Part of what makes a theme park management game fun is being given the tools to design and build imaginative rides and roller coasters. Limbic Entertainment’s theme park simulator Park Beyond takes this concept and runs with it, touting unlimited creativity as one of its main attractions. While the game gets credit for its outside-the-box ride design, the overall experience is ultimately marred by unnecessary tediousness and unfortunate technical problems.
Inspired by games like RollerCoaster Tycoon and Planet Coaster, Park Beyond wedges its way into the theme park management genre by tasking players with constructing an amusement park that is both profitable and fun. Players are accompanied by several other crew members who each have their own role on the management team. Stern CFO Izzy is concerned with finances, while the inventive engineer Sofia takes care of enhancing park rides, for example. As the Visioneer of the group, the player is responsible for determining and executing the direction of each park the team creates, narrowing down the overall goals and objectives depending on the target audience and desired attractions.
The sky’s the limit
What sets Park Beyond apart from other theme park games is its concept of Impossification, which allows you to upgrade your park rides with wacky, gravity-defying enhancements that are designed to impress. Impossification involves using a magic pencil that sketches the upgrades into existence, a satisfying process, albeit short lived. Impossification can be applied to rides and coasters, as well as shops and park staff, provided you have enough pencil charges. An Impossified staff member will be outfitted with new gear to become more efficient at their job, while an Impossified ride may transform to have dangerous new capabilities. Roller coasters get their own unique enhancements called Hooks, which are goals that you can choose to have the coaster achieve, like traveling a certain distance or having multiple inversions. Hooks determine the ride’s final stats and preferred visitor type, with new Hooks becoming available through Impossification.
The Impossification pencil slowly gains new charges as you generate Amazement from your park guests, a process that feels like an eternity at times. This is partially due to how costly Impossification is for rides and roller coasters, as both require five pencil charges. Even with the ability to fast-forward time, waiting for the pencil to reach five charges can take a while, especially if you haven’t prioritized building Amazement-generating rides or if you need to Impossify shops or staff members first. Impossification itself can help increase Amazement generated by whatever is getting upgraded, so there is some return on investment. However, despite being one of Park Beyond’s key features, I felt I couldn’t get the satisfaction of Impossifying rides as often as I wanted, as the campaign ultimately relegates this feature to little more than a waiting game.
On the right track
Park Beyond features an extensive Campaign mode that is parsed into eight missions and Sandbox mode that includes 27 visually stunning maps set in different biomes. While Sandbox mode offers enough options to let you build to your heart’s content, the Campaign is where you will learn the ropes and get a feel for the game’s different management systems. There are a series of personal milestones players must accomplish, such as performing Impossifications or having a certain monthly income, along with passive team goals that reward you with pencil charges upon completion.
The campaign missions lean heavily into the management aspect of the game, leaving little room for the unlimited creativity that makes the game enticing. Maintaining a profitable park requires increasing the Park Appeal rating, which is determined by its Fun and Cleanliness ratings. As your Park Appeal increases, so will your overall level, granting the opportunity to unlock various Lab Expansions that each offer a bundle of new rides, shops, modules, and other goodies to help you fulfill the needs of your park guests.
Monitoring these ratings seems easy enough at first, until it becomes apparent that the tools at your disposal are sorely lacking. As far as keeping things clean, the best you can do is sprinkle your park with trash cans, then hire and Impossify as many janitors as possible with the hope that they efficiently do their jobs in time to improve your Park Appeal. There’s no way to move staff around or assign them to a specific area. Even with the ability to issue staff raises to boost efficiency, their effectiveness ultimately comes down to the whims of the AI to keep aspects of your park afloat, adding another roadblock that can potentially hinder progression.
While I was excited to delve into the campaign and start building the park of my dreams, doing so will likely send your park into financial ruin if you aren’t careful. Despite roller coasters being a major park attraction, it was usually the coasters that would pull the least profits and would often drag my finances into the red. Though the building tools in the roller coaster editor are simple enough to use, I ran into various glitches that make the building process significantly more tedious and frustrating.
The placement of coaster parts can be finicky and the pitch adjustment tool didn’t seem to work at all. Some gameplay elements, such as the Move tool, would be fine one moment and then stop working entirely the next. Riding your coaster creations in first-person results in a jarring visual glitch, even in Test mode. Path placement presents its own unique subset of problems, from clipping with the terrain to being unable to snap to other paths. At one point, a queue path to one of my rides simply stopped existing, despite still being visible, which I only noticed when the utilization dropped due to visitors complaining that they could no longer access the ride. While the solution was as simple as deleting and rebuilding the queue path, minor hiccups like these can throw your park stats out of whack over time.
Since there was not a lot of incentive to build roller coasters, I focused more of my efforts on enhancing Flat Rides with outlandish Impossifications when I had the chance. There was satisfaction to be had in watching rides transform into bombastic, physics-defying contraptions that are as creative as they are visually stunning. Taking a stroll through my park from the perspective of a visitor and relishing the colorful chaos was one of the more enjoyable moments from my time spent in Park Beyond.
Are we having fun yet?
Park Beyond hits the right tone with its outlandish designs, vibrant colors, and quirky cast of characters. However, despite having an innovative concept with a solid foundation, its zany ride upgrades and visual splendor can only do so much to compensate for the lack of features, plethora of glitches, and cumbersome management systems that make the game more frustrating than fun. Too much time is spent focusing on the economic aspects of park management, leaving too little room for players to flex their creative muscle. Even a few quality-of-life adjustments would make a huge difference. My frustrations were compounded by multiple game crashes that often resulted in some progress being lost. Although many of the crashes have been patched since launch, what remains is still in desperate need of fine tuning.
Despite its veneer of limitless design possibilities, players are ultimately constrained in the types of attractions they can create and pursue during the campaign. While Sandbox mode is your best bet for getting creative with all the bells and whistles Park Beyond has to offer, it too is not immune to the myriad of glitches and technical issues present throughout the game. Although you can spend hours designing and constructing your ideal park, the looming threat of crashes diminishes the incentive to do so, even in Sandbox mode. While there is an innovative theme park sim beneath all the glitches and design flaws, Park Beyond ultimately doesn’t break new ground in its genre and would benefit from taking a few pointers from its predecessors.
This review is based on a PC review code provided by the publisher. Park Beyond is available on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.
- Creative and fun Impossification designs
- Vibrant assets and maps add to overall visual splendor
- Sandbox mode gives freedom to build without limitations
- You can ride your coasters and experience the park firsthand
- Numerous crashes led to loss of progress
- Glitches and technical problems can be downright frustrating
- Some goals take too long to accomplish
- Lacks polish and certain QOL features
- Graphical bugs and pacing issues drag the game down