Park Beyond review: An 'impossified' time sink like no other
Park Beyond is a theme park-building sim that gives those new to the genre, and more seasoned players boundless freedoms, allowing them to create and micromanage rollercoaster parks that stretch to all corners of the imagination.
Limbic Entertainment has built a game that's ripe for sinking hours upon hours into, whether you're looking to dive into the campaign - which has a surprising amount of depth to it and a fun cast of characters to get to know - or to let your creativity run wild without budget limits in the sandbox mode.
Park Beyond is a vibrant timesink of a game that'll have you pushing the limits of your creativity in building rollercoasters and managing the theme parks that they reside within.
While it doesn't reinvent the wheel of what a person would expect from a theme park sim, it's presented with fresh eyes and plenty of exciting bells and whistles like the 'Impossify' feature to help it shine amongst other titles in the genre.
Whether you're wanting to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all and submerge yourself in graphs and statistics or kick back without restraint and build to your heart's desire, the sky is the limit.
A surprisingly engaging story
As someone who hasn't played a building sim in a very long time aside from watching the occasional YouTube video (the last theme park sim I actually played was probably Theme Park World, and that's showing my age) - Park Beyond is absolutely fantastic at getting you up to speed with how the game works.
Right from the outset of Park Beyond's campaign mode, the game is presented in a refreshing way that I absolutely loved: You wake up in your bedroom and wander over to your desk to look at some designs before folding one into a paper aeroplane and throwing it out of the window.
This leads you out into the world and right into the tutorial through that open window, where you'll be introduced to Blaize. Here, they'll guide you through the introductory segment and the process of building a coaster to try and reach that hastily thrown paper plane.
While I did initially find some frustration within the tutorial due to cumbersome controls in navigating and placing tracks in the environment, this became less of an issue the more that I played. That being said, the control scheme definitely takes some time to get used to on console, especially as I wasn't able to find an option to remap buttons.
The tutorial itself is a refreshing way to start the game as it directly connects you to the world - presenting you as an actual person rather than an ever-present, omnipotent park-building overlord. This thread continues all throughout the different stages found in Park Beyond's campaign, which kicks off following the tutorial as Blaize introduces you to a colourful cast of characters within the Cloudstormer company.
Cloudstormer serves as the overarching plot point of the campaign, which you'll join and work alongside to build magical parks that guests will love. These story segments are typically presented through boardroom meetings, serving as the introduction for each new area that you'll be working within.
As you play, you'll meet characters like the eclectic Phil (who calls you his protege and wants to be free of health and safety cares to build without limits), Izzy (the more grounded of the two who wants to ensure the survival of Cloudstormer) and Sofia, an engineer who can take a structure and 'impossify' it to astound park guests.
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That's not all though, as Park Beyond also has what I'd call 'pseudo-game-changing choices' within each of these meetings. As an RPG fan who adores branching paths and the option to directly affect a story's outcome, while Park Beyond very clearly isn't trying to be on that level, I love that we're given the option of choosing the focus of a park through varying dialogue choices.
Want to build something more focused towards Adults with the added option of a Western theme? You can totally do that. Each new map in the campaign will present you with varying options, from unlocking a particular selection of themed assets from the outset, or to dictate the level of challenge you want to face. There are even the odd multiple-choice responses that don't serve to alter the direction of gameplay - simply adding another layer of player agency and choice to bring you further into the story.
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It has to be said: Park Beyond is a lovely-looking game. With bright visuals, great asset designs and maps full of vistas that are so pleasing to look at you almost want to leave them completely untouched, it's clear that Limbic Entertainment has put a lot of thought and care into the game.
The models and environments are fantastic, and there's a lot of graphical fidelity here in the world and rides. Even when zooming right into the world or opting to view the park through the eyes of a visitor, the graphics hold up.
The rides and shops themselves are fun and quirky, ranging from different themes like the default 'Park Beyond' style to Candyland, Western, and Space. Players are given plenty of choices when designing their theme park - and as someone who has many, many hours put into The Sims, I love that I can change the colour of certain objects.
You're also able to pick through an obscene amount of scenery decorations like trees, doors, or prefab clusters of items if you're looking to quickly add some personality to the world. That's not all, though, as you're also able to build modular shops and structures to further diversify the structures within a park.
Building coasters themselves are incredibly modular too, allowing you to either choose from a selection of prefabs or create something entirely yourself. You can choose different track types to keep the ride car's momentum going, place in corkscrews, loop the loops and raise or tilt the tracks to build the coaster of your dreams.
