Since I have fond memories of filling hapless punters full of salty chips and then ripping them off with expensive drinks in Theme Park, the chance to have a look at an upcoming funfair tycoon style game could not be overlooked. This is Adventure Park, a title in which I hoped to discover just how many paying customers could be maimed or murdered before the regulatory hammer came down. Fun fact! In real life, the answer to that question is “quite a few.”
The email accompanying this preview code claimed that it would feature the tutorial level and one open map to play around on. That was true in the strictest semantic sense, but left out a couple of key points. One, the tutorial level didn’t actually have any instructive text written for it yet. Two, the open map was exactly the same as the tutorial one (it just had fewer pre-built rides and started me off with no cash.) [Edit] Wait, it turns out that actually me being dense: in the open map you can select your cash level and what ‘tier’ of rides you start out with.
Mind you, I’d just finished playing around with Europa Universalis IV. Games of moderate complexity no longer held any fear for me. Even without much guidance, I was confident I’d be rivaling Disneyland within the hour.
The first thing I noticed was a giant water droplet over most of the trees, which meant either they needed watering or were starring in an anime and feeling anxious. Assuming the former, I found some chaps in the unemployment line who claimed to know something about plants and set them to work.
More problems awaited me. The first ride people would see after entering the park was one of those ride-on rocker things you normally see rusting outside a dilapidated branch of Tesco. That’s bad enough already, but this crocodile-shaped anticlimax also appeared to be broken. Who the hell did I buy this park from, anyway? Was it Ebay? Is it too late to force Island_Joes_World_o_Fun to refund me through PayPal?
With a mechanic duly hired (he came with his own spanner so I imagine he was qualified) and the crocomatic mended, it was time to start tormenting the park-goers. My plan went like this: line the walkway from the entrance with drinks machines; neglect to build any restrooms; sit back and enjoy.
Welcome to hell, little punters. Bladder-busting, Adventure Park hell.
While I waited for my customers to start collapsing, or breaking down and buying more drinks just to have a container to relieve themselves in, I scouted around a little more. Turned out I had another ride all along, a gentle safari-style roller-coaster that claimed I needed more exciting entertainment facilities before anybody would lower themselves to riding on it.
For some reason, I couldn’t yet build any of the upgraded entertainment facilities, but what bothered me more was that I had a safari ride central to my park on a level called “Pirate Land.” The decision to sell was an easy one.
Since the ride couldn’t cut it as a piratey attraction, it was clear that I needed something else. Perhaps a moat and a big pile of skulls next to a pair of cannons?
With that taken care of, it was time to splurge on some rides. Unfortunately, doing so put me eight grand in debt, with little to show for it besides a curious, skull-centric ferris wheel and a “crow’s nest” vertical drop. Upon further investigation, it seemed people thought paying four funbux was “about right” for each of those experiences. Ingrates.
To make matters worse, nobody had uttered even a peep of a complaint about the lack of toilets. What’s wrong with these people?
It was around this time that I happened upon a truncated, but English-language list of objectives while idly clicking on various other menu tabs. The first few were easily ticked off (hire more staff, check!) But the instruction to fix the safari ride proved a bit more awkward. This is the same safari ride I’d sold earlier.
Time for a new park on the open play map, then.
This time I went for some sort of giant spinning Kraken device and set to work ramping up the price of drinks, snacks, sweets and basically any other colourful confectionery I could find to get the kiddies badgering their parents. Sadly, there seemed to be no way in Adventure Park to increase sugar levels or any of the other cynical activities Theme Park allowed you to partake in.
That, though, just meant I had to make more of my own fun. I spotted a couple of stray children wandering off into the distance and decided to see, in the best creepy carnival tradition, what would happen if I imprisoned them. Strangely, once trapped behind my bamboo fence OF DOOM, the kids just asked for more attractions to look at. Even more bizarrely, a gigantic pile of pirate skulls seemed to satisfy this craving.
After about a month or so (a month!) they got a bit bored and wanted a ride to go on. Instead of, I dunno, to see their parents again or maybe some food or something. Then, just as suddenly as they had been imprisoned, they vanished. Did one of the gardeners rescue them? Did they use a huge plastic skull to tunnel out? The mystery remains unsolved to this day, but it’s the driving reason behind my all-new “Case of the Vanishing Children” island mystery tours.
Messing about with customers was all very well, but my park was still gushing money out of its finance hole and this needed to stop at once.
Here’s the secret to making lots of cash in a hurry: deforestation. Seriously. Once I’d bulldozed 90% of the trees on the island at around 200 cash-tokens a pop I had about fifty grand to spread around. Sure, outside the bamboo fencing everything looked like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but that’s why the bamboo fencing was ever-so-slightly higher than the tallest possible customer I’d ever allow inside. Added bonus; I could now lay off loads of gardeners (I’m pretty sure those bastards rescued the children.)
Using my forest windfall as funding, I was then able to set up a pretty neat park. It had one of each of the rides available to me at the time, garbage cans, surly employees and lots of vending machines. Even some grass. After a month or two, it began to turn a small profit and the visitors deemed it attractive and exciting enough to bump me up to a two-star park.
Why’s that good news? Well, because it meant I could unlock rides like this.
Bison rides! Come celebrate the double slaughter of Native American peoples and the indigenous bison with a slow trundle past some plastic totem poles. It’s fun, because … wait, it’s not fun at all. It’s just really sad.
On that rather sour note I bid farewell to my blossoming funfair of wonders and delight. Re-taking the reins at the head of an amusement park had been an engaging distraction, albeit one that lacked the cynical character and charm of Bullfrog’s classic. There’s still a fair way to go before release, but at present Adventure Park feels a bit too detached to really hook the player. These games work best when there’s some human element to accompany the cold, hard finances, and that seems a little lacking.
Nonetheless, I’ve learned some important lessons. Park-goers have bladders of steel, imprisoning children is harder than it looks, and deforestation is surprisingly profitable. I now firmly believe this to be the triumvirate of knowledge behind all great amusement parks.