Everybody loves a theme park. Whether it’s down to childhood memories, holiday trips of the past, or even spending time with RollerCoaster Tycoon on an old PC, there’s always a real sense of nostalgia about these colourful, playground worlds. The fascination with theme parks extends from the world of gaming to real life, with places like Disneyland still sparking adult imaginations and forging lasting memories. It’s this magic that upcoming simulator game Park Beyond hopes to capture, like lightning in a bottle.
Ahead of Gamescom 2022, GamesHub was invited to take part in a preview for Park Beyond that included an introduction to the game’s roller coaster creation mechanics, and a limited build of its sandbox mode that showed exactly how the game plans to ‘impossify’ the traditional idea of theme park games.
In a pre-brief session, developer Limbic Entertainment focussed heavily on the game’s idea of ‘impossification’ – a process in which Park Beyond will establish a ‘traditional’ theme park world before allowing players to transform worlds with their imaginations. In the process of impossification, flat rides can become home to giant, magical creatures. Roller coaster rides can twist and spin in unfathomable directions, and even park staff can gain new and ridiculous powers.
While the full extent of this impossification was not on show during the Gamescom 2022 preview, the slice of Park Beyond we had access to was more than enough to show off an ambitious and creative game that builds on the nostalgia of RollerCoaster Tycoons past.
The first part of the game preview was focussed on building a single roller coaster, and winding it through city streets. While many simulation games are satisfied with looping tracks and wild disregard for the laws of physics, Park Beyond stands out for its initial commitment to reality. Rather than looping tracks wherever you please, the game requires you to contend with gravity first – planning out where your coaster hooks and dips are, and how these will influence the direction and speed of your roller coaster.
Unlike many grid-snapped simulator games, Park Beyond is a rare title that lets you place tracks wherever you like. Roller coaster creation is very fluid, and involves individual nodes being built out by players. You can control the twist and roll of your coaster, as well as the height and special features, with each being guided by your mouse. They don’t need to align to a specific grid, and tracks can be placed anywhere. That said, there are certain rules to follow.
If you don’t place enough chain tracks, your little roller coaster won’t have enough momentum to carry itself forward. But if you analyse your tracks well, making small tweaks here and there, you’ll eventually be able to create a high-speed thrill ride. Then, you can complete the package with the ‘impossification’ of cannon-powered jumps through the air.
See, while Park Beyond is grounded in reality, it also allows you to experiment with real magic – and it’s here that the game’s potential opens up. While the game contains all the hallmarks of the roller coaster simulator genre – many that will likely be familiar to long-time simulation game fans – the injection of fantasy themes means sandbox gameplay really does feel imaginative and fresh.
After learning the basics of roller coaster creation, which are extremely freeform, GamesHub was given a limited preview of the game’s sandbox mode. While only a handful of rides were present, it was a great glimpse into how much you can warp and change your world.
As you build your theme park up, you’ll eventually be able to unlock ride impossification – which lets you warp traditional park rides into twisting, gnarly, eldritch experiences. A pirate ship, for example, can become home to a roaring kraken. A cyclone ride can reach up for the heavens, and twist in impossible twirls. If you’re really going for that thrill, add those aforementioned cannons to your roller coaster ride.
Not only will your park look wonderful, but you’ll also enchant your typically-jaded park guests, and create a high-flying, or water-splashing, or twist-filled paradise that resembles the theme park of your childhood dreams.
Park Beyond is ridiculous, way over-the-top, and wonderful fun – in a way that the roller coaster simulator genre hasn’t been for a very long time. Part of this is to do with breaking away from the grid – without structural limitations, you can place any item in your park, decorating to your heart’s content and placing coasters as you wish. But a lot more of this fun is derived from the concept of impossification, which appears to be at the heart of Limbic’s mission.
Taking theme parks to their next logical evolution via the power of magic is a concept that’s rarely been explored. Popular titles like Planet Coaster and Parkitect are fantastic theme park simulators, but they’re still grounded in reality. Park Beyond‘s main foil is a simple one – what if theme parks were truly magical? – but this concept is deployed with a great amount of surety, and a confidence built on everything that’s come before.
While the game clearly doesn’t rebuild the theme park simulator genre from the ground up, its tweaks are incredibly clever, and keep the genre feeling fresh and exciting. Even in this small glimpse, the power of the game’s concept shone through – as did its creative potential.
When Park Beyond launches for PC and consoles in 2023, expect it to make a major mark on the simulation genre. It’s a game that’s not content to rely on nostalgia, with plenty of flashy and ambitious ideas ready to burst onto the scene.