Wednesday, October 31, 2007

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Thrillville: Off the Rails

Product Number: 206
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When I first started my journey in to video games as a child I was pretty well catered for. Gentle platform heroes were the order of the day, and even if I was tempted to buy a more ‘violent’ video game the pixelated blood, and poor graphics means my fragile little mind didn’t come away warped in any way. These days platform heroes have become something of a joke, and aside from games by Nintendo I get a real feeling that kids games are becoming too childish and adult games too adult.

To fill this void comes Thrillville: Off The Rails, the latest game to allow you to build your own theme park. Unlike other games in the genre such as Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon which are focused on the micromanagement of costs, ticket prices and research, Thrillsville takes a more relaxed approach to the construction of your park. Firstly there’s no open plot of land to play with, instead you receive five different parks each with three sections, which come pre populated with a few rides, and their own distinct themes already in place.

At first this seems rather defeating, as you find much of the character you want to inject in to your park has already been put in to place. Furthermore, the restrictive layout of each of the parks means you can only place a few rides in each, with pre set areas for your rollercoasters, rides and stalls to slot in to. Not only does this stop you from building one huge park, it also means you have to sacrifice some rides, in order to build others.

The logic behind these restrictions is that Thrillville does away with the top down perspective of other games, and instead places you inside each of the parks as park manager. This gives you the freedom to explore each of your parks, and best of all try out each of the rides you have built. Rides come in two forms, the first are simple mini games, each with Xbox Live leader boards and around 15-30 minutes of game play from start to finish. Clearly designed for children most of the games can be played through in one sitting, and aside from the odd almost unbeatable end boss there’s little reason to go back and play through a second time. Notable exceptions include Stunt Rider and Sparkle Quest, which focus on scores and solid platforming action respectively.

To encourage further play throughs, guests will challenge you to play a game with them and 100 missions are on offer to give you an incentive to explore your park, build new rides and chat to your guests. These missions unlock new rides and colour schemes for your park, as well as providing you with points which advance your park ranking and open up new worlds for you to explore. Each new world has various slots for rollercoasters, and these can be build to your own design, and best of all you can ride them once you’re done.

Thrillville: Off the Rails is definitely a completely different offering to any theme park games that have gone before. The micromanagement of ticket prices, advertising and research is all still in place, but the focus now is more on fun, chatting to your guests to appease their needs and best of all simply enjoying yourself in the virtual world around you. Sure there may be restrictions in place, but the sheer variety of mini games, and the freedom in making your own coasters creates a game that is fun from the first day of park opening to the last. And that’s something that is true for both kids and adults.

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