Something all theme park management simulators have in common is the promise to provide you with the ability to create the theme park of your dreams. Limbic Entertainment’s Park Beyond is the latest title to reinforce that, and although it brings some new game mechanics to the table, is filled with loveable charm and quirkiness, and has creative rides that look like they’ve been pulled from a child’s imagination, the game falls short of greatness due to unpredictable gameplay systems and several bugs.
A Roller Coaster Of Feelings
Park Beyond consists of two main modes; a sandbox mode with over twenty maps of varying biomes to select from, and a campaign mode comprising eight levels. The missions follow a brief storyline involving the sinking Cloudstormer company, which includes a cast of wacky characters; bickering CEOs Izzy and Phil, safety-man Alex, Sofia the inventor, Blaze the designer, and you, the newly-hired visionary.
The first three missions serve as a great tutorial into the game’s mechanics, allowing you to get to grips with coaster building and park management, but as the story ramps up, so does the difficulty and complexity of each level, and sometimes not for the better. While each level has fun scenarios, the quick ramp up in difficulty leaves you at the mercy of the game’s unpredictable Park Appeal system, as well as their strict and occasionally time-restrictive goals, which resulted in me failing and having to restart levels several times over.
I’m currently two missions from completing the campaign, and despite my frustrations with the game’s mechanics (Recent patches have helped in balancing Park Beyond’s mechanics and bugs, but it’s still not quite there for me), I’m still eager to discover how the team overcome their problems and succeed.
Each level in the campaign requires you to reach certain milestones to progress and complete them. You start by building a roller coaster out of your apartment’s fire exit and extending that throughout the city beyond in the first level before trying to save a dying theme park, and then learning how to purchase land expansions in a timed race against the company’s competitor Hemlock in later levels.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the campaign was seeing the way the Cloudstormer team grew over the several levels, with new characters introduced on a regular basis. Their journey in rejuvenating the company culminates in a pivotal moment for the group later in the campaign where their loyalties are tested, although I wish the game had scaled back the playfulness between the characters and humour during what was supposed to be a disheartening and serious time for the team.
The sandbox mode, meanwhile, offers complete creative freedom despite still being subject to the game’s wild gameplay systems. When setting a new sandbox save up, you can designate your difficulty, toggle how much of a starting fund you want and select the type of goals you’d like to work towards, or you can ignore all of that and start with unlimited money, no locked rides, and no goal. It’s entirely up to you.
The basics of Park Beyond aren’t all that different from other theme park management sims; build and run a successful theme park. That’s easier said than done, however, as you’re required to draw out pathways from the park’s entrance, plot down flat rides and shops and toilets, construct roller coasters, and hire employees – janitors, mechanics, paramedics, and entertainers.
You’ll also need to keep your eye on the park’s finances, ensuring you’re making a financial gain by clustering the shops and rides that both share the same appeal to adults, families, and teenagers – the three main visitors you’ll have in the game – to maximise profit. You’ll also need to satisfy your visitors’ needs to encourage them to remain in the park for longer with plenty of food and drink shops, benches to rest on, toilets, and, of course, rides that interest them.
All of this is viewable in heat maps that show whether customers are missing anything important, and Park Beyond has no shortage of visitor feedback, as you can click on anything within your park to see what visitors think and whether there’s anything you can improve on, such as lengthening ride entrances, lowering (Or raising) prices, and more.
Each ride in Park Beyond generates varying levels of Amusement and Fun, and the latter contributes to your Park Appeal alongside the park’s Cleanliness. Park Appeal is the levelling mechanic used in the game, with each new level increasing the maximum number of visitors allowed in your park and rewarding you with lab expansions that unlock new rides, shops, and roller coaster modules. You’ll need to select which lab expansion you want to unlock once levelled up, and this always offered me a few minutes of strategic thinking where I’d ponder whether it was better to focus on higher Amazement-generating rides to level up faster, need-focused shops to keep customers happy, or themed items so I can create the candy-themed park that I’d one day love to visit.
While monitoring and improving your Cleanliness and Fun ratings seem easy enough, this was where some of frustrations with the game stemmed from as your Park Appeal can swing wildly despite making no changes to the park. During my time with the game, I found that visitors would clamour for new rides but tire of them quickly, which boosted then slowly reduced my Park Appeal, grinding my progress to a halt as I couldn’t increase my park level or build new rides to change it, and this occasionally led to bankruptcy or mission failure.
