Theme Park
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-05-16 Nintendo DS Simulation E (Everyone) EA

Go back to the 90's. Do you remember Bullfrog's Theme Park? I guess we can honestly say that was the game that inspired Rollercoaster Tycoon and other sim amusement park and tycoon games. It was one of my favorite games to play back then, and it's still one of my favorites.

Theme Park lets you play as an amusement park mogul, building, managing and expanding your park to your heart's content? as long as the money allows.

The game remains basically the same as it was originally, with a few presentation and technical tweaks.

There are three game modes, Sandbox, Sim and Full.

Sandbox lets you built in whatever way you like, with some of the features missing, as long as you have the money to keep on improving your park. Sim mode enables Research and Development and the ability to negotiate stock prices and staff raises (remember the arm stretching and hand-shaking?). Full mode has all the options available and gives you full control of your finances to even invest in the stock market.

The initial tutorial is slow and barely lets you touch anything. But after that, you're on your own. But you do get a personal advisor to give you hints and tips during gameplay. You can pick from one of the five available advisors, each with their own distinct personality. This person will be visible on the top screen and will suggest everything from raising ticket or item prices, to what ride you should build next. They'll even tell you if someone is stuck or getting lost in the park.

If you have ever played the original Theme Park you will feel right at home. It's great to see that all the old rides, shops and attractions are there: the hedge maze, the extremely unreliable bouncy castle, the snake slide, duck shoot, hamburger stand? what a trip to memory lane!

The process of building the park is very simple. Select a section of the menu with a tap of the stylus, select the ride, stall or item you want to place by circling around it, drag it on the map and tap to pick a spot for it. It it's a ride, then you must pick a spot for the entrance and exit and connect them to paths, with a line for people to wait to get it.

Staff is very important too. You need handymen to clean you the guests' mess, security guards to keep an eye on vandalism, and entertainers to keep people from being bored in line. You can give your staff a little tap with the stylus as a form of encouragement too. It may not seem much, but they will work harder. You can also set their "patrolling areas" to keep them from wandering all over. Sometimes they will call you to a meeting to enter negotiations for a raise, it's up to you to meet them halfway and get the best deal out of it, otherwise you have a strike on your hands, which in turn means broken rides and dirty paths.

People tend to get lost, so keep your road layout simple and place a few signs pointing to the exit. To change the direction of the sign, you tap it a few times. It's a bit hard to see which direction they are facing, especially in busy areas.

The graphics are very similar those of the PC version, but a bit sharper and maybe more colorful. Everything looks about the same though, the rides, the landscaping items, the people and their respective thought balloons, the piles of garbage on the paths.

The sound effects also remain mostly untouched. The cool "ka-chings" at the stores and "yeah!" coming from happy guests, toilets flushing, different music for each ride and five background tunes that loop over and over, and do get a bit tiresome after a while. You must change the background music manually or you can just select a ride and listen to that for a while.

The game makes good use of the dual screens. The top screen shows your advisor and his/her tips or any ride or shop details. The touch screen shows your park and a series of menus to make your job easy: paths, rides, shops and stalls, graphs and wi-fi options. Everything is easily accessible and the process is intuitive and simple.

Furthermore, if you select a ride, a shop or a staff member, you can pull their info from the top screen to the touch screen to adjust a number of things. Sale price, ride speed, number of people allowed on a ride at once, staff pathing, the amount of fat on a burger, winnings percentage, prize value, there is a lot to manage but the game makes it convenient, a bit like a tycoon's dream on the palm of your hand.

It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was playing Theme Park as much as I do now, but it's really been over ten years, and it's comforting to see that I still love this game as much now as I did then. The only difference is that now I get to carry it anywhere with me.

Special thanks to David Chandler and EA Canada for providing a copy of this title.