Developer: Frontier Development
Release Date: November 21, 2006
What would you think would be the coolest job to have on earth? While the answer would most certainly be different depending on who you ask, developing and managing a theme park would probably rank high on a lot of lists.
Although Thrillville is basically a compilation of short mini-games, a single-player story mode allows you to experience the games in a systematic fashion. As the niece or nephew of your eccentric Uncle Mortimer, you are tasked with the development and management of five amusement parks. Each park has several themes to explore, including dinosaurs, ninjas, alien invaders, medieval castles and even the Wild West. Parks are sequentially unlocked after satisfying the development requirements.
As you start your business adventure, you are given a steady stream of missions comprised of park construction, playing games, guest satisfaction, park upkeep and business management. If you would rather avoid playing the business simulation portion of the game, or if you want to play with other people, you can choose to play either the party play or tournament game modes. Thrillville includes a well-designed tutorial system and 26-page manual to bring you up to speed on all aspects of creating and managing a successful park in about 20-30 minutes.
There are over 24 different mini-games to encounter in Thrillville. Some of the games are directly involved with the management and upkeep of the park while others are simply examples of the most popular genres in video gaming. You will encounter various scrolling shooters, racing games, first-person shooters, shooting galleries, miniature golf courses, bumper cars and a few unique games like cheerleading, trampoline jumping and even cleaning up vomit.
Although none of the mini-games in Thrillville offer any significant depth, together they provide gamers with a full menu of classic and unique entertainment to fit your present gaming palate. Game controls are well implemented and easy to learn in Thrillville. Of the dozens of mini-games played, I did not once experience any awkwardness with the controller assignments during gameplay.
Playing through the single-player story mode gives you are great deal of flexibility to explore the numerous elements that comprise Thrillville. The process basically involves generating money through cleaning up the existing park, training staff, talking to guests, playing games and building and upgrading rides in the park. New rides and stalls become available after you complete certain missions or you have contributed money to your research center. Of course, as you expand your park and its offerings, more guests will arrive and more revenue will result. Eventually, you will complete enough of the missions in the park to unlock the next park.
While most of the game moves at an acceptable pace, the requirement to interact with guests seems to be a bit awkward and tedious. The primary purpose of interacting with guests is to obtain feedback as to what you can do to help increase park happiness — and your overall profits. Unfortunately, you are often required to spend a great deal of time trying to win over their friendship to obtain useful information or to complete missions. Winning their friendship requires a back-and-forth multiple-choice interaction and in the case of teenagers, some flirting. In any business enterprise, it is obviously important to understand the needs and wants of your customers, but engaging in lengthy conversations with people while sitting in front of my gaming console is the last thing I would want to be doing.
One category of missions has you spending time competing against other park guests or on your own going for new high score records. Playing the mini-games is also a quick way to earn some money for your park-building ventures. If you complete any mini-game with three or more stars, you are awarded cash. Likewise, completing missions also generates substantial cash in addition to moving you closer to unlocking the next park.
Most, if not all, of the rides in Thrillville can be ridden with multi-camera views available to enhance the experience. When you are not on the rides, you will most likely be building them. The process of building new attractions is simplified and quickly mastered. Simply select the attraction in the build menu and move and rotate the ghosted footprint of the attraction within the available ride space, and when everything fits, just select "O.K."
Track and roller coaster rides can be custom designed, and just about all of the attractions in the game can be painted and renamed as you see fit. Although you are given the freedom to place rides and stalls where you want them, you are given only a limited number of locations in which to place them. Larger attractions, such as the raceways or roller coasters, seem to have preset building locations, which are the only suitable spots to build such sizeable items.
When I ran into these and other limitations while playing the business simulation, I had to remind myself that Thrillville uses the business simulation as a novel way to tie together the two dozen mini-games. If you keep in mind that the title is meant to be a light-hearted, action-based family game, you will be less critical of its parts and see that unlike the other popular amusement park games, Thrillville puts the games and action before the simulation.
Visually, Thrillville offers up a colorful and entertaining presentation. As is consistent with other animation-intensive titles, the game's 3-D graphics are sometimes blocky and utilize a low-polygon design; however, this does not detract too heavily from the actual gameplay. The sound design is well balanced and is comprised of a complex blend of background music presented in a radio format with DJs regularly promoting the parks and the ambient sounds that would normally be heard with a bustling amusement park filled with people. The only audible inconsistencies experienced were mismatched volume levels between cut scenes and the actual game.
With Thrillville's party-play mode, you or up to four friends can bypass the business simulation portion of the game and go right into the 24-plus mini-games. After selecting your appearance, you can select which mini-game you want to play and the level of difficulty you wish to use. Other options may be available, depending on the game. Some mini-games will not be available in "party-play" mode unless they have been unlocked in the single-player segment of the game. Tourney mode allows you to extend the multiplayer experience by tracking scores for each player as you play a selectable number of rounds (3, 5 or 7). In this mode, you are able to select a different mini-game for each round.
Thrillville is definitely a solid, well-designed Xbox title which can be enjoyed by the entire family. It offers gamers a taste of just about every gaming genre out there and even finds a way to bundle them together and present them along with a light-hearted story. Don't expect a lot of depth here; this game is just for quick arcade action fun. If you are looking for a title which you can jump right into and play with a small group of friends, or even just to kill a few minutes by yourself, give Thrillville a try.
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