Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: March 20, 2007
In 1994, Bullfrog Productions released Theme Park, a simulation game in which the player was given the tools to design and operate an amusement park. Starting with a free plot of land in the U.K., and a few hundred thousand dollars, the player had to build a profitable amusement park and increase its value in order to sell it to buy a bigger plot of land and create a bigger and better amusement park. The game included over 30 attractions, from Bouncy Castles to Roller Coasters, and multiple types of staff to hire. Thirteen years later, Theme Park has been remade for the NDS, using the stylus which fits very well with the title's interface and controls.
Basically, you're a new theme park creator, and starting with a small plot of land, it's your job to create a thriving and exciting amusement park with a variety of rides, shops, and games, and then expand across the world to create bigger and better parks. Of course, a new theme park creator wouldn't be expected to do all this alone, would he? You choose one of four different advisers to help instruct you on the initial controls of the game, and later help you manage your park to be as successful as possible. Not only will the adviser help you construct rides, build the queues, and construct shops, but s/he will also advise you on ticket prices, shop costs, and staff wages. The advisers in the game were actually rather helpful, instead of being annoying and pointless.
The NDS stylus and dual-screen really comes in handy while playing Theme Park and makes navigating and placing rides very easy. The top screen displays an overview of your park, your park's current balance, and any hints or updates your advisers may have; the bottom screen displays your actual park, as well as the interface to build attractions, alter prices, and hire staff. The controls for Theme Park were very well done, making the NDS the perfect platform for the game.
Like most simulation titles, Theme Park requires you to use intelligent management skills to bring a hefty profit out of your park. Trafficking the flow of ticket prices, shop items, and game attempts are important, as well as determining when and where to place a new ride. People will get rather bored if they see nothing but family rides when they're more into thrill rides, especially if they're all quite a distance away, so make sure to add some variety when creating your park. Also, creating ridiculously long lines will cause people to get bored, so while your slogan may be, "If you build it, they will come," let there be a point at which they can go do something else and come back later, rather than make them wait around. An interesting feature to help you profit is the ability to play the stock market, buying and selling shares for your park and competitors' parks.
Graphically, Theme Park looks very good on the NDS. The interface is clean and well-structured, and the actual graphics for rides, shops, and even shrubbery look a lot better than I'd expected. Rides and shops are detailed and well shaded, and also vary in bright colors, making the game visually appealing while you construct a world-class amusement park. The people — both staff and visitors — were rather pixelated, although it was pretty interesting to see the different expressions of the people as they experience your park.
As expected, the music for Theme Park is rather exciting and comical, but the sound effects are functional and varied. From the soothing "Cha-Ching" of your cash register each time someone enters your park, to the seemingly never-ending cries of bored children, Theme Park uses sounds to make the experience realistic and to let you know when you're doing something right, or when you need improvement.
Theme Park doesn't feature any multiplayer content, but it does include the ability to share your parks locally with friends or family who may also have the game. I personally found this to be a rather useless feature, but someone might use it. It would have been cool to actually use Wi-Fi to experience someone else's park, or maybe compete against them in building a more successful one in an online competition.
So is Theme Park worth playing? If you're a fan of simulation games or enjoy creating theme parks or managing funds, Theme Park is an excellent port from the original PC game, and it plays amazingly well on the NDS. Despite the lack of true new content and any form of multiplayer, Theme Park proved to be simultaneously challenging and interesting.
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