theme PARK (PS1) Retrogaming Review


Another game i own this time. theme PARK is a ‘construction simulation’ game created by Bullfrog Design Ltd and published by Electronic Arts. I remember not playing this for a while since the first time i put it in i had a tiny  TV and the writing was pretty much unreadable. So I decided to see how the game would play on an emulator.

First of all, the game might be incredibly old but the Intro movie looked horrible. And it even had a few noticeable problems which i’ll mention later in this review.

Straight after this i find a problem though the nickname screen is awkwardly quiet with a lack of both music and sound effects. There’s also no numbers to choose from which isn’t exactly that important but most other games have them. To make matters worse your nickname can only be 8 letters long (which is kinda normal) but it lets you put in the full 20 letters instead. Not to mention if you nickname had a space it will be taken away and will have to be put back in later. Luckily the ‘Name’ and ‘Park Name’ can both be 20 long.

When you’re finished with the Nickname screen you are taken to the menu which is pretty barren and like the screen before has no music whatsoever.  From memory there wasn’t much there at all and it didn’t even have an options screen like pretty much every other PS1 game has. Because of how dull it was i rushed to ‘setup new theme park’.

Ok, i admit i had a bit too much fun naming everything...
Ok, i admit i had a bit too much fun naming everything…

Other than what i mentioned about names the Player Details was rather simple and easy to use consisting of Sim level, Oppenent amount + Level, Start Level and also Visitor Level as well as a toggle to turn the tutorial on or off. Since i hadn’t played a game like it in a while i chose a Full Sim with All Easy Oppenents with Happy Visitors starting from the Easy Level with the Tutorial enabled (so basically the above screenshot).

As soon as i started the game i noticed 2 things. First thing was that once again there was no music of any kind and the 2nd thing was the Days seemed to be going past a bit too fast for my liking. Not to mention they carry on even when you are in the menu’s so you have to have insane reflexes to get a good park finished in time. Another (kinda ignorable) problem was the insane speed of the days in the game made the visitors and the bus that drives them to the park look ultra slow. For instance, a small group of kids stood there outside the gates of my park for over a month before i actually let them in.

Never put me in charge of park design EVER.
Never put me in charge of park design EVER.

Although the tutorial was incredibly easy to follow and so was the rest of the game controls it did not stop me from being absolutely shit at the game. The park essentially gets filled to the brim the second you open the gates like you were told too and before you can make anything decent they already hate you and the place is filled with rubbish. Also as you can see from the screenshot the weird guy from the intro movie (who also is there for the tutorial) decides to stay forever to annoy you with constant stuff about people buying shares of your park and complaining that you set the Park tickets too low/high among other things. I’m not saying that the Gameplay is bad, what i’m saying is it takes some real effort to get into this game which i feel i don’t have.

But before i stopped playing i decided i’d check out the so-called ‘Walk Through Your Park’ mode. Considering the age of the PS1 and the fact its based on SNES Hardware (aka no real 3d) i didn’t have a good feeling about it but it might of been worse than i though:

That is a coffee shop.
That is a coffee shop.

I can’t really complain about the graphics but the controls were incredibly bad. For some reason the game only let you follow the path and you had to be perfectly facing the direction of the path in order to walk along it meaning looking around and then going back to walking was a massive pain in the ass. It felt as though this part was simply a rushed gimmick to get people to buy this version of the game.

Overall

Visuals: The 2D visuals still look alright today like most 2D games but the 3D is absolutely horrible. Luckily as i mentioned the 3D part of the game is nothing but an added gimmick and is totally unnecessary in order to enjoy the rest theme PARK has to offer.

Sound: No music in a game is probably one of the most worst things they could of done. Even some of the most unpopular games had a soundtrack of sorts. Because of the lack of music the game was awkwardly quiet save for the sfx.

Interface: Although the game could be considered hard the interface was quite the opposite and by the end of the tiny tutorial you are practically an expert on how to use it.

Lasting Appeal: Sadly this game is make or break whether someone will want to go back to it or not depending on if they have enough patience to get good at it.

If you completely ignore the ultra shitty 3D mode you are left with a nice little construction sim although the lack of music makes waiting (which is something you do alot) even harder than it needs to be. Did they spend the music budget on the absolutely massive 198 page manuals? Who knows. What i do know though is this game could of been much better and therefore i find it slightly hard to recommend playing it.

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