Many of these issues fall back on the employees within the park too. You can’t drag and drop employees to work on selected issues in Park Beyond. Instead, you’re limited to selecting which duties you want each employee to focus on – prioritising the cleaning of toilets and puke over emptying trash cans and picking litter, for example – and waiting for the game’s AI to do what it needs to. This sometimes resulted in moments where mechanics would ignore broken-down rides in favour of those that need only a little maintenance, causing my profits to drop. Other times, janitors would avoid puddles of vomit at the entrance to my park in favour of walking around the park, and this dropped my cleanliness as well as my overall Park Appeal, with no way of improving it.
In other cases, I found that visitors would sometimes bug out at the entrance to rides, clustering around them and blocking anyone from entering, sending my rides into the negatives. The only fix was to rebuild these entrances, but this meant I was constantly scouring the park for issues. These weren’t the only bugs I experienced in my 20+ hour time with the game, as I experienced crashes, texture issues, and goals and challenges not being fulfilled despite meeting their requirements. Limbic Entertainment has released several patches and hotfixes to address these issues, and it is improving, but it’s disappointing that they were shipped with the game to begin with.
It’s All About Impossification And Construction
Now, one of the best parts of the game is its Impossification feature, which is unique to Park Beyond. Impossification is the process of upgrading employees, shops, and rides to improve them; rides grow into more ludicrous contraptions, roller coasters earn an additional hook, employees receive new gear that makes them more efficient at their jobs, and shops receive attractors that temporarily boost the Fun generated by visitors and expand their inventory.
Everything you want to upgrade requires Impossification charges; one for employees, two for shops, and five for rides. Charges are earned from the Amazement generated by visitors, and the process requires you to select what you want to upgrade and wiggle a magic pencil over it. It’s a brief process that culminates in a wonderful explosion of confetti and colour.
It was always a joy to see how rides expanded with each Impossification (Two total per ride), and it was always hilarious to watch Impossified janitors use their new bincinerators to light trash cans on fire and remove all rubbish within them. The Impossification mechanic is one of the best parts of Park Beyond and it really helps set the game apart from other theme park management sims.
Building roller coasters in the game was also great fun. You drag and click to place tracks, and Park Beyond lets you adjust the track’s height and yaw, while adding to your coaster with pre-fabricated blueprints of loops and swirls. You’re offered varying track types like chair lifts to boost coasters to great heights, brakes to slow them down, splitting tracks, and so much more. There are also modules you can apply to coasters to shoot riders through cannons or launch them across tracks at dangerously high speeds, amongst others.
All roller coasters come with three hooks, the third of which is locked behind an Impossification. Hooks are mini goals that you can work towards with your coaster that generate varying levels of Fun and appeal to your park’s visitors differently. Some hooks require you to reach certain heights, use selected modules or tracks, and plenty more. Once everything’s been constructed, you’ll need to carry out safety checks to ensure that the ride functions correctly and all hooks are met before opening the ride.
Of course, if you don’t like the idea of having to construct intricate coasters, you can simply opt for any of the several pre-fabricated roller coasters, which is just as easy as selecting what you want and plopping it down. Like with much of the game, Limbic Entertainment provides you with a lot of choices so you can find something that works best for you.
A Worthwhile Ride?
Park Beyond doesn’t always get it right, but it’s a creative and charming theme park management sim that’s fun to play when it works. There’s a lot to enjoy in the game despite the bugs, and a lot of love went into it, whether that’s the bright, colourful, and jaw-droppingly creative rides or the ridiculous contraptions Impossified employees have to play with. We’re disappointed with some of the gameplay mechanics and the overly challenging campaign due to what may be unbalanced game systems, but all of that can be addressed by upcoming patches, and underneath all of that is a game with a lot of potential.
Although I believe the game shouldn’t have been released in its current bugged state, I’m confident that Limbic Entertainment will be able to turn it around, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue to build upon the game with its upcoming modability plans and post-launch DLC.
Park Beyond (2023) Final Thoughts
Although Limbic Entertainment’s Park Beyond struggles with occasional bugs and unpredictable gameplay mechanics, it’s a fun and charming theme park management sim that’s filled with plenty of love and has lots of potential.
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco for PC.
Park Beyond is out now for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series consoles.