From the developers that brought you Zoo Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon comes ScreamRide, a construction and action simulator that will push humanity into a new level of extreme entertainment, exclusive to Xbox One and Xbox 360. Can you build some of the most thrilling rides, survive the ups and downs or will you come back in black (and blue?). Read on to find out.
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox One
(Review code provided)
ScreamRide answers humanity’s cry for more, to sate the craving we all have to be thrilled and feel alive. Theme parks today strive to entertain with new rides and ideas to give us a rush, however sadly these often fall short of our expectations in that it wasn’t high or fast enough. We become disenchanted and seek out more extreme pastimes. Well fear not as one organisation aims to bring danger to our doorsteps, welcome to ScreamWorks International Research Facility! Populous Labs is the first step in your journey in pursuit of knowledge for humanities capacity for excitement and stress, to aid in the development of rides that other theme parks can only dream of. This may sound like a work of science-fiction but you are a key piece in this story, to go higher, harder and scream louder to engineer the ultimate adrenaline rush. Of course this is only the beginning and as a new employee anything more is currently classified….
Being all about the thrill you delve straight into the action with only a short clip introducing your location and chosen career path, providing you the basics to get you on your way. Right off the bat everything around you has that futuristic vibe to it, with vibrant metal structures and neon glowing tracks. As the games main focus is on fun and less on looks the graphics are somewhat lacking the new generation wow factor. With everything in 3D, buildings are rather flat in terms of textures but this is lifted somewhat by the surrounding backdrops. As you progress you will unlock a total of six series, all with their own unique location. Populous Labs is the closest public face of ScreamWorks and has a modern, crisp and bright atmosphere against a city backdrop. As you progress locations become more remote and challenging. From the volcanic Beldurraren Laku, the perfect setting for some destructive action, Caldera Complex with some added man-made craters to the frozen polar wasteland of De Frusna. The change in scenery helps develop the sense of increasing danger and makes a nice change of pace but will not gain your attention for long. This however is only a minor downside as you will often be going too fast or too engrossed in destruction to take notice of your surroundings. As for the poor riders themselves, you will mostly find your eyes on their backs albeit the times they turn round yelling out with sheer excitement or swaying in dizziness at the finish. Their design is somewhat reminiscent of Team Fortress and rather fittingly their uniforms could mistake them for crash test dummies… except they are real… and may get injured…A LOT… I feel somewhat sorry for them, who would want this crazy job? Despite being flung around like rag dolls they always look unscathed, though I feel showing broken bones and blood would be a step too far. A touch of humour is often added, with slow motion crash scenes and landings at the end of the track. These are sometimes awkward situations, such as landing on another with a kiss then being pushed into the depths below, they always give you a giggle.
I would offer a word of caution to those who suffer from motion sickness. ScreamRide brings you the experience of a ride simulator often found at fairgrounds right to your room. You may find yourself twisting and turning along with the track as if you were in the cart yourself, and with such speed and heights you could find yourself feeling a little nauseous. If you are lucky enough to have a reasonably large screen you will find this an immersive experience. In fact this game would make an excellent contender for future VR gaming! Sadly there is a lack of viewing angles, especially in the ScreamRider career where you mostly see the riders backs and the track. Of course viewing the track clearly is important, however I feel a first person view would have presented an extra challenge and provided a more realistic experience. Another disappointing note is the games soundtrack which adds little to the experience, with only a few electronic tracks reused throughout. The general vibe is futuristic, akin to being in Tron. Whilst this is not a major component it does make everything seem a little repetitive and soon becomes a bore. There is the occasional radio chatter and intercom announcements that adds some fun background to the story. One thing that redeems this experience is your relationship with ScreamWorks AI, your effective boss guiding you throughout. Her attitude is rather sarcastic, with an interesting view on humanity and praise. I have a funny feeling she may be related to GLaDOS…
ScreamRide offers a plethora of exhilarating, adrenaline pumping challenges to get stuck into. Career Mode includes three distinctive modes for your pleasure across six series, each offering a unique experience. These must be unlocked with security clearance which you can gain by completing challenges and earning commendations. Sandbox mode allows you to combine everything you’ve learnt with your creativity to create your own ultimate scream park. A word of advice for those of you hoping to delve straight into Sandbox Mode, you will find you and your marvellous creations rather limited and disappointed if you have little interest in the career. In order to truly have free reign you will need to play through career mode in order to unlock the vast selection of components needed to bring your park to life. Whilst a sad note for some the career mode is actually bundles of fun and an essential part for a true scream experience. Your certainly in for a ride!
