|System: PS2, Xbox||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Frontier||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Lucas Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Cole||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Some games just dont need a story, just as some movies would be better off without one also. Oftentimes the story is just a unifying thread, created to hold disparate elements together. Why is it that I can watch an hour-and-a-half of SNL without said storyline and enjoy it every bit as much as a movie? Thrillville is a little like SNL in that its a collection of different elements, in this case mini-games as opposed to a collection of unrelated sketches. There is a simple premise that could be called the device that works as this storyline but it doesnt feel the need to coddle you throughout the game with inane characters, bad dialog and incongruent plot twists. In Thrillville, you are the manager of a chain of Thrillville theme parks. Yes, there is an eccentric uncle in the mix but hes a businessman and not in any danger of being abducted by swamp monsters or whatever. Its just what is need, no more and no less.
Thrillville can be played as a party game with up to four player in which you can access the 20-plus mini-game and also experience the single-player mode in which you have a little more hands-on with the attractions and the business itself. This isnt an economic sim in the tradition of Roller Coaster Tycoon. It does share some similarities but you could think of this more as the arcade version. Its lighter and easier with more focus on creating and editing than micromanagement. The storyline is believable in that it makes you aware of the nature of the industry and the competition that lies in wait to steal your more successful ideas.
All of the mini-games relate to the amusement park theme. There are first-person shooting games in the form of shooting galleries. Go karts and bumper cars afford you some driving fun. Theres even a dungeon crawling game that is obviously inspired by Gauntlet. There are sports games and games that feel exactly like vintage videogames. The shooting games are my favorite which is a blessing since they do tend to reappear frequently with slight variations. The targets are actually quite intelligent as they duck, dodge and take cover. You get more points for headshots than you do for shooting off a limb. The mini-games vary in intensity and duration. Some are relatively short and others, like the shooting games and the dungeon crawl, are similar to levels in a regular videogame. All of the games are fun to some extent and can be played with your friends in the multi-player mode or against the AI in the story mode.
The business side of the game is divided into a series of challenges, or missions. You uncle Morty has left you in charge of five operational theme parks. Its your task to keep them running through various initiatives which include maintenance, the construction of new attractions, ensuring the paying guests are happy and the overall administration. You dont have to build the parks from scratch as they are already up and running. Youll start managing one park and unlock the other four as you successfully accomplish your goals.
Placing rides, attractions and food booths are important choices that youll have to make regarding the layout of your park. You have to consider the guests at all time and how they will respond. You want to make sure theyre never too far from anything such as food, water or washrooms. To entice new patrons youll want to offer new rides and attractions. This is all part of the construction and business missions. The Games mission involves playing mini-games, as does the maintenance mission. Youll play the main games against the guests which are controlled by the CPU with increasing levels of difficulty. Maintenance mini-games revolve around hiring and training staff to perform regular duties such as cleaning up puke and repairing broken down rides. Theres also a rhythm game for training the entertainer in which you press buttons in time to the beat while pushing the stick in the same direction as the onscreen arrows. Sure youve probably played rhythm games before but its nice to just have a taste of it and not have to play an entire game of this genre. The music is quite catchy and totally appropriate for a theme park. There are different tunes for each of the five parks.
To see how your efforts are being received by the public you can actually talk to your customers who will offer their opinions on things. Upon approaching a likely subject, a conversation tree will appear allowing you to choose from a number of topics such as science, entertainment and food. No, you cant just bluntly ask them what they think, you have to finesse them first. Make some small talk and let them warm up to you as a friend. Theyll tell you what they like and what they dont like. This information is very valuable to fulfill your business goals. You can also eavesdrop on some of your guests random conversations as they traipse through your park. The instigated conversations are limited and after a while youll end up having the same conversations over and over, but you can usually get to the point a little faster once you know what to ask.
Once you unlock the other parks you can visit them with a push of the button. Each park has a well-detailed map that allows you to access any area or mission in an instant. Graphically the parks are a little on the low-res side, opting for more of a cartoon format than realism. The character models arent very good looking and the closer you get, the worse they look. However, the game is solid technically. There are no bugs or glitches. Everything runs smoothly including the coasters that you design and construct which you can also ride. The cutscenes feature your uncle Morty pontificating about the industry and expounding his wacky personal opinions and suggestions not unlike a real eccentric tycoon. The dialog is well acted and quite humorous. The music is perfect for this game and maintains a consistently light and upbeat mood. Its hard to be in a bad mood when youre in Thrillville.
CCC Senior Writer