As a kid, I was always petrified of roller coasters. Their intense speed and feeling of weightlessness didn’t excite me as much as they made me think that I was going to fall to my death at any moment. So, rather than ride the thrillers in person, I built them in classic titles such as Theme Park and, more notably, RollerCoaster Tycoon. Crafting titanic rides did little to assuage my fears, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fun.
I eventually grew to love roller coasters, but that didn’t mean that I stopped enjoying park management simulators. Unfortunately, however, the genre as a whole has died out over the years, with Thrillville being one of the last major ones on consoles. Perhaps sensing the need for a new one, though, Frontier Developments has returned with Screamride.
Focusing squarely on thrill ride construction, Screamride is a spiritual successor to the likes of RollerCoaster Tycoon and Thrillville. That makes sense, though, considering Frontier Developments worked on the third iteration of the former and the entirety of the latter. Unlike those titles, though, this one doesn’t focus on park management and upkeep. Rather, gameplay is divided into three different sections: ScreamRider, Demolition Expert, and Engineer.
As the title implies, the ScreamRider section has players testing out some of the most dangerous and extreme roller coasters ever created. Designed to feel like a racer, players are tasked with speeding around each ride while trying to avoid derailment. Your bosses at Populous Labs will open up additional coasters and grant you access to more pieces for sandbox mode for competing each ride with the best score. However, instead of feeling like an actual racer, this section felt more like a terrible mishmash of quick-time events and slot car racing.
The gameplay basically boils down to holding down the acceleration, while occasionally collecting and using turbo. It sounds inoffensive enough, but what really makes it annoying is the constant derailment that occurs once you begin to go faster. I understand derailing if I’m going 200 MPH around a tight corner, but eventually it felt like any time I began to pick up speed, my ride would go flying off the rails. You can steer the car back if it begins leaning, but even that felt ineffective after a certain point. While seeing the mass destruction a derailed car can cause is amusing, after the fifth or sixth time, I began to brake every time I went around a corner, just so that I could move past each section.
While not quite the pain that the ScreamRider section is, the Demolition Expert portion is almost as boring. Playing like a cross between Angry Birds and the Crash mode from Burnout, this part of Screamride has players destroying buildings and environments by throwing SCREAM Cabins and launching coasters at them. There are several different cabins and rides that are used during these sections, including some that bounce and some that have wings. Furthermore, additional score bonuses are handed out for accomplishing tasks like flying through a hoop or hitting a set amount of explosives.
Besides the fact that it doesn’t really fit in with the game’s on-rails theme, outside of the fact that people scream if you toss them around, Demolition Expert doesn’t do enough to stand out from similar experiences. The destruction engine that Frontier Developments crafted is nice to look at, but when it comes down to it, this is nothing you haven’t seen done better before. In fact, thanks to the odd aiming system used for certain portions of the mode, it’s arguably not even as enjoyable as Rovio’s mobile hit. And yet, I had to keep playing through these levels, because content for the mode I actually wanted to play was only unlockable by doing so.
Of the career mode’s three unique paths, my favourite was undoubtedly the Engineer portion. Taking a brain-teaser approach to coaster building, players are tasked with either finishing an incomplete roller coaster in exciting fashion, or creating a coaster that can cause a ton of havoc. It not only combined the coasting building experience I desired, but by making it about achieving a high score, it also made me want to return to levels I’d already completed.
The real hook of Screamride, though, is its sandbox mode. Along with fellow roller coaster creators, players are free to design the thrill ride of their dreams here. This section could have easily been complicated, especially on the Xbox One, but Frontier Developments was able to craft an easy-to-use creation system. The tools are simple enough that anyone can concoct a unique ride, but deep enough that would-be Imagineers can really go wild. If you’re really proud of your creation, you can also share it online with fellow thrill-seekers, which is a welcome treat. Even now, there are several creative coasters available for download.
While not as impressive as most titles currently found on current-gen consoles, I was pleasantly surprised by the look of this release. Its sterile and slightly futuristic aesthetic may be a turn-off for some, but I think it fits the game well. You’re working with the latest in roller coaster technology, so it only makes sense that the world around you looks as advanced. Going further, the destruction engine was equally enjoyable, as seeing buildings crumble into thousands of pieces is strangely satisfying.
Screamride is the tale of two games. On the one hand, you have the supremely satisfying and enjoyable coaster crafting portions, where there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had. Conversely, on the other hand, in order to properly experience the level editor, you need to stomach your way through two painful and frustrating sections. If Frontier Developments could have just focused on the former, then perhaps this title would have lived up to its predecessors.
This review was based off the Xbox One version of the title, which was provided to us.
While creating and destroying roller coasters in Screamride is highly enjoyable, the majority of the game's fun is buried underneath some frustrating design choices.