The management sim genre has certainly seen better days, but in the absence of juggernauts like SimCity or Rollercoaster Tycoon, the space has given rise to all sorts of creative projects that attempt to blaze their own path in search of fun. Limbic Entertainment and Bandai Namco’s Park Beyond falls right into this territory, taking notes from the classic theme park management games, but also making its own indelible mark thanks to Impossification and a colourful palette that is sure to please casual players.
For those familiar with the genre, Park Beyond doesn’t necessarily veer too far from the established formula. Players can either engage in the game’s story-driven campaign, picking up valuable tips on how to run a park, or jump straight into the sandbox mode and let creativity take over. The former is certainly geared towards newcomers, with neat cutscenes to set the stage and plenty of instructions along the way, whereas the latter is where veterans can truly embrace the chaos of Impossification.
In essence, the process of Impossification is the biggest attraction of Park Beyond, allowing players to transform basic rides into crazier, snazzier versions that are not just a treat for the guests, but also for the player from a visual standpoint. Not only that, shops and even staff members can also go under Impossification, with all becoming more effective at serving the three demographics of teens, families, and adults visiting the parks.
But before that vein of fun gets cracked open, players must prove themselves by running a park adequately first. This means picking up the skills for placing paths, shops, and the two categories of rides – flat and rollercoasters. The first two are self-explanatory, helping guests get where they need to go as well as fulfilling their needs for food and drink.
As for rides, most of the action largely falls on flat rides, the standard attractions at a theme park that draws in the crowds without going to the extreme. Park Beyond does pretty well in providing a healthy variety of rides to choose from, with more unlocking at the lab as players progress through goals. Add in themes and extra enhancements along the way, and there is much fun already to be had building around these rides.
At their base levels, the visual and functional quirks are always fun to marvel at. Watching guests trying to escape a Kraken or screaming in joy as a ride becomes battle bots clashing with each other always delivers a sense of satisfaction and excitement, and once Impossification gets into the mix, everything gets turned up a notch. Nondescript boats become submersibles in a giant fish tank, and instead of a carousel just spinning around, seats become flying planes that descend at high speeds. Once the bug of Impossification has bitten, it can be hard to shake off.
Then we come to the rollercoasters in Park Beyond, which should be the star feature of any theme park management sim, but unfortunately suffers from some bumps in the road. There are some nice touches during the construction phase, making it easy for players to create tracks and add variations, but it is also easy to overcomplicate things and create problems that prevent the rollercoaster from functioning properly. Think too much g-force causing crashes or a lack of speed stopping a loop-the-loop from happening.
This isn’t helped by the controls, even on the mouse and keyboard, and players will likely struggle with finding the right angles and heights to effectively create a rollercoaster smoothly and quickly. With time, the process will become much easier, but it is that initial hurdle that could easily turn players off creating more elaborate rides.
And it is most definitely worth it to power through the teething pains, especially when you gain access to the terrain manipulation tools found in Park Beyond. Intuitive and easy to use, players will have much freedom in creating hills, mountains, and plateaus, cutting a river through the park to spice things up, or breaking out a deep canyon just for kicks. Rollercoasters can do the same as well, with tracks heading underground and over land and sea, ensuring that the ride is never boring. The only limit is the imagination with this set of tools.
That said, the rest of the park management experience doesn’t quite match up in the campaign, and is usually lacking in challenge to truly test players when it comes to balancing the books with ambition. Once basic needs are met, there really isn’t any reason to care too much about what your visitors think, which is the antithesis of how such games usually work. Getting into a groove requires fresh things to stop the experience from stagnating, and Impossification can only go so far.
Park Beyond also suffers from bewildering bugs, with certain goals not progressing even when requirements are met being the most egregious. Paths also tend to disappear underground, requiring deletion and replacement before popping back up, and visitors might just decide not to go on a ride without rhyme or reason. When such things happen, it can suck out all the fun in an instant.
Naturally, this makes the sandbox mode in Park Beyond the de facto mode to jump into for players looking for a much smoother experience, but that removes all of the tension of park management, forgoing the journey one usually goes through to earn that well-deserved reward of going all-out.
As such, it can be hard to compare Park Beyond to its obvious inspirations, even if there are many similarities. On its own, this is a park management sim that places emphasis on fun above everything else, even at the cost of a more involved management aspect. The space for creativity and freedom is unmatched, but the lack of depth and unpolished state of things can leave much to be desired.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A management sim that struggles between the highs and the lows, Park Beyond‘s excellent building tools are overshadowed by a less-than-stellar campaign and lack of focus on the management front.
Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 7.5/10
Value - 6/10