First up is the role of a ScreamRider (My personal favourite). Your task is to get the coaster around the track in the fastest and most fun way possible, where your skills in control and reaction time will be tested. Riders enjoy a good scream so you must push the G-forces to the limit whilst keeping the coaster on the rails to achieve a high scream score (We wouldn’t want to injure the riders, would we?). There are a variety of ways to achieve a high scream score. ScreamWorks provide the most daring tracks in the world, with insane designs best enjoyed at full throttle, and completing a track as quick as possible will earn you a bonus. To help you achieve this, sections of the track contain speed boosts which if collected at the right moment at a press of a button will provide you with turbo. Using turbo will send your coaster flying through the track, but along with speed comes danger. With increased speed you may find yourself on two wheels which also leads to a bonus, however you must keep control and lean your coaster to safety. If not you may send your riders flying off into the horizon, or the nearest building. Obstacles may also be in place, forcing you onto two wheels to pass safely. Whilst catapulting your riders will not always gain you a bonus and seem rather painful, it is sometimes encouraged (and diabolically entertaining too!). Each level contains challenges for you to complete, whether it be a time limit, becoming a two-wheel master whilst not derailing or causing utter destruction by hurling your riders into oblivion. For this very purpose you can utilise after-touch, sending your coaster rocketing to cause ultimate destruction.Yes you must shoot to thrill, and it’s one of the most fun aspects of the game! (Which reminds me, AC/DC Back In Black makes a great soundtrack for the game!). As you progress, challenges will become more difficult and require new tactics. Some sections will require you to jump across a gap where timing is everything. The challenges themselves bring out your competitive streak. I myself spent hours attempting to complete them, becoming frustrated but unwavering (which led to some very sore fingers!).
Those of a more devilish nature may prefer the Demolition Expert career. Focusing on humanities inner desire to destroy everything in sight you must launch cabins and coasters into structures, exploiting their weak points to destroy for entertainment. Using mechanical slingshots your sole aim is to destroy as much as possible with the least cabins/coasters. This is more about precision than speed, with no tracks in sight. You can carelessly catapult your cabins and hope to hit something or you can slowly aim your perfect shot. The more you destroy the more points you gain. There are virtually no limits to what you can destroy. Have you seen those blimps and speedboats passing by in the background? Well here you are actively encouraged to blast them out of the sky or water! These however require precise timing and aim to reach and not all targets are easy. Passing through hoops can prove quite a challenge and other buildings may hinder your view as you try to hit things in the distance. To aid your destruction there are a variety of cabins/coasters and props to help you. Aside from the regulars you have for example fragmentation cabins that can be split into three parts for greater destructive range, or exploding coasters that act like bombs. Magnets and trampolines can help you reach new places whilst explosives are strategically placed to blow up the block. There is something delightful about destruction, watching buildings topple like a tower of jenga crushing down is rather rewarding. Buildings can also act like like a line of dominoes, by hitting one you can sometimes set off a chain reaction and watch them fall!
Lastly as an Engineer you can enjoy both worlds with two different events. Using your expertise you can build to thrill or build to destroy. Provided with an unfinished ride you must meet certain criteria to create the perfect scream ride. Guide your riders on a thrilling but safe journey or cause the most damage to the environment. This mode is the most tactical of the three as you will be provided with boundary and part limits in which to complete the attraction. From speed boosts, brakes to hoops it takes practical thinking to complete a set-up in the given limits. You will be scored on S.I.N ratings (Scream/Intensity/Nausea) and testing your work often is essential to ensure smooth running. Bonuses can be gained in a variety of ways, from creating intense drops, making riders duck under objects and gaining some air. Luckily if things go wrong there are handy pointers to show you which section went a bit wrong or caused a good thrill. This career is perfect to practice your skills for Sandbox mode to which this is most akin to.
Finally Sandbox Mode is the creatives dream. Utilising all three careers you have absolute freedom on what you can create, that is providing you have unlocked them throughout career mode. There is a plethora of items available to construct your perfect island, from concrete, glass to a variety of props all using a grid system. At first this can be very daunting working from a blank slate. It is important to think about what you want to create before you start. Do you want to provide a thrilling experience or encourage others to tear the place down? If you find starting from a blank unhelpful then there are a variety of blueprints available to get you started. This mode is also the home for User Generated Content. Whilst ScreamRide does not have a multi-player mode it does include a level centre. Here you can share your creations with the world, from whole levels with your own set of challenges to blueprints. From here you can also download content from other players to expand upon your ScreamRide experience. You can even filter through content and rate others creations. It’s amazing what can be created in Sandbox Mode and this was also used to create the very levels you play in Career Mode!
The tough challenges and need to unlock resources will keep you coming back for more thrills. Some levels spike in difficulty and will take many hours of attempts if you are a completionist! ScreamRide also features a Leaderboard across all aspects of the game which is the closest to multi-player it gets. On these leaderboards you can keep track of your personal score, your friends and even compare them to the rest of the worlds. If you are a competitor then this will keep you on your toes as you vow to claim the top spot on the board!
I found ScreamRide immensely fun. Countless times I was kept on my toes trying to beat a lap under the time limit that I lost track of time myself! The gameplay is often more challenging than you think, though it may look simple there is a lot to consider to pass each level and there are some clever physics at play. Whilst there are a few niggles here and there that dampen the spirits a little, such as being forced to play the career in order to create freely, overall it’s a great experience. With new UGC being added all the time and keeping your eyes on the leaderboards I will certainly come back for more screams!