Rollercoaster Tycoon meets Angry Birds
Part Rollercoaster Tycoon, part Angry Birds and part Wipeout, Xbox One-exclusive build-em-up Screamride combines its influences into an inoffensive package of snack-sized treats.At its heart, I'm guessing Screamride began life as a futuristic take on the park-building genre. Hot on the heels of Zoo Tycoon, Frontier’s latest project contains a few of the hallmarks you’d expect from that title; the sandbox mode allows free-form rollercoaster building, while upload and download of user-generated content allows you to see the creativity of the community writ large on your telly. The visual styling also exhibits a similar cutesy charm to that of its animal-themed brethren, as comic humanoids bungle about in futuristic neon cities, archipelagos, mountains, fortresses and deserts.If you’re expecting a 2015 take on Theme Park however, expectations need to be checked before inserting the disc. There’s no real management layer here, and Screamride’s core offering is built on three pillars of gameplay that exist as entirely separate modes smattered throughout a campaign that never really sparks into life. So while you can fling explosive pods at buildings and ride the tracks to your heart’s content, there are no hotdog stands to build, no pathways to place, no merchandise stores to manage. These buildings and ‘coasters exist in a strangely lifeless vacuum, doomed to be ridden by test subjects for all eternity.
Building the futureWith two of its gameplay modes providing a more arcade tinge (the on-rails racing of ”Screamrider” and the explosive Angry Birds physics destruction of “Demolition Expert”), the meat of Screamride certainly lies within its rollercoaster-building “Engineer” creation suite, and in that respect, there’s certainly fun to be had.
You begin by selecting your chosen environment, and then the rest is pretty much up to you. Individual levels can be crafted from bricks, walls, windows and props with a few simple swipes of the analogue stick on an intuitive menu, while rollercoaster pieces are similarly placed from a selection of hundreds. Progress towards unlocking all the available building blocks is garnered from Engineer-specific challenges in the career mode, which ask players to finish off partially completed tracks, or to create layouts that meet specific sets of characteristics.
Buildings, walkways and all manner of physical creations can be fashioned if you have the talent, with your track placed to weave, jump and loop throughout. The only concession to gameplay structure is that you’re meant to be building your ride to keep a suite of testers happy, so on-screen meters constantly measure the level of excitement, nausea and G-Force that your track elicits. More points equals a better ride, while losing a test subject to a sharp bend or an extreme jump is usually frowned upon.
The creation tools are excellent, made all the easier by a simple UI. By default your designs will adhere to a grid-based system that makes for easy connectivity even while placing objects in mid-air, but advanced creators can quickly switch off such limitations, creating banks and loops that criss-cross in the sky or crest the invariably-phallic tower block that was hastily erected but a moment before. As Screamride is set in some futuristic fun lab, the velocity of your rollercoaster can also be manipulated with energy booster sections and rockets, while two-wheeled turns are encouraged.
Once you’ve twisted the steel and smoothed out the experience, you can then stab a button to have your track auto-complete and hit down on the d-pad to watch the results. Once you’re happy, the track can then be ridden locally with manual control of the carriage if you wish, or the whole level shared out to the world for others to consume.
Demolish the pastThe creation suite is great fun then, but without a management layer structuring your content, each of those rollercoasters exists in its own little world, and that’s kind of a shame. Screamride’s basic tools are fantastically well-implemented, but without being able to stamp your own identity on the park itself, you’re effectively left with a fairly cold, calculated lab experiment every time. I suspect the other two game modes that Frontier implemented were designed to inject a little more personality then, but each only partially succeeds. Each is woven into the campaign gameplay under its own section.
“Screamrider” gives you manual control of a rollercoaster and asks you to pilot it around a track as quickly and dangerously as possible, without losing any passengers along the way. Velocity is controlled with the right trigger, the carriage can be leaned left or right if you find yourself hurtling into a banked turn, and a nitrous boost can be refilled by tapping the X button at specific moments on coloured sections of track. Score multipliers are formed by going as fast as possible, leaning the carriage and timing your boosts impeccably.
It’s incredibly thin, and not a lot of fun. Later stages of Screamrider prove frustrating due to the sheer velocity of the track coupled with a complete inability to ever see what’s coming next, making progress a simple task of tiresome repetitive learning. The third and final game mode makes up for some of that, allowing players to blow off their frustrations in physics-enabled sandbox levels.
Demolition Expert is essentially a 3D version of Angry Birds. Each stage tasks the player with simply destroying as much scenery as possible, arming them with a catapult and several explosive pods to launch at huge skyscrapers or bounce off targets into explosive barrels, while later stages change up the pace with rocket-powered rollercoaster carriages launched off ramps and other similarly creative methods of annihilation.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot of fun. All of Screamride’s building blocks exist within the same physics system, so huge structures can be toppied if you just aim for the right strut, or take out the base in a creative fashion. The levels that Frontier provide do a good job of upping the ante as the campaign progresses, offering bonuses for hitting specific targets or varying the pods at your disposal to enable different types of damage to ensue.
And once you finish the fairly short campaign, it’s worth noting that all three of Screamride’s game modes facilitate community-generated content. Predictably, there’s all sorts of stuff already out there in the wild, and the most fun I had with the game was consistently found within that community menu. Huge neon-lit factories share server space with gigantic rollercoaster levels that spiral and twist into an acid-trip level of creativity, while suitably stratospheric structures are available to download and blast to pieces (the gigantic exploding PS4 is worthy of a chuckle). The menu does a good job of enabling users to find the best examples of each game type, while uploading your own is as simple as hitting a button and entering a few tags.
- Excellent building tools
- Fun destruction
- Good variety
- Community levels
- Boring visual theme
- Screamrider gameplay
- Lacking in structure
Screamride: Xbox One ReviewScreamride is something of an oddity. Its rollercoaster-building creation suite is excellently implemented and fun to mess around with, and yet the complete lack of park management or any overall structure stems your investment in those twists and turns. The futuristic “fun lab” motif is a little too well-worn, and its visuals are a little too sparse and clean to hold much appeal. Nevertheless, it succeeds at the basic remit of allowing for player creativity with superb tools, and that has to be applauded.
Screamride’s other two modes are a mixed bag. Manually piloting a rollercoaster is pretty much as boring as it comes, while demolishing buildings by hurtling pods towards their structural weak points is excellent fun. The campaign intertwines all three gameplay pillars into a tiered structure that manages to inject a good level of variety throughout.
The community really is the star here though. Once you’re done with the pre-set challenges that Frontier provide, there are already enough ridiculous tracks and explosive stages uploaded to occupy a good few hours more. As long as that lasts, Screamride is certainly an oddity worthy of a gander.
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