Ever fancied building your own rollercoaster? Well Screamride is at least a third of the game you’ve been looking for.
The game is set in a strange near-future world where a company called Screamworks brings unsuspecting members of the public out to a strange isolated area to make them test outlandish rollercoasters.
That’s about all you get in terms of the story, with quirky cut scenes showing the NPC’s wandering around and often expiring in amusing ways. It’s all told in a pretty tongue in cheek fashion, with the same kind of stylised, all but mute characters you’ve seen in a fair few Microsoft-produced games by now, just with a slightly more deranged sense of humour than usual.
That leaves you with plenty of room to enjoy the game modes, of which there are three. The first is ScreamRider – which tasks you with taking charge of a coaster-carriage and using simple controls to boost it around a track in the lowest amount of time without derailments.
In Demolition Expert you’re given a cabin with muttering folks inside and you have to… throw them at other buildings with a giant catapult. You get points for skilful play and have to destroy certain things to progress.
Finally Engineer mode is all about building – you’ll be given a certain specification for your coaster and you have to use all the skills and pieces you’ve unlocked to date in order to get massive thrills out of your riders, typically without sending them to a painful death.
The ScreamRider section is easy to pick up and play but has fairly limited appeal. The controls are responsive enough but once you’ve tried a few races you’ve seen most of what the mode has to offer, unless you really enjoy watching your riders gurning after a bout.
Demolition Expert is a lot more fun, mostly because it’s quickly devolves into wanton destruction. Tossing cabins around always feels like an odd way to spend your time but the physics are glorious to behold, especially with a little slow motion and aftertouch to get the chaos just right.
There are plenty of different challenges to unlock as you progress, requiring expert control of your flight path and judicious use of the power ups and boosters available. Things do get more difficult fairly quickly, so it’s always nice to be able to fall back on just destroying things if you brain needs a break.
Then there’s Engineer, which is the most complex of the available modes. Your challenges are fairly simple at the start but soon you’ll be handed pretty advanced puzzles to solve and you’ll have to use some lateral thinking to get the coaster to do what you need.
You can also just load up a Sandbox mode which gives you free access to parts to create your ultimate rollercoaster, arguably the biggest selling point of the game for those who are design-inclined. And it does what you expect, with fairly accessible controls and access to a large toolset. You can even share your creations online for other players to check out and use in their game modes.
The main problem with Screamride is that these three parts never feel like a cohesive whole. In some ways the Demoltiion and Ride elements are more akin to mini-games; momentary distractions from the more serious play of the Engineer mode.
But these three distinct elements don’t really feel like they’ve been created to appeal to the same players – those who might want a destruction sim writ large aren’t likely to have the patience to spend serious time as an Engineer. And the Destruction mode alone isn’t enough to really sell the game.
The word I kept coming back to when playing Screamride was ‘limited’ both in its appeal and in its available options. This isn’t a shiny new successor to the Rollercoaster Tycoon brand (despite the pedigree of developers Frontier) nor is it a mere casual game, though the budget price might help when people are considering picking it up.
If you’re captivated by the idea of creating incredibly over the top rollercoasters and sending multitude of minions to their cheerful doom, then you’ll definitely have fun with Screamride and the demolition mode is an enjoyable distraction but I have to wonder how many people will still be playing and creating even six months from now.