Planet Coaster, Frontier’s spiritual successor to Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, has been around for four years, but has been a Windows 10 exclusive to date.
That’s soon to change. Apple specialist Aspyr is developing a Mac version, while Frontier itself has reformatted the game for console, calling it Planet Coaster: Console Editon to avoid any confusion.
It’ll be available from 10 November, for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5, and while it will contain the same park structure, game modes and powerful theme park creation tools, it offers a refined interface designed especially for game controllers.
We got to play more than an hour of the game, with no restrictions, in order to check out how it’s going so far.
As with the PC version, Planet Coaster allows you to build the theme park of your dreams, in a number of sandbox locations and with a large swathe of differently-style buildings, rides and rollercoaster types. Alternatively, you can complete various set missions in a career mode, which is where we mostly dabbled during our session.
That’s partly because there are a couple of excellent tutorials in career, which represent a great starting point.
One puts you in an off-site testing zone, where you can learn the basics of building your own coaster from scratch. And, as this will be essential down the line, it’s very much recommended you give this a go before any of the main scenarios. It holds your hand through the process and gives you an excellent idea of how to build a ride that peeps will like.
The other tutorial mission we tried is somewhat a storied mission in itself. It takes you through the steps of turning a miniature, badly-performing park into a profitable one, teaching you how and where to place rides for maximum footfall, and how to adjust your economics to make more money to make, well, more rides.
There’s great voice acting throughout and the various characters that pop up to give you advice are well-rounded – who knew learning stuff was so much fun?
We also tried several other scenarios and objectives, across multiple themes – from pirates to saving the planet. If you’ve played the PC version of Planet Coaster, you’ll know exactly what to expect, but those new to the franchise will find it easy to get to grips with and enjoy the cute, cartoony graphics throughout.
Of course, the biggest change between PC P.C. (see what we did there?) and the Console Edition is that the latter must be played using a controller – be that an Xbox Wireless Controller, DualShock 4, DualSense, or third-party equivalent.
Strategy and simulation games of this type have always worked best on a mouse and keyboard, but the control method devised by Frontier works surprisingly well. You don’t need the dexterity of an octopus to get to all the menus and tools.
The camera is easy enough to manipulate in order to get around your park, and the buttons are cleverly mapped so you only need to press one or two to get to the most important functions.
Every button is used in some fashion – such as the D-pad to scroll through options in each sub-menu – but after just five minutes or so, we found ourselves no longer trying to figure out what to press, but more which menu to find different items in.
We didn’t have time to do any major manipulation of the landscape. Instead, we stuck to the tried and tested methods of placing hot dog stands and thrill rides, but we’d imagine landscaping would be equally as simple to get to grips with.
One major takeaway from our preview session is just how good the game will look on console. The character designs and cartoon graphics will suit a large-screen TV even more than computer monitor.
Our preview session was performed over a cloud connection, such are the times we find ourselves in, with the game running on a remote PC and streamed to our gaming laptop (an Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531, for those interested in details). It was streamed in 4K and at 60fps, so we imagine is more representative of what to expect on next-gen hardware than current.
However, either way you’ll get a colourful, friendly presentation with some superb effects – especially with lighting at night. As with Rollercoaster Tycoons of yore, there is a day night cycle in the game, which creates some beautiful visuals. Plus, some scenarios are set at night anyway, and they look especially spectacular.
Sounds too are apt for the genre, with the visitors to the park having their own Sims-like language and the sounds of the rides and general hub-bub of a busy theme park.