Planet Coaster: Life has its ups and downs

I received Planet Coaster as a sort of early Christmas present, because I had seen some of it in action and would not shut up talking about it. Years ago, I was a big fan of the 1999 classic RollerCoaster Tycoon, listening to all the tiny people sending me complaints about how long they’ve had to queue for the haunted house. Planet Coaster is all that in glorious, stylised 3D, and I have fallen for it in a big way.

First off, the scenery options are not only vast, but you can combine them in a variety of ways, even down to making each food stall look the part for your park. You can also do the same for the rides, but for me, building a theme park isn’t about putting down a handful of high-octane rollercoasters and calling it a day. It’s about building that theme, creating elaborate areas with their own backstories like I’m a Disney imagineer. So everything, even the hot dog stand, has to fit — and Planet Coaster makes that possible.

When I’m playing, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. There are dozens of rides and still more to come in regular updates. The methods for building your own rollercoasters are so easy to use that the trick becomes creating something amazing. That’s helped by your rides being able to trigger the scenery, allowing for all kinds of tricks. Send your guests hurtling around a pirate ship as the cannons go off, or into a pitched laser battle between alien spacecraft.

I don’t have the best knack for management games, but I still love them. That’s probably because I’m better at running a virtual theme park than I am at certain aspects of my real life. The ability to pause and give yourself time to think definitely helps. It’s required, too, because some of the scenarios in Planet Coaster are real brainteasers. They ease you into it, starting with simple tasks, but even then the later missions require much more from you.

But that’s not required to enjoy the game. There’s a free play mode, and even a creative mode where you have unlimited funds at your disposal. Add to that the ability to save and share your blueprints for rides and scenery, and you have a game that is worth coming back to, again and again. I cannot recommend this game enough, especially if your idea of relaxing is like mine: spending hours building something intricate and beautiful.