reviews Park Beyond on Sony PlayStation 5

Review: Park Beyond (Sony PlayStation 5)

Build rides that defy gravity AND grammar!

9 mins read

Ever since I first laid eyes on Bullfrog’s classic Theme Park, I’ve been equally smitten by theme park simulators and also terrified of what they make me do. Don’t get me wrong; the classic blend of management simulation – like it or not, you’re more or less balancing an Excel sheet for the most part when you play these games – combined with the cute world of theme parks still has an immense amount of appeal to me.

Related Reading: Of course, Rollercoaster Tycoon will forever be THE classic in this genre. Our review of the excellent port of the third in the series to Switch.

It’s just that I’m also well aware that it brings out my internal utter bastard gene in the worst possible way as well. It’s not enough to do well in my theme park. Nowhere near enough. I must, in fact, pinch every penny out of the punter’s pockets as painfully as possible, to a degree that would make P.T. Barnum blush. I’m not proud of it, but there it is; if a theme park simulator had an option to add salt to the soft drinks so the little sods will end up wanting to buy more drinks, you’d better bet I’ll be clicking that option, as well as raising prices on the toilets they’ll need as their simulated bladders fill up.

Limbic Entertainment’s Park Beyond mostly plays it straight with the way it tackles theme park management, starting you out on a training level to design a rollercoaster around a city, before launching you into the game proper.

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If you’ve played any theme park simulator in the past you’ll be on fairly familiar ground; keep your finances in the positive – running in the red for any three-month stretch is an automatic game over – manage staff, rides, food and drink – while building out theme parks to strict mission objectives. Park Beyond does mix this up a bit in the mission mode with the chats you have with the park operators essentially setting the parameters and available tools for each level as you go.

You also get a nicely varied set of park elements to play with, so if you want to build, for example, a more family-friendly park everything will be bright and welcoming while not being too threatening, but that’s the kind of approach that won’t appeal to the thrill-addicted teen crowd, who want danger and excitement en masse. Meanwhile, the adult park goers all want coffee, and plenty of it.

All of this would be fine and frankly something that had been done before, were it not for the way that Park Beyond lets you tweak designs, shops and even the performance of your employees through a system it calls “Impossification”. Yes, the abhorrent grammar of that irks me deeply. I shall try to move on.

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Impossification comes from taking a regular ride and adding some truly fantastical elements to it. Forget your upside-down twists and turns of Rollercoaster Tycoon with its insistence on pesky elements like “ride safety” or indeed “universal constraints of physics”, because what you can create can be quite wild, and visually mostly satisfying.

Related reading: Planet Coaster is also very good, and available on PlayStation 4 and 5. Our review.

You build up your ability to impossify (eugh) rides, shops and even your staff members by building up the park goer’s levels of amazement. Build a good enough, exciting enough park and you’ll end up with impossification (argh) charges, which are then used to push your park further. Beyond, one might say. I should point out that you can’t impossify a toilet, though I did try in an effort to squeeze more profit out of it. Before you look at me that way, it was genuinely one of the in-game goals to have toilets operating at peak efficiency!

All of which is good enough, but Park Beyond, while technically mostly sound, still left me wanting in a few areas. For a start, this is one of the more clear “PC games that have had a best-effort-console-port-but-still…” titles I’ve hit in a while. Yes, you can technically do most things with a PS5 controller, and I’d guess the same should be true for the Xbox Series S/X… but that doesn’t mean it flows naturally, or for that matter as smoothly as it should. Optimisations that are meant to snap paths (or rollercoaster sections) together more often than not left me frustrated rather than fascinated. There’s a weird mix of shoulder buttons, combinations of directions and shoulder buttons and sticks to contend with, and I pretty quickly wished for a keyboard and mouse.

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Speaking of frustration, Park Beyond, at least at launch, is also quite buggy. I guess that is (sigh) the style of the time – which is to say that I do hope it’ll quickly get some patches – because quite a few of them are deeply problematic. It doesn’t help in the game’s mission modes to meet (and exceed) certain goals, only to have the game decide that you haven’t met them at all. Reloading often fixes those issues as the game essentially catches up with itself – but it really shouldn’t be happening at all.

Likewise, pathing logic for your park attendees is downright weird. I know teenagers like to congregate from time to time (I won’t judge, as long as I’m fleecing them of their money), but doing so in a jittery group style on a random path is just plain weird. More annoying, I had several instances where rollercoasters that passed safety tests and should have been bringing in serious cash were “open”, but nobody seemed to be able to get onto them. Only deleting and recreating the exact same queues and exits fixed that bug.

Of course, if all that mission-based stuff doesn’t land well with you, there is a regular sandbox mode where you can build the theme park of your dreams – or in my case, the financial nightmares of my punters. There’s probably something quite deep about the perils of capitalism in all of that – or maybe I’m just a deeply twisted soul, down beneath the surface.

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I can see what they were going for with Park Beyond, and they did get achingly close to it, but right now, and at least in its console variant, it’s not quite a recommended game without a little bug stomping and AI fine tuning. Also an option to switch on total bastard mode, so I can be the truly evil park operator of my dreams wouldn’t go astray, Limbic Entertainment. Just a thought, you understand.

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Alex Kidman is an award-winning Australian journalist with more than 20 years games and tech writing experience under his belt. Critics have accused him of being a heartless and relentless word-writing machine, but this is clearly false. Alex will deal with those critics once he's finished his latest software upgrade.

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