As you build, a test car will show you how stable your track is — with the car flying off of the side if there's too much g-force following a fast turn. With this, you'll need to make sure that it can travel all the way around before you're able to open the ride to visitors.
You can even add 'Hooks' to a coaster, which effectively serves as a way to boost the particular stats of a ride like its Fun or Profitability rating, with these all targeting one of the three rider demographics: Adults, Families, and Teenagers.
One of Park Beyond's most integral features here though is its 'impossify' mechanic, which becomes available in the second campaign level (or from the outset in Sandbox mode) and gives you the chance to truly astound guests (and yourself too, in fairness — it's very cool).
With this, you can take rollercoasters, shops, and flat rides like the Pirate Ship to new heights. You can place showstopping structures next to an ice cream shop, or add an enormous Medusa head that bursts out of the central section of a themed ride.
These all work to boost things like your Amazement, Fun, and Profitability ratings, which are essential components of park building alongside your finances. With these rides, you'll want to keep an eye on overusing them, though, as park guests can suffer from 'Newphoria', which causes your parkgoers to become sick when riding impossified rides.
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What's great about Park Beyond is how there's something on offer here for every type of player. It all coexists together, and aside from the challenges dotted around each campaign mode map that you'll need to complete in order to keep progressing through the game, you're mostly free to approach each park in a way that feels natural to you.
For some, that's likely to be through the game's detailed statistics and charts, which present you with so much data you'll actually feel like it's your job. For some, this may be a good thing, but I was absolutely more interested in making my parks look great and creating exhilarating coasters than how much profit they brought in.
In these menus, you can track everything from your park's demographics to tracking finances to see which parts of it may (or may not) be raking in the cash. Every visitor also has their own thoughts and opinions that can be seen by clicking on them to see what they love or dislike about their visit. More specific thoughts are also shown throughout individual shop menus to get a real sense of what's working, such as the cost of a particular drink.
The 'Heat Map' gives you a colour-coded overview of the park in real-time, highlighting parkgoers in a particular colour depending on how they're feeling about the stat you're filtering. It's all very hands-on, and while you can likely play without needing to keep too much of an eye on this, those options provide you with great real-time feedback as you build and expand.
You'll additionally be able to raise or lower the prices of pretty much everything you place that riders can interact with, from adding an additional charge for toilet service in luxury toilet stalls to inflating the price of a coffee that's on-trend with park guests to make an extra bit of cash.
If that wasn't enough, you'll of course need to hire staff like Janitors to ensure that your park is clean (alongside placing rubbish bins around), Entertainers to keep guests happy, Paramedics and more. With that comes micromanaging them too, and you'll have to place down staff rooms, adjust their wages and hire (or fire) your crew as the park grows.
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While most of my time with Park Beyond was smooth sailing, a few bugs and the occasional framerate stutter did cause a few frustrations in gameplay. My main gripe in the review build I played was with paths, which as you can imagine are a very integral part of any theme park layout.
To place rides in the world, you need to build entrances and exits and then connect these to main pathways so that your visitors can access them. Oftentimes, much later after placing them, these would glitch, appearing as if the ride had no access at all, meaning I'd have to close the ride, delete the access points and then replace them.
Additionally, square sections of the pathway would spawn out of nowhere when trying to connect pieces of the pathway together and would remain there unless I went in and removed and rebuilt sections of them.
Navigating the world with a controller on console has also been a little tricky at times, with sections of track or pathway that I'm trying to place having a mind of their own and trying to place something higher or lower than I actually wanted it to be - causing me to need to grapple with the controls to try and put it in place.
Some of the challenges found within the world also wouldn't complete, despite me being very sure I had completed them. For example, one challenge asked me to build a ride over the lake (which you can also see in the above image), yet it did not complete.
Another asked me to build and open a ride next to a waterfall, and this also did not complete despite attempting it multiple times. While this may not be a bug per se, and maybe my misunderstanding of a task, I would have loved these steps to have been clearer had I not completed them in exactly the way it required.
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Overall, Park Beyond is a vibrant timesink of a game that'll have you pushing the limits of your creativity in building rollercoasters and managing the theme parks that they reside within.
While it likely won't reinvent the wheel of what a person would expect from a theme park sim, it's presented with fresh eyes and plenty of exciting bells and whistles like the 'impossify' feature to help it shine amongst other titles in the genre.
Whether you're wanting to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all and submerge yourself in graphs and statistics or kick back without restraint and build to your heart's desire, the sky is the limit in Park Beyond.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Code provided by the publisher.