E3 '07: Thrillville: Off the Rails Impressions

Keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times! Frontier showed us a demo of its new Thrillville title and how it's trying to redefine the sim-park genre.

28 Comments

Thrillville is a relatively new IP, making its well-received debut last year and praised for its lack of park micromanagement. Thrillville is back this year on a number of platforms, and from our demo appears to have made some nifty changes to some of the minor gripes about the last game.

To start with, the game's trailer focused heavily on buzz words like "Thril-ocity," "hurl-o-metrics," and "party-hearty-technics," all of which seem like perfectly cromulent words to us. Thrillville is less about managing a park and more about building the craziest rides you can come up with.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

Since roller coasters are what you're really here for, Frontier has included in Off the Rails a large range of prebuilt rides you can drop straight into your park and customize. The "trick out" feature lets you select between various designed themes, or you can go to town and turn your ride into something a bit more exotic. Rider popularity will be reflected by your choices, so conservative may not be the way to go if you want to generate some buzz. On the flip side, making it too over the top may stop customers coming to ride it.

Not surprisingly, customers are a huge part of Thrillville, and rather than have to do virtual paperwork to understand what it is they need, the best thing to do is simply walk up to someone and ask them. The NPCs we saw in the game world seemed to respond quite well. One mentioned the lack of bathrooms in a given area, giving the player a reference point rather than studying charts and statistics. Granted that's the appeal of some of the other theme park games, and for those who enjoy the micromanagement side, Thrillville may not be for you.

Building roller coasters for your space is fun, with a wide range of prebuilt designs you can select from. The real fun comes when you take one of those coasters and swap parts around to build something a little more original. These aren't your regular rides either, with Sonic the Hedgehog-esque loop-the-loop moves, corkscrew spins, sudden drops, air time over gaps in the track, and flaming hoops to pass through.

At its heart, this is fundamentally a roller coaster-builder game, and every effort seems to have been made in development to make that as simple as possible for players. Intuitive menu systems and easy parts selection goes a long way to making it accessible and fun.

The original Thrillville featured minigames spanning shooters, top-scrolling plane games and dungeon hack-and-slash fighters. Thrillville: Off the Rails is stepping that up to 34 games, with 20 of the games back from the original and an additional 14 new ones crammed in for good measure. LucasArts ran us through a quick game of robot boxing on the Wii version, using both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to throw punches and block. Keeping in the fun-by-being-helpful-vein, the Wii version even pops up a small box at the bottom of the screen displaying combo moves you can try to pull off.

Thrillville: Off the Rails offers genuinely unique experiences on each of the platforms, with the Nintendo Wii version giving you the ability to gesture your moves as you create a roller coaster. Twisting your hand intensifies or reduces the curve or steepness of a piece of track. The Xbox 360 version will include Xbox LIVE support, letting users share their custom-made roller coasters with players on their friends list. Not all the details have been ironed out, but at this stage you'll be able to ride their tracks, and perhaps drop them into your park for your customers to try out. The handheld version will get some love too, with the DS title benefiting from a complete engine rewrite from the ground up. No details have been confirmed yet, but we can see the DS stylus offering some innovative ways to create rides.

Pure sim game fans may be slightly put off, but this title puts a firm foot in the casual sim game market door with its mix of the traditional without some of the laborious micromanagement systems found in other games. Keep an eye out around October this year for its release and a full review here on GameSpot.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 28 comments about this story