The whole “management” genre is one that I rarely play and that confuses me somewhat. I suppose I have it in my head that they all play exactly the same, just revolving around different themes. So I never go out of my way to actually play them but sometimes I end up stumbling into one.
Such was the case with Planet Coaster: Console Edition, a game that landed on my desk of reviews and I accepted just so I could throw something on my shiny new Xbox Series S. Thus, I went into it expecting very little, but was instead met with an entire weekend that consumed all my waking hours. Surprises like that come few and far between in this industry, and Planet Coaster was certainly one of them for me. It’s a fantastic management game and arguably a stellar RPG (if you’ll excuse the semantics) that runs wonderfully on the Xbox Series S, hampered only by some slight issues with the game’s controls.
If you’ve played this sort of game before you know exactly what to expect from Planet Coaster. Harking back to those classic management simulation games like Zoo Tycoon and Roller Coaster Tycoon, Planet Coaster has multiple ways for the player to express their inner Disneyland. Either go all in and build your own park from scratch or play through the game’s campaign which mostly tasks you with taking broken down or failing theme parks and turning them around
Are you in the mood for a freeform experiment or do you want to play with certain goals in mind? Either way, the sheer amount of variety available in Planet Coaster is almost befuddling upon starting up the game. You’re given an incomprehensible menu that only feeds into smaller sub-menus, all of which need to be navigated through with several dozen clicks on the D-pad. It’s all very overwhelming something that the game does address with a lengthy tutorial but don’t expect to leap right in and begin making a profit instantly.
Having said that, once you know what you’re doing the game’s pace speeds up dramatically. The campaign, which is broken up into a series of themed chapters, offer an impressive amount of variety. Sure, the general premise is the same but the visual elements and unique goals go a long way in really diversifying the gameplay.
Planet Coaster presents itself as a very approachable, surface-level management simulation and I suppose in comparison to hardcore takes on the genre, it is. Yet the amount of granular detail within the game is truly staggering. Being able to zoom in on any of your thousands of park guests and have a comprehensive breakdown of their thoughts, desires and irritations all in live-action is a level of detail that’s unnecessary but so cool.
It’s more efficient just to use a menu which condenses all that information but just the fact that you could look at everyone’s thought is an impressive feat.
This made all the more impressive with how well the game performs. Zooming in on the literal thousands of people walking through the admittedly poorly planned paths of my theme park caused neither a hitch nor a delay. It continued that buttery smooth 60fps frame rate on the Series S, which was more than a little surprising for me.
The only aspect of the game that truly disappoints are the controls. Honestly, it’s not so much a problem inherent within Planet Coaster but any port of a management sim built for PC. As I said above, there’s an inordinate amount of menus which will no doubt be easier to navigate with a mouse but having to use only the D-pad becomes a pain quickly. I don’t really know if there’s a solution to that problem as it’s more due to limitations of the hardware on the software.
After a few hours, controlling the general game will become bearable, almost vaguely fluid. Yet when the game asks you to make a roller coaster (an otherwise excellent and satisfying feature), the controls become an even bigger problem. Placing the tracks of a coaster can be an overly finicky ordeal with the camera placement often tricking you into leading into a direction you never intended. Considering the requirements on actually making a decent coaster are fairly strict, the annoying controls exacerbate the process in a drawn out and frustrating way.
Oh, and the voice acting in the game is beyond annoying. Sit through the tutorial but try and turn the voices off. They all sound like characters pulled from that one animated movie you watched as a kid which actually turned out to be terrible upon revisiting it in adulthood.
Beyond those gripes, I think Planet Coaster – Console Edition is an exceptional port. The controls are wonky and the voice acting is irritating but the actual game itself is as fun as it has ever been. I can’t hold the control scheme against it though, the developers did what they could to make the game as easily playable as possible, it’s just certainly not the intended or best way to play the game. Having said that, the variety in gameplay, fun challenges, and sheer level of detail make for a game that’s just a joy to play.
I can see Planet Coaster living on my Xbox for some time now, a game that’s fun to dip back into and check out in-between all those other next-gen games which are pouring out of the woodwork. Well, one day they will be.
Last Updated: November 26, 2020