ScreamRide Review (Xbox One)
Nothing beats an awesome roller coaster ride. Despite the occasional uneasy feeling or "whoa, was that supposed to happen?" moment, the time spent on a good roller coaster is nothing but high speeds and hilarity; a brief escape from the trials and tribulations of the world around us. Games like Roller Coaster Tycoon and Disney's Coaster (obscure PC floppy disk games forever!) took that feeling and brought it to life on a screen, letting us build our own perfect roller coaster and then share it with the world. These games mixed the thrill of amusement park rides with the creative control of LittleBigPlanet, and the results were amazing.
The gaming world hasn't seen a new roller coaster game in a while, but along comes ScreamRide for the Xbox consoles to fill the void. Developer Frontier Developments calls this new game a spiritual successor to Roller Coaster Tycoon, which is quite a lofty bar to set for a brand new IP like this, but the game fills its end of the bargain quite admirably. The thrill of riding awesome coasters is here, the creativity of designing and building custom coasters is here, and they've even thrown in a new destructive element for those who want to watch the world burn. Each of the three formats are equally fun and challenging, making the whole package a worthwhile addition to any gamer's library.
In ScreamRide I've become the newest technician at ScreamWorks (heh), where I'll be tasked with maximizing the fun factor (and I assume profitability) of the newest Screamworks thrill rides by testing them in various ways. I'm then thrown into ScreamRider mode where I get a first-person view of the first coaster as it zooms through the track, watching the faces of the human test subjects donned in crash test dummy gear as we hit big loops and hills.
Quick-time events and simple controls allow me to gain speed, earn turbo boosts, and lean on two wheels around turns for maximum high scores. Timing button presses to earn these bonuses can be difficult depending on the speed of the coaster ride, but once I got the hang of it I was scoring big time points. Watching the other riders look back and give a thumbs up, or seeing the vignettes on how they end up after a ride are always good for a laugh or two, but they don't add anything else to the overall package.
Destructive Mode comes next, and ScreamRide takes its destructive cues right from the Angry Birds playbook. Each level presents me with multiple buildings and structures and tasks me with causing as much property damage as possible. I do so by launching pods from a swinging mechanical arm, adjusting speed and trajectory to get the perfect strike. Eventually I earn new pods with special abilities, like the one able to break into three pods and cause more destruction, changing the strategy.
Anyone who has launched different colored birds into pigs has done this before, only the birds do their things a bit more efficiently. The mechanical arm throws these pods "underhand" instead of "overhand," so getting trajectories right takes a lot of work right at the beginning. I feel like throwing "overhand" like a baseball player might have made aiming easier, but perhaps that was the reason for the underhand choice. Once the pod is in the air, however, it's easy to understood how awesome it is to blow up buildings and smash screens.
The final piece to the ScreamRide puzzle are the creative modes, and these are the meat of what the game does best. Doing well in the story levels earns new pieces to build with in the creative levels, and those pieces can be used to build a roller coaster masterpiece with little effort. The creative modes are easy to learn with control schemes that aren't as complicated as they seem. The game even eases me into the creative process via Engineer levels in Story Mode, which ask me to finish a coaster under certain parameters. Once I learned the ropes in those levels, I could transition to the fully creative Sandbox mode and let my mind go wild. I feel like the coaster creation mode and its friends sharing feature are going to be where ScreamRide really shines for most players, as it really hearkens back to the good ol' days of building rides to become a roller coaster tycoon..
While each mode in ScreamRide is a ton of fun, the story mode suffers from monotony very early into the game. The mode is basically "choose level, ride coaster, earn score, repeat," which wouldn't be an issue if the "level" wasn't 60 seconds long, but the nature of a roller coaster requires a quick ride. I just wanted to get to the next coaster as soon as I could, but I was forced to wait for my score, then wait for the commendations, then wait for the next level to load, and then continue. All three modes fall into this cycle and no amount of blowing things up or engineering a perfect design can fix it.
ScreamRide surprised me in a lot of ways. What I thought would be a first-person coaster simulator, and nothing more, turned into a complex and engaging little game, letting me express both my creative and my destructive sides in one fell swoop. There's not much meat on this bone outside of the Sandbox creation mode, but once a player gets acclimated with building a coaster the lack of other major features won't matter much.
I can see a lot of people having a lot of fun with Screamride, and if this is the start of a beautiful new resurgence in roller coaster simulation games, I call front car.
This review was based on a downloadable review code of ScreamRide provided by the publisher for Xbox One.