Frontier Developments first came onto the scene in the mid 1990s, but they did not hit their stride until 2003 upon the release of Rollercoaster Tycoon. That series ran its course over the next few years years, dying off rather quickly. While those games focused almost exclusively on the building of various coasters and the methods in which to raise attendance, Frontier Developments has taken that idea at its most basic level and turned it on its head in the somewhat spiritual successor, Screamride.
While building is at the core of Screamride, the game has a major focus on a few other elements that are seen throughout the Career mode. Within Career, players have a choice between three game types, Screamrider, Demolition Expert, and Engineer, with each having a number of individual missions for that location. While all three show up for one area, the developer was smart by allowing players to advance strictly on one type of mode if they so choose, rather than having to level up all three at once just to advance to the next area. Spanning across six different worldwide locations, there are around three to four different mission types per area. While Career is on the short side, it still manages to be\ satisfying for the player by offering three completely different experiences.
Screamrider mode is the closest to a rollercoaster riding simulation that you will find in all of gaming. The controls are fairly simple throughout, from accelerating with RT or using a turbo boost with the A button. The tracks are relatively simplistic for the most part, with new elements being added in throughout each new location. There can even be some difficulty at times with hitting the minimum score on the tougher stages, which will require you to go for the array of bonus challenges available.
Demolition Expert is easily the standout mode of the game, as it is just a joy to play. Rollercoaster Tycoon was all about building up rides, but Screamride’s Demolition Expert mode is literally the opposite. By taking control of a variety of different cabins, the player will be aiming to cause the most destruction possible in any given location. The destruction scenes themselves are a sight to behold, almost feeling like something out of the Mercenaries series, where the buildings all crash to the ground. There are also plenty of optional bonus challenges to keep you coming back, such as hitting bullseyes and other targets. The overall number of Demolition Expert stages may be small, just like the other two Career types, but these are the ones that can easily be played over and over again with no problem.
The last Career mode choice, Engineer, is the one made just for those that need their Rollercoaster Tycoon fix. Through a series of missions, you must complete partially made coasters, with each new area adding new elements into the mix. This may be as simple as a new type of track, boosters, or something much more complicated. Engineer also utilizes a three prong meter of Screams, Intensity, and Nausea, which ties in well with the various bonus challenges. The major downside to the Engineer missions is that they are far from the true park builder experience that Rollercoaster Tycoon fans would be looking to play. Luckily, that is exactly why the game also has something known as the Sandbox.
Sandbox allows the creative juices to flow with a true “from the ground up” experience. By choosing any of the six regions available in the game, each with numerous individual areas included as well, you can build your own attraction completely from scratch. This is the basic experience that anyone would expect from what is being called a spiritual successor to the Rollercoaster Tycoon series. While it doesn’t include the management of a theme park in any way, it is just what the doctor ordered for longtime fans of that series.
Screamride offers players the ability to not only design their own coaster or Demolition Expert style ride, but also the layout of the scenery and island as well. This is especially great on the Demolition stages, as one can create the most explosive and creative layout, for the sole purpose of seeing it get torn down. Upon completing various stages and tasks in Career, new items will be unlocked for use in Sandbox as well. This greatly helps to prolong the game itself, by bringing the player back again and again. The ability to share levels online also helps with this.
Demolition Expert is easily the standout mode of the game
While consoles have seen simulation style games over the years, including Rollercoaster Tycoon, it can be a little jarring to try and transition from the ease of building with a mouse on a PC to a controller. Precision is certainly not a strong suit of Screamride, but Frontier Developments have still done a good job with the controls. There will certainly be frustrating moments, mostly with the placement of the track, but it still manages to work rather well.
The over the top style gameplay, particularly in the Demolition Expert mode, fits quite well with the graphical design choices in the game. Feeling almost like a cross between the world of Portal and Crash Test Dummies in design, Screamride features vibrant and shiny textures that pop well in the lighting. In fact, the graphical style is reminiscence of another of Frontier Development’s title, Thrillville. The graphics certainly aren’t a showstopper for the Xbox One, which makes it seems like the Xbox 360 version could have held back the capabilities of the final product.
The best example of the Xbox 360 version seemingly holding back the current-gen version is with a reoccurring problem that does pop up somewhat often in Screamride, framerate issues. Even at the 30fps that the game runs at, slowdown occurs at times, most commonly during the massive destruction scenes in the Demolition stages. As cool as these are, the frame rate slowdowns do hurt the overall experience there when they pop up.
The frame rate problem is not always an issue, but one that plagues the game throughout is the far too tiny font choices. The bigger headline text areas are plenty big, but a good majority of the text on the menus and results screens can be a struggle to read by even someone with good eyesight on a large screen television. This is extremely problematic with the bonus challenges, as they are vital to achieving a high score on any given stage.
Being hailed as a spiritual successor to a fan favorite franchise can often be a tall order to live up to, but Screamride does an exceptional job at maintaining some of the core elements while branching out in many new directions as well. Sandbox preserves the classic rollercoaster building element for the purists, while Screamrider and Demolition Expert add something that is bound to attract a wider audience. While held back by the Xbox 360 version graphically, Screamride does a wonderful job at simulating a fantastical theme park experience that will bring out the kid in everyone.