There are two very specific things that Screamride does right. The first is to allow the player creative freedom to build any number of gravity defying roller coasters and watch them go. The second is that it shows the players the aftermath of said coasters in the form of hapless riders who get flung mercilessly from their cars, all shown in multiple camera angles designed to capture that moment effortlessly. Just like players new to The Sims might try to burn a family alive in their home, players loading up Screamride for the first time will take much joy in developing numerous ways for their thrill rides to become deadly. There is a lot of fun to be had in those creation aspects here, but players looking for a fleshed out game instead of a solid framework might be disappointed in the end results.
Screamride goes with a futuristic theme that casts robots as kindly managers and grunt workers, leaving plenty of leisure time for humans and plenty of test subjects for your evil coaster designs. It isn’t clearly explained how they survive being flung from coasters, but all the humans are wearing some sort of technological jumpsuit that ensures the game’s E10+ rating isn’t threatened. The character designs and dialogue between levels are pretty goofy, with just enough cynical edge to remind the player of Portal, but not enough to excuse its lack of substance. Dialogue and certain cut scenes will repeat over and over after just a couple of hours, but thankfully there is an option to automatically skip most of them.
Screamride is split evenly between three separate modes. In the first, you’re a “Screamrider”, and you control a car filled with passengers and equipped with a turbo powered engine. You earn turbo by timing button presses along certain stretches of track and landing jumps. After that, you want to burn your boost whenever you can, and you can also prop up your car to make things more dangerous and earn more points. There are easily accessible leaderboards to see where you stand against your friends, and it is sometimes thrilling to go through a complex series of loops, but the gameplay wears out its welcome pretty quickly here.
The second campaign is “Demolition Expert”, and it surprisingly has nothing to do with roller coasters. Instead, you are tasked with flinging cabins at buildings to knock them over in impressive fashion à la Angry Birds. Eventually you unlock alternate cabins that perform in much the same way that the alternate birds do on phones. On top of that, most buildings are set around explosive barrels and rockets, making it pretty hard to fail at this goal as long as you’re aiming correctly. It is a functional clone of the popular mobile game, but it doesn’t bring much new to the table outside of graphical fidelity, and it feels completely superfluous when put aside the rest of the package.
To Screamride‘s credit, the destruction tech is very good. Buildings fall apart in convincing and interesting ways and can even be forced to knock each other over like a set of dominoes. The water that the buildings sink into is also rendered very well, with boats that seem to always avoid getting crushed by falling debris. The work put in here isn’t wasted however, as it comes into play in the final campaign. The “Engineering” track is basically a tutorial for the game’s creation suite, where you have to complete certain goals by building out a track that either loops around or launches riders into buildings.
It is in creation where Screamride feels the most alive. You have very intricate control of the track as you lay it out in front of you, and there are tools to smooth and auto-complete as well. At any time, including when the ride is incomplete, you can launch a cabin to see how your ride is performing. Afterwards there will be helpful markers showing where the trouble areas are in your design, assuming of course your goal is to keep riders in their seats. It’s a very in-depth tool, and there are already plenty of great designs available on the game’s level sharing page.
Playing on created tracks is fun in a LittleBigPlanet sort of way, but all the user created levels lack any sort of leaderboards, which seems like a glaring oversight considering how much of a tutorial the single player portion of the game is. That being said, the designers do expect you to go through the entirety of the three campaigns, as everything for the game’s creation tools are locked behind those levels. It’s an understandable but frustrating limitation, and I imagine that most players will get bored of the “Screamrider” and “Demolition” levels far before they unlock everything.
Screamride feels like the scraps from several other projects forced together into an incohesive whole. The creation tools and destruction technology on display here belong in a larger theme park simulation, and the gameplay that replaces that simulation is forgettable fluff. Even though you could buy the game in stores, it doesn’t much feel like a full retail release, as the threadbare narrative goes nowhere and repeats itself constantly. Technical hitches in the background are plentiful enough that it’s easy to forget that this is a first party title. Screamride would be a great pickup in a future sale if you’re really into either roller coasters or experimenting with ragdoll physics, but those looking for the theme park equivalent to Zoo Tycoon need not apply.
Do you agree that the latest from the developer of Roller Coaster Tycoon just doesn’t hit the mark? Sound off below in the comments!
This game was provided by Microsoft and reviewed on the Xbox One.
There is fun to be had with ScreamRide's creation tools, but it's buried under a long slog of uninteresting gameplay modes and the faintest hints of a narrative.