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Screamride review: forget theme park management, this is about how good the rides can get





The person who heads up Frontier Developments is David Braben, the game developer who gave the world the acclaimed 1980s 3D space title Elite. Although that game has seldom been too far away from the heart of Frontier (Elite: Dangerous is the latest incarnation), the company has also made a name for itself with a string of theme park games, most notably the RollerCoaster Tycoon series and Thrillville.

Those games, like Elite, were built upon open-world principles, offering an element of freedom that gave players a sense of wider picture. Screamride is different. It primarily concentrates on core gaming mechanics and specific rides rather than the various aspects of theme park management. To that extent, it is as on-rails as it could be, quite literally, although as we will see later there is a sandbox mode that will keep you playing for many months to come.

Screamride is broken down into three main parts. The Screamrider component is an energetic blast in an auto-steering rollercoaster car around a track. The idea is that you complete the laps in the fastest possible time while trying to prevent the hapless passengers from falling out and plummeting towards the ground by leaning too far. There are plenty of opportunities to gain points such as by lifting two wheels off the track and players can also enjoy speed thrusts in order to shave seconds off their time.

This part of the game is initially quite dull but once you get the hang of what you are doing, it starts to hot up as fresh tracks appear, the laps become more plentiful and obstacles ranging from blocks to jumps keep you on your toes. You feel the adrenalin rushing when you get towards your best times and the points start racking up as the riders scream their delight at the thrills you force them to encounter.

And yet it's not the most exciting part of the game. Demolition Expert walks away with that title. This part is all about destruction as the rides become weapons that can be aimed at buildings. It brings a puzzle element to the game as you try and work out the best ways of turning structures into mere dust. There are some great physics at play here which make you think strategically in a bid to gain a higher score, and it's about getting the timing right and the aim perfect - although it can feel a little too controlled later on.


For those who want more freedom to just play, there is the Engineer mode, which lets you build your own rollercoasters within a set of constraints. The learning curve here is particularly good although the laying of pieces did feel a bit fiddly to start with. Players gain points by producing a perfect thrill-ride which ticks the requirement boxes. Even better, there's a mix of demolition and engineering as you progress through the stages and the game asks you build a ride that smashes buildings apart.

The Sandbox part of the game, as mentioned earlier, is what makes Screamride a long-termer. If it is played before the three main modes, then it becomes bewildering. Played after, however, and it's intuitive and fun, since it allows you to produce your own levels and share them online. It's a great function that will see many a creative dive in to produce the ultimate thrills, so it's a more than welcome addition.

Whether you will get that far really depends on what your expectations are of the game. If you come to it believing it to be a theme park management game, then you will be disappointed because all of those mechanics are entirely absent and this is concentrating on the rides. If you want something that is slick and coherent, then again, you may have to readjust because the modes do not entirely link.

And if you get very annoyed at developers who still think that futuristic, robotic voices are cool and fun, then you will hate it. Screamride's presentation could have been softened in this regard because you just find yourself wanting to skip over everything and get straight to the action. But if you want what is effectively three games-in-one with a creative aspect thrown in then, you will have lots of fun. Whether the in-game characters feel the same as you throw them from carriages and hurtle them at buildings is another matter altogether.

Independent News Service