The premise of Park Beyond is fairly simple – it’s a theme park simulator, much in the vein of games like Theme Park or Rollercoaster Tycoon, but it embraces the virtual nature of video games to allow you to do anything, and make the impossible possible. Park Beyond revels in ‘impossifying’ its attractions, with flat rides and roller coasters that you think would kill most of their riders, but in this game only add to their enjoyment. We got to preview Park Beyond‘s initial three campaign missions as it teaches players the ropes of what’s possible in the game, and there certainly could be some unique designs that come out of this.
There’s a story wrapped around Park Beyond, involving an eccentric theme park designer named Phil and his extended cohort of business people and engineers, but the general gist is that you’ve been brought on as a theme park prodigy to help them re-energise and re-vitalise empty and run-down areas into bustling and successful theme parks. The areas featured in the preview session include a bustling city, which is used to teach the basic mechanics of rollercoaster building, as you weave around buildings, as well as a verdant forested area, and a Wild-West inspired desert, complete with derelict mining town.
Park Beyond has a robust roller-coaster creator that gets fairly complex fairly quickly, especially if you’re not conscious of the factors of making a great coaster. You can easily set sections of the track, raising and lowering them to whatever height you need, but you’re also given control over the type of track (chain pulls, brakes, etc), as well as several gimmicks that require fore-thought, such as forks to split the track allow different cars to go different directions, springs to reverse the direction of cars, and super launchers. That’s before you even get to the ‘impossify’ options – ‘impossifying’ being a special upgrade you can apply to pretty much everything in the game, provided you build up enough ‘amazement’ among park-goers to charge it up. Impossifying lets you pull off some insane features, such as sending cars soaring through the air over obstacles, or taking them off-road to follow water features or other natural elements. Each coaster has to have its own ‘hooks’ as well, in order to be successful, which can be chosen by the player, with options ranging from ‘the coaster mostly runs backwards’ to ‘keeping the coaster’s average speed over a certain level’. The campaign constantly throws challenges at you to advance, not all of which are mandatory, but which do force you to make use of all the gimmicks and options that the coaster builder has available, and learn the systems.
There’s also a number of flat rides you can build, which are more familiar carnival attractions like spinning teacups, or swinging pirate ships. It’s important to have a range of these, but which ones you choose will depend on what you want your park’s focus to be. You can appeal to teenagers, adults and families, but not every group will enjoy the same attractions, and figuring out your niche and playing toward it will help you reach your goals quicker. Impossifying these attractions leads to some pretty crazy designs, like swinging carts splitting up into sections, a replica space shuttle sending park-goers hurtling around in spinning propellers, and a real life Kraken tossing around guests in pods.
Park Beyond is still a theme park management sim, so you also have the whole business angle of the park to look after as well. This includes hiring staff, from janitors to clean the park to entertainers to keep guests happy, to keeping up with the latest food fads and making sure your park’s shops are ready to supply the new hot item, and at a price you can make some serious cash with. In fact, one of the challenges in the campaign’s missions is to even charge guests for using the bathroom – at a price they don’t find too objectionable – and make a tidy monthly profit. Apparently it’s doable, but even I’m not quite evil enough that I was able to get it to work in my playthrough. Shops and employees can all be Impossified as well, leading to crazy standees outside buildings, or super-efficient workers.
Of course, once you’ve learned all the basics, you’re free to launch into the game’s Sandbox mode whenever you like and create your own park from scratch. There’s a huge range of background templates to get started with, with all kinds of natural environments, as well as different themed items you can unlock for different park themes (like sci-fi, for instance). I noticed as well that double clicking on any structure lets you re-arrange its individual components on a pretty micro level, if you want to get super-detailed with your customisation. There already looks like there’s a lot here, and it’ll be interesting to see just how much the customisation opens up in the full game.
Park Beyond has an interesting spin on the theme park formula with its Impossification mechanic, which adds super upgrades to rides, restaurants, shops and even employees, however I suspect it’s in its roller coaster builder that many people will find the real meat of the game. There’s quite a lot to dig into, not just with the Impossification components, but just with the regular loops and corkscrews, and integrating that with the rest of the park (as well as experiencing it in first person). It’s certainly one to keep an eye on, and for any budding theme park designers, you can sign up to a Closed Beta Test that’s starting up in the next week – from May 9 to the 19th on PC. You can register here to try it out for yourself: https://bnent.eu/BetaPB