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My son, who is 11, really enjoys management-style sim games, such as Zoo Tycoon or Jurassic Park Operation Genesis. These games require you to build a park from scratch and then manage various aspects of the park, anything from enclosure sizes, to admission prices or even the type of refreshments to serve at the kiosks. The aim of these games is to create a successful attraction that makes money and continues to grow and improve.
When I saw this Theme park game for DS, I knew that he would love it, as it is a great example of the type of game that he enjoys playing. We actually owned the same game on PC about 10 years ago, but unfortunately, when we updated to a new computer, the game wouldn't work, so I had to get rid of it. It was a really popular game for PC when it came out and I was very interested to see how the game would translate to the DS format and whether it would have changed much over the years.
I was pleased to find that the game was virtually identical to its predecessor, and the gameplay and graphics style had not changed at all.
What Is It All About Then?
You start the game with a blank plot of land in the good old UK and a modest amount of money, which you must use wisely to create a good theme park. There are many different objects that you can place in your theme park, all costing different amounts of money. Each object you place in the park has a direct bearing on the popularity of the park. Big thrill rides, such as rollercoasters, are expensive initially, but will make your park popular, smaller rides are cheaper to buy, but tend to break down a lot and won't draw a lot of customers. You can build the bigger attractions yourself by laying pieces of track down to make as big or as small a ride as you wish. If you get the rollercoaster angles wrong, the cars will fall off the track, which is actually quite funny, but not really advised!
There are lots of things to consider when it comes to the rides and you have quite a lot of control over the exact ride specifications. When you start the game, you only have access to the very basic rides, which are notoriously unreliable and can explode if not repaired quickly enough! As the game progresses, a variety of better rides become available, if you have enough cash to buy them, of course. You can control certain ride parameters, such as the speed of the ride, which will also have a bearing on the game. A faster ride will be more exciting, but
Pictures of Theme Park (Nintendo DS)
will be more liable to break down.I remember on the PC version of the game that you were actually able to take a virtual ride on the attractions. Sadly this feature has been removed on the DS version, which is a shame. There are loads of different ride types to choose from, starting with basics like the bouncy castle, and progressing to treehouses, hedge mazes, spinning rides, water chutes and many, many more.
As well as the rides, there are many more considerations to take into account. You park will need facilities such as toilets, and you can go for the really basic type (yuk) or the super duper loos which as you may guess, cost more money! Refreshment kiosks and shops will bring in extra money, but will only do well if you choose popular items to sell and make your prices reasonable. You can also control your gate price for entry. The prices in the game are a little weird, and are subject to the demands of the customers, but in this warped version of reality, it is not considered expensive to pay £250 for a burger and chips if your park is popular enough, and a cheap trinket from the nevelty shop can set customers back over £300! Of course, if the park is unpopular, you will have to keep all your prices low, including the gate admission, or you will have no guests at all.
You can also micro-manage the smaller details, such as the amount of fat in the burgers or amount of ice in the cola. These factors may seem insignificant, but they can affect the cost price of your stock and a small action like adding extra salt to your fries will cause your customers to get thirsty and order a drink as well!
Another thing that you will need to find money for are your staff. A park with no cleaners will soon get dirty and your customers will leave. When a ride breaks down, you will need a technician to mend it quickly. As the park gats more popular and grows in size, one cleaner will not be enough and you need to hire more staff. As the park grows, more staff options become available to you, such as security guards to keep out yobs and spies from other theme parks. You can also hire costumed entertainers to keep your customers happy. Each member of staff must be paid out of your available funds so it is really important to balance the books to avaoid bankruptcy. If you hire too many staff, they will just mill about together and waste your money, so you may wish to hire them if they are being unproductive.
You will also need to place your paths and queues around the park in order to make the best use of the available space. Buildings and rides face forwards and cannot be rotated, so paths need to lead right up to the attraction entrance, or you will get no customers. if you place paths or queues badly, guests can become trapped, which triggers an emergency situation.
You can see how your park visitors are feeling by means of small emoticons by each visitor. Various factors can make the visitors happy or unhappy and it is very important to try and keep them as happy as possible at all times, as this will make your park more popular. You can access visitor questionnaires to see what factors are affecting the guests. if they are complaining that they are thirsty, you can build a new coke stand. If their legs are tired, you must place benches and seating areas to keep them happy.
If your park does well, you are able to build another park in a different country and thus grow your theme park business into a successful empire.
Great Gameplay Style
Theme park is a clever game which has aged well and the DS format seems to suit it even better than the original PC format as the stylus gives better control to the player and better ability to look around the park, dispatch staff and build attractions. One aspect that it took me some time to get used to with the stylus was the way that you select items or rides from the menu. You need to circle the ride with the stylus, rather than tapping it. It took me a while to get used to this and I was sitting there like an idiot, tapping away at items in the menu, wondering why they weren't working! Generally though, the controls are pretty straightforward!
At the start of the game, you can create your own profile, which includes your own avatar, you name, blood type (?), age and birth date. You are only alowed one profile per game and this can be shared with other players on a wireless network if you both have a copy of the game, which allows you to compare your parks.
A useful aspect of the game is that it can be set as simple, or as complicated as you wish. The basic play mode is called "Sandbox Mode" which is the most simple version of the game, with most items being automatically unlocked as you proceed through the game. You can then progress to the "Sim" version, which is a little more advanced and then you can play the "Full" version, which allows you to micro-manage every aspect of the park. I prefer the Full version because I love the way that you can use your money to research and develop new rides or train staff. The more cash you allocate for new ride development, the better your park will be, but again, it is a matter of balancing the books so that you have enough money for other things too.
Another aspect unique to the "Full" mode is the negotiation table. At various points in the game, you will be approached by suppliers or Labour unions wanting more money. You slowly extend your hand across the table to reach a negotiation when your hands meet in the middle!
You can also choose an in-game advisor to guide you through decisions in the game. You can choose from a young enthusiastic 22 year old man, an experienced old man, a young businesswoman or a young teenage girl. The character you choose will guide you in the game and advise on pricing and ride placement.
The game would appeal to anyone aged 10 and over and I think it is a very useful game for older children as it teaches them basic principles of money management, and the idea that you can't always have what you want if you don't have the funds to hand! It is a really useful tool for teaching children about how business works and how you can start small and grow as you succeed. I actually managed to rescue my park from a really bad debt situation and recover my finances, just as I thought that I was going to go bankrupt! You can also borrow money from the bank, but again, the game is realistic about how that works and borrowing money to save your park is not just a quick fix by any means!
Above all though, Theme Park for DS is a fun game, and if you like these sort of games, Theme Park for DS should definitely deserve a place in your collection. The graphics are colourful and cartoony, the animations and characters are fun, and the gameplay is creative and intuitive. The in-game music is quite relaxing, soothing and pleasant and not at all irritating, like I expected it to be. This is a big improvement on the PC version, which i recall had awful sound effects.Theme park is a game that will have you tapping away on your DS for hours and wondering where the time went! A new copy of the game is not cheap, they sell for about £25 on Amazon, which I think is a good reflection of the quality of the game. It has good longevity, so in my opinion is worth the money, although another option is buying a used copy, which can be as cheap as £1.99.
Theme park is a lovely game and one that gets played a lot in our house. Maybe if my son plays it enough times he might grow up to be the manager of a real theme park one day!