As a long-time fan of the park-building tycoon genre, I had a lot of expectations going into Park Beyond. After playing games like Roller Coaster Tycoon and Planet Coaster for countless hours, I felt like I could easily pick up what was being laid down here, but I found something different entirely. Park Beyond pushes you past limitations like “physics” or “lawsuits” and brings you back to when imagination came first.
The preview that we played comprised two missions and a sandbox mode with a single theme and a good handful of rides. The missions were pretty simple mechanical tutorials that followed you as you became the head designer for a failing theme park franchise.
The most unique part of the missions was the meetings you would have before beginning each park. These sections would sit you down with your two bosses and let you decide your target demographic and even the theme of the park, as well as have conversations about the goings on within the company.
The meetings were almost akin to a visual novel with your two coworkers. The two primary characters in the meetings were: Phil, who is the equivalent of a roller coaster, Willy Wonka and Izzy, who is actually trying to make sure the company stays afloat.
The two characters are actually voiced really well, pretty likable, and drive home the overarching theme of balancing fun and management. They also seem to have a tense relationship as Phil’s eccentric ideas about how to run parks have led to many prior projects failing. This section made me very curious to see if a fully-fledged story would play out in the full release.
Once you leave the boardroom and make your selections, you move to a more traditional park management overview. It’s here you begin to learn about the mechanics unique to Park Beyond. One of the interesting ones that stuck out was the way rides and buildings were graded for guests. Rather than giving them an ‘excitement’ rating, everything has a target demographic it appeals to.
For example, the teacups ride appeals well to families but not to teens, while inversely, the wheel of fire appeals to teens but not families. This leads to you making a park that sticks with the decisions you made in the boardroom to try and maximize your appeal to one group instead of just building everything possible. This means the decisions you make outside of the park are just as important as the ones you make inside the park.
The other core mechanic is impossification. Once your park gets enough appeal from decorations, rides, and guest numbers, you will unlock the ability to make one of your rides, well, impossible. The most interesting part was that you could also impossify shops as well and, while it was not present in the preview, it looks like in the future you’ll upgrade staff this way too.
Impossification seems to be the main mechanic within the game, and it definitely lives up to that accolade. The most interesting experience by far was seeing what insane contraptions would appear when I impossified my rides.
Roller coasters have always been the weakest part for me in other similar games. I enjoyed having them, but actually tinkering and designing them felt kind of stale. I didn’t want some super realistic simulator, I wanted to fling people around corners at Mach 1. This is where Park Beyond steps in; roller coaster physics are fast and very generous here. I was able to make huge drops, big twists, and endless loops.
Even better, the game encourages this, where Planet Coaster would leave your insane contraption abandoned; Park Beyond lets you tag your wild ideas as ‘hooks.’ Hooks are what draw customers to your coaster.
Have 15 loops back to back, and then have the coaster launch people out of a cannon? Those aren’t safety hazards they’re marketable hooks. Like with previous rides, these are categorized based on which demographic you want in your park. While teens would love flying at 100km/hr, adults and families might not.
Overall, I had a lot of fun during my time with Park Beyond. The game poises itself to fill a quirky fun niche in the park management genre that I didn’t know I needed until I saw it here. Between the wacky rides, the crazy contraptions, and the whimsical fun-first style that permeates the entire game. I feel like there was a lot to love in the preview.
Even though the preview felt very early, I feel like Park Beyond has a very solid foundation for a great future release. If you want a more serious and intricate park builder, then Planet Coaster is your go-to. If you want to launch people out of cannons and make cool anti-gravity spinning plate rides, then Park Beyond will more than have you covered.
I’ll surely be keeping an eye out as the game progresses to release in 2023, and if you love building crazy theme parks or feel nostalgic when you hear the phrase “Mr. Bones wild ride,” then you should too.