Management sims are an acquired taste. I rarely have the patience for the minutiae, and so games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and Planet Coaster have largely passed me by. The result of this is that I was pretty blind going into Park Beyond from Tropico devs Limbic Entertainment. I played a chunk of Theme Park back in the day and Jurassic Park Evolution, but they didn’t prepare me for how ambitious Park Beyond would be.
The big selling point here is “Impossification”, a made up word that means more or less what it sounds like it means. As a theme park designer, your job is to be as maverick as legally possible, creating insane play areas for your park visitors with death-defying rides and insane rollercoasters that weave their way around your entire site.
You’re encouraged along by a cast of colourful characters in the campaign mode. There’s enthusiastic thrill-seeker Blaize, eccentric millionaire Phil, engineer Sophia, and money-fixated Izzy. They’ll guide you through the various processes and give you challenges along the way that earn you money or Amazement, the currency by which you Impossify rides, shops, coasters – even your individual staff members.
Everything is under your control in Park Beyond, from the placement of rides to the price of individual items in each of the shops and restaurants. You’ll need to place benches so people can rest, litter bins, toilets. You can also scatter decorations wherever you like for a low fee that add nothing but aesthetic flair.
A heat map lets you keep track of everything. Your priority is guest happiness, so you will need to ensure that rides are priced low enough that people use them but high enough that they still make a profit. Each group that comes into the park falls under one of three categories: Families, Teens, and Adults. You decide in a pre-mission briefing who your target demographic will be and then work to satisfy them first.
Teens like crazy rides and risk-taking, families like to be safe and secure, while adults prefer scenery and a quiet coffee over energy drinks and dead-drop rollercoasters. There are also themes to unpack such as Wild West and Sci-fi to help personalise your park. What begins with a fairly complex tutorial to build a rollercoaster through an urban city centre soon opens up into a massive sandbox that keeps on giving.
What I played was a preview build, and so I had to contend with an occasionally unruly camera, as well as a problem with the game crashing to desktop that became more frequent the further in I got until it became impossible to even play without a reinstall. Thankfully I got through a fair few missions and was able to play a large chunk of the Sandbox Mode, which allowed me to see the majority of what Park Beyond will offer.
Impossification, while a gimmick, is excellent. For shops it adds “attractors”, huge rigs that jump and dance and launch fireworks into the air; but for rides it alters the look and effect, upping the fun factor by becoming more dangerous, like a spinning top ride that literally launches the visitors into a freefall before catching them again. Coasters become faster and more terrifying, made even better by the fact that you can build them around other rides and use terrain features like canyons and tunnels to increase their fun.
Overall you’re trying to grow your Park Appeal, which is how you level up and unlock research nodes to give you new shops and rides. It requires constant monitoring, hiring staff, paying the right salaries, and keeping your guests happy enough to spend a fortune every day. You can switch to a first person camera to try your own rides, including the rollercoasters of course, or even possess the bodies of individual visitors to “ride along” inside their heads as they eat, drink, play and occasionally run to the toilet after a particularly dizzying time.
Although it can be incredibly finnicky with path and item placement – and has a tendency to place items a few feet above ground level – Park Beyond is shaping up to be a lot of fun. There’s already so much detail in it (you can even change the colours of rides, buildings, and staff uniforms) that you’d expect it to be overwhelming, but it isn’t. Limbic know exactly how to craft this kind of experience and make it constantly busy without being stressful and that’s what Park Beyond is.
A charming sense of humour rounds off the experience wonderfully, never taking itself seriously while still offering a level of challenge that means you can’t just switch off your brain. You do have to think about what you’re doing and why, and you will need to ensure that pathways are clear and guests have the right facilities in all areas of the park. But every layer of management from building the rides to tweaking the price of a cinnamon cocoa puts the power and agency directly into your hands.
Park Beyond is a great time, offering a decent level of challenge alongside a relatively stress-free management experience. There’s still a little way to go before the launch in June this year, but I’m confident it will go from strength to strength after release.
Park Beyond will be available to on Steam and consoles on June 15, 2023.