Sim Theme Park

9There was much to like in Bullfrog’s old but gold Theme Park (1994), but ultimately, it just didn’t have enough variety to hold one’s interest over the long haul. Amazingly, with Sim Theme Park, the complaint remains the same. On the surface, you wouldn’t think that would be the case. There are four very distinct themes to explore – Lost Kingdom, Halloween World, Wonder Land, and Space Zone – each having its own set of rides, attractions, and concessions. The 3D graphics are fairly simple, but quite attractive in a cartoonish way, and the sound effects make you feel like you’re at a real amusement park.

There are two ways to play the game: Instant Action and Full Simulation. In the first mode you don’t have to worry about things like finances, but you’re also limited to the number of items you get to place in the park. In Full Sim mode, your tasks include researching rides and ride upgrades, setting the ticket price (for the whole park only – rides are free to paying customers) and concession prices, and managing a staff of janitors, mechanics, security people, researchers, and entertainers.

Your staff needs direction in order to function with anything resembling efficiency. This means that every time you add to your park, you must hire new staff and set their patrols to cover the new area. Don’t even think about letting these palookas operate autonomously. In my first game, I didn’t set any patrol areas for my workers, and within minutes the park was filled with garbage, fouled bathrooms, and rampant criminal activity. Having to perform this ritual each time you expand the park makes the gameplay very formulaic and tedious.

6What brings Sim Theme Park down to the realm of an above average game, instead of the classic it could have been, is the repetitiveness of it all. Play through any one of the themes and you’ll have experienced all of the gameplay that Sim Theme Park has to offer. Most of the rides that appear in each theme park are literally just variations based on the theme. The coasters and water rides may look different, but they are all constructed in exactly the same way and all have the same performance characteristics.

It’s pretty disappointing, because there is such a strong base to build on. The design interface for the coasters is ingenious, allowing you to easily add track sections, loops, twists, and banks with a click and a pull of the mouse. Perhaps the biggest innovation is that you can enter a first-person view to walk around the park and ride the rides. It’s great fun, but does tend to lose its “wow” factor after a short while.

System Requirements: Pentium II 230 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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