Ice cream dribbling down their lips queuing for the park’s latest attraction – recently developed by the best scientists available – the kids were ready for the last ride. This was the big one.
Theme Park World is like a stay-at-home microcosm of what managing the Millennium Dome might be like – if people went there. As a simulation it’s at once entertaining and annoying. Just when you think you have that
subtle little entertainment mix, an attraction breaks down, and, like ice in a hot tub, the magic melts.
Despite appearances, it’s not easy being the ringmaster of a fantasy circus. Rubbish builds up; fashions and seasons change. Who wants to ride the Big Dipper in a thunderstorm? You’ve got to plan ahead. You need to keep looking forward, invest in research, and maintain the shock of the new. Like every sim game I’ve ever played, the interface is easy, first time – but never trust a first impression. Every decision you make leads to another.
As an armchair Svengali, approaching perfection, I found myself drilling deeper and deeper into the micro-management screens. The death of the Aztec Ride creates a queue – send in the entertainers and get some security there. As God games go, this tiny slice of reality takes as much energy as you want to give it. Like all the best obsessions, Theme Park World offers layer after layer of micro-controls. So many decisions – without (much) of a safety net. The game includes an advisor, but like every trainee manager, you know that you know best.
It gets deep, and for that reason the PC version has already sold more than a million copies.
You can take the kind of interest in your punters most marketing types dream of, click on them and see what they are feeling. You can do the same with staff, rides, and stalls. Everything is adjustable as you push the Park toward perfection. Like Sim City or The Sims, this game is capable of taking over all your free time.
It’s a challenging game, ideal for those with so little to do that domestic chores seem like an excellent idea. It’s online features – the ability to chat and publish parks online – give this game a chance of developing a huge Internet-based community. Theme Park World should carry a health warning – you’ll spend more time entertaining the park’s visitors than your friends, lovers, family or children.