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Screamride Review – Are You Sure This Is Safe?
Four volunteers strap themselves in to experience the thrill of their lives as they twist and turn, balance on two wheels and jump over a platform filled with explosives before being violently ejected from their seats as the car flies off the rails, destroying a building and half of the track in the process. This is Screamride. Imagine if you will, a traditional roller coaster simulator, mixed together with copious amounts of destruction and elements of an arcade racer. Turn the extreme volume all the way up to 11, and this is the result.
When Frontier Developments began creating Screamride, they asked the gaming community what they wanted to see. The three core elements they took from this were creation, the ability to experience these creations first-hand, and destruction. As a result, Screamride features three different gameplay styles in the form of Engineer, ScreamRider and Demolition Expert.
Career mode splits these three gameplay components into levels, spread across six different areas which unlock as you progress. The overall score is rated on a scale of five stars, and all of these can be tracked on leaderboards with your friends.
The first of these modes is ScreamRider, which focuses on controlling your roller coaster as it navigates its course. This isn’t as easy as it sounds: the game encourages you to attempt to balance on two wheels which requires careful accuracy in order to prevent the coaster from derailing. Blue sections of track generate turbo which is reliant on a well timed button press. Later levels incorporate green sections of track: these are jumps in which the car is exposed to the air, and also require good timing in order to land safely on the other side. It feels like an alternate version of the Trials series albeit with less reliance on skill to reach the end of the course, but with enough depth to ensure that anyone wanting to achieve a high score will need to master the level. This mode is fun, but the novelty begins to wear off over time. I was looking forward to the jump sections of these levels as they were introduced, but it became much too easy to land these, with just one button press required, and I feel more could have been done to make these an exciting addition.
The next option available in Career mode is Demolition Expert. The premise is this – you control a giant crane-like structure, with different variations of wrecking ball styled containers at your disposal. Levels contain multiple building structures combined with explosives and other objects to aim your destructional capabilities towards. The general idea is to launch these balls into as many buildings and targets as possible, hopefully destroying them in the process. You can control the power of the swing, as well as aftertouch when the ball has been launched. Objectives for these levels include hitting three bullseye targets or even hitting a moving speed boat, as well as easier goals such as launching the ball a certain distance.
Successful shots will normally result in the destruction of multiple structures leading to a large accumulation of points, and this manages to elude a sense of satisfaction every time thanks to the excellent physics system. Later levels sometimes involve directing a roller coaster car as your destructive weapon, and extra demolition tools are unlocked as the game moves between each area. My only frustration with Demolition Expert is that certain parts within each level are not destructible but the game never makes this very clear. You can only figure this out through trial and error. It can be extremely frustrating to aim at a building and find that the ball simply bounces straight off it, wasting one of the few launches available in each level. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, its an annoyance.
Engineer is the closest thing you will find in Screamride to a tycoon style roller coaster game. It tasks the player with building roller coaster tracks to match a certain specification, all while trying to ensure your riders are having fun, and are not too nauseous in the process. Elaborate designs containing multiple loops, twists and bends can be created, but caution needs to be taken in order to ensure that riders are not literally ripped out of their seats from a combination of too many of these components at the wrong time. As you progress, more track parts become available and the game incorporates elements of demolition in certain levels to add some variation. The camera can be a pain at times, requiring a lot of manual adjusting, but there are alternative cameras available and I found myself regularly switching between them throughout the building process. Despite these issues, it is very easy to build tracks for the most part, and these can be tested at any time during the creation process by some willing theme park guests. Frontier Developments’ history with the Rollercoaster Tycoon series is very prominent within the Engineer mode, resulting in an easy control system combined with familiar track building mechanics.
I am a little disappointed with the length of the Career. For those who have no interest in completing every objective, modes such as ScreamRider have a very short life-span. There are only 19 missions in the ScreamRider mode alone and each of these levels only take a few minutes each. The majority of consumers will want to try and get the highest scores possible on each of these, but I still feel that we should have been given more, considering the price of this game at release. Cut-scenes are few and far between as Career progresses. Short clips are regularly repeated before and after each level, and small 10 second-or-so clips are used to introduce us to new areas of the world. I would have liked some lengthy videos when progressing to a new section in order to give each part of the world a sense of identity, rather than feeling like just another collection of levels.
Sandbox mode combines all of these three aspects and provides a platform to create whatever your heart desires. The amount of options which are available are overwhelming at first, but there is a fantastic tutorial page when accessing the menu, containing a large amount of tutorial videos for assistance in sandbox creation. Despite offering a hefty amount of tools in the initial playthrough, the game restricts certain parts of Sandbox mode until the Career portion of the game has been completed. I can understand why this has been utilized, but for those who want to get their creative juices flowing in Sandbox mode as soon as they boot up the game for the first time, it isn’t ideal.
An exclusive mode for Xbox One owners is the Level Center, which offers the ability to upload and download creations using the cloud. As with all games that include this feature, there are already some excellent levels that have been designed by the community, such as a roller coaster built on a giant replica of the Loch Ness Monster and a Demolition Expert level which hilariously involves blowing up a PlayStation 4. Favorite levels can be marked to save searching for them each time the game is loaded, but I would love an addition in a future update which will allow us to download these for later usage, and even combine them with career mode levels to make a playlist. The Level Center also offers the ability to download Blueprints: custom built levels by the community which you can export into your Sandbox.
Graphically, the game is reminiscent of a cartoon. Characters have a wacky style and buildings are more reminiscent of giant blocks than actual buildings, but this keeps with the overall theme of the game. Still, this isn’t going to win any awards for its graphics: it looks fine without ever looking spectacular. The frame rate tends to drop quite dramatically whenever a building is destroyed and even though this is very noticeable, I rarely found that it affected the actual gameplay. I like the music selection in the game: fast paced and destructive modes are accompanied by an energetic track list, whilst the Engineer and Sandbox modes favor a quieter, relaxing tone to their selection of tunes. Screams are plentiful and sound great, and the sound of the roller coasters gliding across the track sounds authentic.
Screamride is a new, fresh take on the roller coaster genre. All three game modes are exciting creations, especially Demolition Expert which succeeds thanks to its excellent physics system, and the Sandbox and Level Center options will ensure that the game has longevity. Career mode fails to provide as much depth as I would like, but still contains a range of levels which will take a long time to master. Tycoon enthusiasts will still feel at home even without the option to customize entire theme parks, and for those who love adrenaline rushes of speed merged with a healthy dose of destructive tendencies, not many games can compare to the intensity of Screamride.
This version of Screamride was reviewed on the Xbox One.