Hands-on Preview: Park Beyond – Rediscovering the Thrill of Theme Park Sims

Theme park sims have always held a special place in my heart. From playing the original Theme Park on the Sega Mega Drive and Sony PlayStation as a child to exploring offbeat business sims like Pizza Tycoon and The Movies, I’ve always been drawn to these games. However, it seems that few developers are daring enough to create new theme park experiences nowadays. That’s why I was excited to get my hands on the closed beta of “Park Beyond” from Limbic Entertainment and Bandai Namco Entertainment. This upcoming title combines classic business sim gameplay with rides that defy imagination, reigniting my love for the genre.

During the closed beta on Steam, I encountered a few areas that needed some polish, which is understandable given the beta status of the game. After a relatively long loading time of around 4 minutes, I found myself in a unique starting point—a park built around my apartment complex fire escape. This unconventional setup allowed me to learn the game’s mechanics in an out-of-the-box fashion. I designed rollercoaster rails that curved around buildings, created hill climbs over skyscrapers, and even threaded my ride through the center of a donut. It was a promising start.

So Far, Park Beyond is an engaging, wacky, and one of the most interesting theme park games I’ve played in some time. Combining classic business sim gameplay with mind-bending rides, it reminds me of why I fell in love with this genre

As I progressed with my apartment-coaster, I met Blaize Ultra, a rollercoaster enthusiast who guided me through more tutorials and introduced me to Park Beyond’s ride modules. These unlockable modules add a new level of excitement to rollercoasters, with stunt ramps, cannons, and even water traversal options. For my first unlock, I chose a cannon because who wouldn’t want to be shot onto rails hundreds of feet away?

Soon after, I encountered Phil, a Willy Wonka-esque theme park designer who offered me a chance to create my own fully-fledged theme park. Izzy, the voice of reason in the operation, directed me to a rundown site in the middle of the woods for my first endeavor. With a bit more freedom, I set out to create an adult-oriented Western-themed park, despite the spooky trees and howling wolves that surrounded me.

Designing parks in Park Beyond is surprisingly simple, thanks to intuitive controls. Basic and advanced options are available, allowing for quick and efficient placement of structures. Paths and buildings seamlessly snap together, and the game automatically adjusts angles and alignments to ensure everything looks cohesive. While I occasionally had to set custom angles for rides and shops to align perfectly with paths, it was a minor inconvenience.

One aspect I particularly enjoyed was the ability to customize rides, shops, and other features. From setting prices to adjusting exterior colors, the game offers plenty of flexibility to make the park uniquely yours. Additionally, parks have reputations and financial considerations. Building a successful park unlocks new features, but I did find that the tutorial for my first park introduced janitors, bins, and rubbish in a somewhat confusing order, causing my reputation to suffer. I suspect this would have improved with proper management, but unfortunately, the closed beta ended before I could fully address it.

Visually, Park Beyond embraces bright and vibrant aesthetics, evoking a sense of joy reminiscent of my early experiences with Theme Park. However, I did notice that the facial expressions of the visitors on the rides lacked variety, with everyone wearing the same expression. While not a game-breaking issue, it would be nice to see more diverse facial animations in the final release.

The soundtrack of Park Beyond is decent, with a catchy overarching theme playing in the menus and during certain in-game events. The music adjusts based on the type of park you’ve developed and adds to the overall experience, especially when you zoom in on specific attractions.

Overall, I’m genuinely impressed with Park Beyond and feel a level of excitement I haven’t felt in a long time for a theme park game. I can’t wait to unlock new themes for my parks and discover just how wild the rides and rollercoasters can get. If you’re a fan of business sims and theme park games, make sure to keep an eye out for Park Beyond when it releases on June 16th, 2023.

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