One sentence review: While the management side of Planet Coaster is fairly thin, the amount of pure customization available to the player is staggering.
Planet Coaster is a wonderful game. That’s it. That’s all you need to know.
Is that not professional? Oh alright, fine.
One of the things that make me happy about this game (and there are many things) is that the simple creation of this game was a slap in the face to the new type of roller coaster tycoon that was starting to develop. The new roller coaster tycoon was fraught with pay-to-play elements, awkward menu placements, limiting park sizes and scenery items. Planet Coaster is an attempt by veterans of Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 to change the dark road that the roller coaster genre was about to head down. Planet Coaster is a roller coaster builder/queue management/cave builder/litter control/tree placement/Human Resources management simulator.
I think the thing that struck me the most about this game when I first started it up was the simple fact that the game was so dang happy. Everything is happy in this game; the people, the janitors, the employees (unless you don’t pay them, but that’s understandable), the mascots- literally everything about this game is excited about what you are about to build. If you want a taste of the type of happy I mean, click the youtube video below. The video is the first song you hear when you boot the game up and it only gets better as the soundtrack goes along.
See what I mean?
Planet Coaster captures the essence of what it means to be in a theme park and just allowing the child-like side of you to create whatever it desires. The customization is unique in Planet Coaster as it allows the player to do something called ‘clipping.’ Clipping is a term used to signify that items can be placed inside of other items. For example, if you ‘clip’ a barrel through the ground it will look like a half-buried barrel. This may not sound special but this type of creation is largely only given to the developers to create the game, not to the players playing the game. This means that you can craft buildings and shops with any amount of items placed in any way you see fit. You don’t have to create everything yourself however, you can use automatically supplied buildings to line your paths or download buildings that other people have made online. On top of that you have a fully functional terrain editing tool that allows you to raise or lower land however you want. You can even toggle a setting that keeps the terrain from burying your buildings and form the land around them creating a small cave dedicated to a specific building. One gripe I do have is the water in the game is not great. While the terrain editor is robust, the water system is nothing more than a layering tool with water on top. From the top down it looks like water but from underneath you can see that is just a sheet of water texture with no real depth. Games like this do well with well crafted water physics and the ability to play with water volume, create waterfalls or whatever else you fancy. The water system is the only thing that genuinely holds back the creation aspect of this game.
The next big thing that Planet Coaster succeeds at is the lighting. Roller Coaster sims have always been about two halves of a coin- how a park looks during the day and how a park looks during the night. During the day you have to stay relatively tame and have a lot of objects to look at and distract the eye but at night you can play with colors and all kinds of particle effects that all create different looks on the landscape. You can succeed with less objects at night time if they are lit up in an engaging manner. Planet Coaster succeeds at this almost as much as Roller Coaster Tycoon 2, which is definitely saying something because anyone who has played Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 knows that it clearly the most well programmed and fun game in the series.
Finally, that simple idea is what makes Planet Coaster so effective, it’s just fun. You can build whatever you want and before long you will be creating areas of the park that you wont even be able to see and you will think “well maybe the rock should go here so the guests have a better view of this ride.” This game allows you to build parks that feel alive and fills them with people that are just happy to be there. If you have any happy memories of being in a theme park, then Planet Coaster lets you channel that to create something truely magical.