egress?).
Now you have to make sure that all your rides are in working order, that your park is clean, that the bullies are only beating up on rich kids (that quarter fell on park property!), and that there are plenty of people in rabbit suits to be made fun of. Next you pump up your prices, put more ice in the drinks, and sit back to watch the revenues skyrocket.
Before long, you have a huge, sprawling park to manage, and you’ll inevitably
start to notice some problems.
First, there’s this guy who looks like a renegade gumball that pops up gives
you advice. Repeatedly. Every thirty seconds. It’s cute the first hundred times,
but quickly becomes monotonous. The problem is that he’s one of the best sources
of information in the park, so turning him off (hooray for options!) is a bit
of a disadvantage. Dang annoying, though.
The second problem is the interface. The four Playstation buttons change function depending on where you are in the maze of menus. You can’t go into your main menu when you’re hovering over a store, ride, or other random structure – you have to move off first. This gets to be a real pain when your whole park is practically a solid mass of fun, fun, fun. It’s almost impossible to get used to the controls because they change so randomly (Let’s see. Gotta push triangle, circle, move down five, press circle, square…crap, put it in the wrong place. Let’s try again…). Apparently, not much thought was put into making the Playstation version easy to use.
The graphics are rough. It’s no secret that this game was a PC
to Playstation port, and the graphics certainly show this with quite a bit of
complexity in the various rides and games. But the Playstation isn’t a PC, and
the now slightly outdated graphics engine can’t hold up under the strain. When
you’ve built a good number of attractions in your park, your screen noticeably
slows down. It’s still playable, but hardly enticing.
This also subtracts from one of the big selling points of the game: First
Person or Camcorder mode. After a little work, you’re able to acquire a camcorder,
which lets you walk around as a visitor in your park. But the graphics are as
slow as a tortoise walking backwards, and riding the rides can become quite
The biggest problem is that it just isn’t that fun! The primary goal is to
collect golden tickets, which you get when you complete certain objectives in
your parks. However, it doesn’t take very long to get all the tickets from a
park (if you’re good), and it quickly loses much of its charm. Sure, you get
new rides and you can play ‘Whack-a-Frankenstein’ over and over again, but once
you’ve done all that, nothing really changes. The same groups of people come
and go, and give you their money. I guess money can’t buy happiness.
Sim Theme Park is a cute game with initial appeal and a nice premise,
but eventually dies down to a slow whirl. Poorly ported graphics and controls
don’t help much, either. If you have a choice, you should probably buy a Disneyland
ticket over this game. Believe me, it’ll last longer.