Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One
Released: March 2015
Let’s all be honest with ourselves: we love playing rollercoaster games, as we love seeing coaster cars filled with hapless victims being flung from rickety contraptions at high velocity, but no-one can really be bothered with maintaining the upkeep of a theme park. Sweeping generalisations about gaming habits aside, what about a game that just cuts out the middleman? A game that sees you either creating amazing rollercoasters with sixteen different loop-de-loops and a jump or five and then test riding them, or destroying said rollercoaster and the array of buildings located in the immediate area. Basically, this game is ScreamRide, or Health and Safety Violation Simulator to give it a better title.
Right off the bat, you’re greeted to two main modes of rollercoaster revelry: Career and Sandbox. With one of the most hokey premises of a Career this side of… well, rollercoaster games, you’re put into the shoes of a bunch of human crash test dummies/mastermind rollercoaster engineers and set some challenges. On the other hand, Sandbox mode takes the gloves off and tells you to “go nuts” and make your own stuff.
First up, we’ll delve into the Career, which comes in three unique flavours. ScreamRide: The Neapolitan of the Rollercoaster Genre. ScreamRider mode sees you try and control a coaster car as it goes around the track, meaning you need to manage your speed, the lean of your car and dodge a number of obstacles around the track, all the while trying to obtain the best time and score. Whilst initially very simple, this mode quickly adds new obstacles such as jumps, barriers and even single rail sections, forcing you to approach each section with a careful consideration not befitting of a rollercoaster ride.
Looking at gameplay of this mode might make you dismiss this mode as some kind of on-rails racer that requires little user input, but you’d be mistaken. Later levels will have you struggling for the “zero-fault” run, to borrow a phrase from Trials. The best of this mode offers some exhilarating high speed fun, whilst testing your attention and reaction abilities, but you can find yourself becoming frustrated by the complexities of later levels. It also doesn’t help if you accidentally press the restart button and not the respawn button, but that’s user error for you.
Next up in our parade of game modes is Engineer, where you’re tasked with creating an exciting ride within some constraints, such as the coaster must travel further than a certain distance, or that it must contain X amount of loops, or even that it must not go over certain nausea limits. You’ll notice a pattern here; the levels start off easy but then quickly become intricate puzzles which can be solved in a variety of ways. More advanced stages offer some taxing demands and restrictions, along with timed obstacles that require you to make the track longer or shorter to proceed, but this is easily the most boring part of the game. You’re given limited resources and no freedom, making it poor in comparison to the Sandbox mode, an alternative to the Career which we’ll get to in a bit. In the meantime, let’s talk about the most interesting part of the Career.
The third and final mode is Demolition. I did promise you some destruction in the intro, and ScreamRide delivers in spades. Playing somewhat similarly to a 3D interpretation of Angry Birds, I imagine you already have somewhat of an idea how this mode goes. Thankfully, the devastation on offer here is in the same league as Red Faction: Guerilla, which is to say “EVERYTHING CAN BE DESTROYED!” Just because things come in threes I guess, this mode starts simple, with just a basic catapult and pod to fling, but soon you’re dealing with pods with better air control, or pods with explosives attached, or even trying to guide tough to control rollercoaster cars to their intended target. You’ll also be utilising gadgets like magnets and trampolines in order to maximise the havoc you’re inflicting on the level. Like the Engineer mode, Demolition is a puzzle that needs to be solved. How do I hit that explosive in the distance to trigger a decimating chain reaction? Maybe using the magnets and trampolines as stepping stones…
There’s always something to be said about marvelling at the massive damage you’ve created, as tumbling skyscrapers set off explosions all around the map, and with the destruction in this game some of the best on offer on the Xbox One, you’ve got a lot of marvelling to do. And building too, with the previously mentioned Sandbox Mode. You don’t like the buildings or coasters that the game provides? Make some of your own, then share them online! In the absence of an actual multiplayer (Demolition Party Mode, or ScreamRider “SuperCross”, similar to Trials SuperCross where you all play the same track simultaneously, would have been good additions), this is certainly the next best thing.
Construction itself can be both simple and complicated at the same time, depending upon how much effort you want to put into your creation. Novices builders can just throw together a few blueprints and templates and call it a day, which you unlock by ploughing through the Career Mode, but the Da Vinci’s of Rollercoaster technology amongst you will be able to create some super complicated contraptions. The problem arises when you try to generate difficult levels, as you must be able to complete all the objectives before you can publish the level. This makes sense, as you shouldn’t publish a level that’s impossible, but you’ll need to lower the score objectives or make the level easier in order to publish it, which does stifle creativity somewhat. There are ways around it, such as making all the objectives really easy, but on the whole, it reduces the incentive to create something of any real challenge, unlike the difficult later levels on the Career mode.
So, in summary, what do we have here? We’ve got some exciting coaster action, we’ve got some excellent building and destroying, along with a bit of puzzle solving for good measure. On the flipside, some difficulty spikes and a semi-restrictive Sandbox Mode dampen the experience. While the game is fun, longevity might only come to those who can build their metallic, rollercoaster version of Cthulhu, or those interested in seeing what the community comes up with. The rest of us will find our attention lacking before long.
Overall: A fairly decent round of rollercoaster tomfoolery, but like a coaster, it’s only fun while it lasts.