Thrillville Updated Impressions - Roller Coasters and Minigames
LucasArts shows off some of the latest new features in this upcoming theme park and party game.
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The coming console transition means that as older game players upgrade to the new systems, they'll hand down their current systems to their younger siblings. This is why LucasArts is launching Thrillville, a new franchise designed to appeal to younger players and, almost as importantly, their parents. The game is all about roller coasters and theme parks, something that the entire family can enjoy. However, it's just as much about building a theme park as it is about minigames that everyone can participate in. With Thrillville in the final stages of development, LucasArts gave us one last peek at the game and showed us some new features.
Thrillville is being developed by Frontier, the developer of the popular RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 for the PC. Not surprisingly, Thrillville bears a passing resemblance to that game, though in many ways it's a completely different type of experience. You don't play Thrillville from the conventional top-down perspective you'd normally see in build-and-manage games like those in the RollerCoaster Tycoon series. Instead, you create a character who gets put in charge of your eccentric Uncle Mortimer's theme parks, and you walk through the parks in a third-person view, giving you a ground's eye view of the action.
As the proud manager of a theme park, your job will be to stroll through the area and accomplish a series of missions, from having conversations with your guests to find out what they like, don't like, and what they need (and then addressing their concerns, such as how they might want more bathrooms), to building more rides and coasters. Coaster construction is simple, thanks to the control scheme. You simply lay down a piece, select the next piece in the track from a variety of choices, and keep on going until you finish a circuit. Or, you can use the game's auto-complete function to instantly figure out how to finish a coaster. After that's done, the ride is good to go, and you can move on or jump aboard and experience the thrill from a first-person view.
Still, the size of your coaster may be minimized by memory limitations, especially since the game has to keep track of hundreds of park guests and all those other rides. The good news is that a new gameplay mode will give you an empty space where you can build your ultimate coaster without having to worry about park guests and the like. You won't be able to import that coaster into the regular game, because those memory limitations would kick in again, but you will be able to save it and share it with all your friends.
Each park contains several smaller, distinct theme areas, so while there are only four parks in the game, you'll get the feeling there are more. There's a sci-fi theme, a Western theme, and so on, and you can expect to see appropriately themed rides, decorations, and animatronic robots in each one. (For now, LucasArts is avoiding any Star Wars tie-ins, so expect only a generic sci-fi setting.)
The other major aspect of Thrillville is its minigames. Many noncoaster rides offer a different sort of minigame. So if you build a little go-kart track, for instance, you can experience it as an arcade-style minigame. Other minigames include a Dance Dance Revolution-style rhythm game that's used to train your park employees, such as the entertainers who keep guests from becoming bored while standing in line. Your performance in these minigames will affect the performance of your employees.
There are so many minigames, in fact, that there's a separate party mode that will let you play just the minigames with friends. Up to four players can participate, and the variety of minigames is impressive. There are colorful shooters (don't worry, there's no blood or violence, aside from shooting robots with cork guns), side-scrolling action games, trampoline games, and more.
It's interesting to see how LucasArts and Frontier have adapted the traditional tycoon game to make it work on a console (and a handheld, as there's a PlayStation Portable version as well.) This genre has previously been the domain of the PC, but the companies seem to have found a way to translate the fun and challenge to a console. Thrillville's colorful visuals, easy-to-pick-up gameplay mechanics, and lighthearted take on a universally popular subject all look promising. The game will ship for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and PSP in November.