( Or Theme Park World to Europeans ).

Nostalgia has a strange way o’ making games look better than they probably were. For instance, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, while I have nostalgia for games like Sonic 3D Blast & Sim Tower, I wouldn’t find playing them much fun. What’s stranger, though, is when nostalgia seems to both make a game fun in remembrance & fun in still playing it now, e’en when one can’t figure out why.

Much like Sim Tower, there’s not much to Sim Theme Park. You have 4 levels, 2 unlocked @ the start, 1 unlocked by getting 3 keys, & the last unlocked by getting 5 keys ( unlike many games, these keys don’t magically disappear after unlocking a level, so that’s 2 mo’ after unlocking the 3rd level ). Keys are unlocked by getting 3 Golden Tickets, which are gotten by “DOING GREAT THINGS”, as your personal Navi tells you.

I should talk ’bout your personal Navi. I ne’er knew his name, though Bullfrog Productions Wiki says it’s “Buzzy” in parentheses. All I know is that I always thought he looked like a black ant & that he sounds kind o’ like Dick van Dike. He pops in on the bottom right corner every second you breathe to tell you info that’s either useful or useless, so he’s actually better than Navi. He’s all right. Be prepared to hear a lot ’bout how “she’s ’bout to blow” or how you could get a golden ticket if you could “squeeze just a few mo’ customers in”, though.

European fans apparently have high regard for the European version’s British voice actor, since he’s apparently somewhat well-known, but I have nostalgia for the American version & his hammy “YOU CAN GET GOLDEN TICKETS BY DOING GREAT THINGS”.

Back to the levels, since they’re some o’ the most interesting part o’ the game. In truth, the gameplay changes ’tween levels aren’t that different. There’s just slight changes, like a few types o’ stores & sideshows that appear & don’t appear, which you start out with & how soon others can be unlocked, & how many & how few o’ different types & sizes o’ rides & “features” there are. Most differences are cosmetic.

The 2 you start with are “Lost Kingdom” & “Halloween World”. Though the former is the 1 the game starts you on on the menu, I remember playing the latter 1st, & generally play it 1st, ’cause, ¿who would rather play some dumb green & brown dinosaur land when you could play a spooky night halloween theme park?

The 1st new level you unlock is “Wonderland”, which is also grassy, but with a bit more o’ a focus on nature & with a bit mo’ whimsy. It’s basically a superior version o’ “Lost Kingdom”, & I oft go far as to play it before “Lost Kingdom” as well, since it’s not too hard to get 3 keys in 1 level.

The last level is “Space Zone”, which is the most different, taking place on a purple planet, with an obvious focus on space & technology. This difference makes it mo’ exciting to finally unlock — a’least when you’re still a li’l kid & that feels like an accomplishment.

Most o’ the game is as you’d expect from a sim game: you go round building rides, shops, & other attractions, trying to balance customers’ fun with your funds. You also have staff you need to hire: janitors to keep the place clean; entertainers to be useless; security guards to stop the li’l shits from being li’l shits; mechanics to fix rides that break every second & cause Dick Ant Dike to tell me, “UH O. LOOKS LIKE A RIDE BROKE DOWN. BUT DON’T WORRY: A MECHANIC’S ON THE WAY”. Sometimes the ant guy will give you challenges, usually to sell a certain # o’ products before a certain # o’ days transpire, which usually means building a few more o’ those shops & lowering the price $10 or so.

It’s through researchers that we get the most interesting part o’ the game. Rather than starting out with everything you could buy, the game forces you to research most o’ it. This involves hiring researchers & waiting. You get some choice o’er what to research & what to prioritize, but not much else. Most o’ it is just waiting. Still, it’s quite exciting when you get a new thing to build.

Honestly, building all the stuff’s the only part interesting ’bout this game. They did make the aesthetics interesting in this game. It’s fun to see the different looks o’ the shops in different levels — from Dracula to a bumble bee for the balloon shop — or the different rides they have, such as a ladybug spinner or 1 o’ those bouncy rides that’s a brain or a plate o’ Jello. In fact, the game gives you a ticket for building everything, which is when I’d always consider the level “beaten”, since like most sim games, a level only “ends” when you choose to return to the level select.

You could say the simplicity is 1 o’ its bonuses. I actually just recently tried Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, since everyone says it’s the best, but it’s just a clusterfuck o’ confusing, terrible UI. Nothing better than starting by building a burger shop & putting a path right up to its front, only for the game to tell me no one can reach it — though on-screen you could see visitors walking under it by some alien magic. I also hated how it tried to force objectives on me.

Anyway, the greater focus on rollercoasters is a loss for me, since I always found them to be the most annoying thing to build in Sim Theme Park, while Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 made building the entrance & exit o’ any ride annoying, much less anything mo’ complicated.

Then ’gain, maybe Sim Theme Park is confusing for new players, too. Plus, I have to admit it seems like Sim Theme Park ripped off Rollercoaster Tycoon heavily. It e’en seemed to have researching new attractions & e’en mo’ customization options than Sim Theme Park’s already hefty customizations. The Rollercoaster Tycoon games also have far mo’ level themes. I can see why someone mo’ experienced with these games would prefer the Rollercoaster Tycoon games & would find Sim Theme Park underwhelming in the same way a SimCity 4 fan may find the original SimCity boring.

Sim Theme Park actually had a game that came out before it, just Theme Park, which I’ve ne’er played, & the only thing I know ’bout it is its creepy game o’er screen. It also had a sequel, Sim Coaster ( Theme Park Inc. in Europe, Theme Park Manager in Australia ), which I did play, but don’t remember too much. All I remember was that it had a snow level, & only had 3 levels.

O yeah, & it has some pretty good music, though damn long. I’d recommend Halloween World’s & Wonderland’s.

Originally published @ The Mezunian.