Adventure Park Review (PC)

A long time ago in a Strategy Informer far, far away I reviewed a game called Wildlife Park 3. Without knowing it beforehand as I loaded Adventure Park I instantly realised it was by the same developer, German studio B-Alive. The amateurish “who cares about attractive usable UIs or menu systems” design, the over-enthusiastic Musak, and the fact that it took over a minute to load the main menu instantly struck me with déjà vu. And that was before I even clicked ‘New Game’.

While obviously with a sim-management game based around a theme park there are inevitably going to be comparisons to Theme Park or Rollercoaster Tycoon, in reality it is (perhaps unsurprisingly) Wildlife Park 3 that Adventure Park most resembles, albeit with no animals and more rollercoasters. Graphically things look very similar for a start (although I couldn’t find out if Adventure Park also uses the infamous GameBryo engine) with a similar colour scheme and design aesthetic. Which is my polite way of saying “bland with incomprehensible menus”.

“This is acceptably awesome!”

Seriously, the designers really have to start stretching their imaginations a bit. Most of the park patrons look identical with uninteresting clothes, all the park workers look identical (all white males incidentally), and all of them move without life or character – don’t expect a load of vomiting customers getting off your fast-moving rollercoaster, as that’d be too interesting. Rides have different themes but it doesn’t matter since all can be jumbled together and only the rollercoasters have any real excitement value since you can create your own in a fairly easy manner. This is a great feature, but even that was done by Rollercoaster Tycoon in 1999 and is a genre-standard now. Likewise the UI and menu systems are unattractively Windows 95 and immediately make the whole thing look like it had no effort put into it.

Speaking of menus B-Alive also make the same mistake that they did with Wildlife Park 3 in assuming that customising and arranging plants, terrain, and ground and water levels are as important as rides, staff, shops or decorations. Not only are they the same size in the same menu bar, but those three boring things come first. Dull as it was, I at least understood why having different types of terrain mattered in Wildlife Park 3 as specific animals needed certain conditions to be happy – but why the hell would I care about having a different type of grass under an Octopus Merry-Go-Round? And, yes, arranging a cute garden is nice, but when was the last time someone went to an Adventure Theme Park and said “my those rhododendron bushes look lovely” while doing 2 Gs on the Matterhorn? This was Bullfrog’s genius – to strip out all the un-fun stuff and just focus on entertainment. B-Alive needs to learn this, and also how to code a tutorial that actually helps rather than hinders the player. “Build a huge exciting rollercoaster, you’ve got plenty of space!” I was told and I did, but they left out “...but don't use up all that space otherwise you won’t have room for all the other things you’ll be asked to build!” Cue reload.

“Come on kids, let’s go ride the Madly Rotating Buccaneer.”

If you hadn’t guessed it already, the general goal with Adventure Park is to run a successful theme park. If you play the Sandbox Mode you can play to your heart’s content without interruptions, whereas the Campaign Mode gives you five parks (although the first two are basically tutorials) to play through with specific mission objectives to complete before you can move on to the next one. These are usually quite basic things – reach a certain profit per month, keep 95% of the visitors happy – and they’re over too soon. There are no surprises, like VIP visits, Health & Safety inspections or invasions by giant rats that only eat rollercoaster tracks, and so you just do missions in order then go on to the next world. Four times. The same problem affects the Sandbox Mode without missions, as it’s a pretty little LEGO set that let’s you build a park in peace, but not only does nothing exciting ever happen any attempts to manufacture excitement just falls flat. For example, you’d think that suddenly having a piece of track removed from a rollercoaster as someone was shooting down it at 50mph would create more comment than a small frowny face hovering over their head.

Then there are just the oddities of design that snap you out of the moment. Why, for example, do staff have to be assigned to specific work zones? You hire a staff member, be it a technician, cleaner, or gardener, plonk him down in your park and a green square indicates the zone he can patrol. Anything in that green box he’ll sort out – a millimetre outside and he couldn’t give a damn. You won’t get any warnings if your park is covered in trash, the plants are dying or a ride is about to blow up just outside a staff member’s area, and when they’re not doing anything they’ll just stand stock still like robots. There are just straight bugs too, like buildings being really difficult to rotate for some reason, customers getting lost on a straight path or patrons complaining about things they already have. One tosser moaned that my park didn’t have any bins after he walked past three of them, then just dropped his can on the floor. Staff are just as bad – my technician would whine that he couldn’t get to the Rocking Horse ride... because someone was using it.

“I told you we should’ve gone to Thorpe Park.”

The biggest shock was the near total absence of sound effects or voices. There are some sounds, like when you click a button or the odd rumble on a rollercoaster, but otherwise the parks feel utterly lifeless (as well as devoid of character). I don’t mind that there isn’t any voice acting after the atrocious mess Wildlife Park 3 made of it, but it’s still off-putting that staff and customers are utterly silent. And yet, even more bizarrely, there’s still a slider for ‘Voices’ in the Sound Menu. Yes, I did turn it up, and it did nothing. I’m guessing the German version has voice acting and B-Alive/BitComposer did such a s*** job with the English version of Wildlife Park 3 that they just didn’t bother to translate Adventure Park (and couldn’t be arsed to take out the ‘Voices’ slider either). Oh, and the music is either far too exciting for what is supposed to be a quite mellow game or just imported straight from their previous Park sim.

You may have gathered already that Adventure Park is not a very good game. If I’m being totally fair B-Alive succeeds at creating a game where you can create and manage a virtual theme park, from the colour of the bins and the height of the grass to every curve on a rollercoaster and the speed of the Ferris Wheel. If you’re into in-depth management of a park then Adventure Park may be for you, but for everyone else the design problems, unattractive menus, misplaced priorities, and numerous other flaws adds up to a tedious experience. Worst of all though, Adventure Park is bland, lifeless and lacking in both character and imagination. Go to Alton Towers instead.

Top Game Moment: Naming your pirate-themed adventure land the “Big Whoop Amusement Park”.

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