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Park Beyond review - more uphill climb than thrill ride

Funfair dismissal.

Despite making an excellent first impression, Park Beyond ends in a downward spiral that's exciting in a coaster, but lethal in an economy.

Park Beyond's opening is gloriously silly, as you start off with an introduction to the coaster system by building a ride to take you out of a fire escape, through courtyards, over buildings, and to a park entrance - via cannon. And accompanied by NPCs who are so obnoxiously cheerful they cycle all the way back round to being likeable again. It reminded me of being at a pantomime - I just had to buy in, even for the terrible villain who wants to build (gasp) car parks, instead of theme parks.

Park Beyond sets itself apart from other theme park games with the mechanic of "impossification", making rides (and to a lesser extent, shops and staff) go "beyond" the usual, becoming bigger and dafter than real life. So your ride modules, in addition to loops and inversions, include cannons, jump ramps, bumper-boat transformations and punchy springs. You'll get construction goals to include modules like these - or attain certain heights, or speeds - and when you're building for a park, instead of through your own neighbourhood, these goals make up "hooks" that set the target audience and stats for your rides. There are puzzles in here, and even more when you decide to impossify a ride, which unlocks an optional third, even more outrageous hook - to go at a top speed of 140kmph, for example, or include three cannon launches.

Here's a gameplay trailer for Park Beyond to show the 'coasters in motion.Watch on YouTube

The potential silliness of coasters is boosted by Park Beyond's control scheme, which is much more about space than precision. Each new track piece is placed by setting down its end node, so wide curves or steep slopes go up in a single move, where trying to finesse anything specific requires trial and error without the support of finer tools. It's very vibes-based, and for what Park Beyond is offering, most of the time I loved it. It works excellently for slapping a cannon in the middle of a ride, just less well for trying to build a steep drop that doesn't fling everyone to their death at the bottom.

The flat rides conversely don't require any engineering, and are just delightful visuals that only become more absurdly colourful health-and-safety nightmares once impossified. Flat kraken backgrounds transform to vast animatronics that hunt riders out of a tank of water, and an already perilous slingshot ride becomes one that flings guests straight up into the sky. It's charmingly gaudy, and gives every ride a strong and themed identity.

Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing a coaster cutting through a neighbourhood, while a flamboyantly dressed man comments on it, including ‘Great gravy-boats!’
Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing a cutscene of a young woman with a skateboard on her back introducing herself as ‘Blaize Ultra’
Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing the ride camera view of a track about to swoop up the side of a building
Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing a cannon being aimed over a helipad

The presentation of Park Beyond promises absurdity, and then the management element bizarrely throttles it - and know that I say this as someone who likes games that are solely about making numbers go up. After such a whimsical introduction, it was a slow realisation of just how the game's systems were interfering with what Park Beyond was promising. It was only when I reached the midpoint of the tutorialised campaign that I had enough control to realise exactly what was going on.

There aren't a lot of variables to keep track of: profit, fun, amazement, and cleanliness. Your park has to be profitable - three months of negative income spells a game over, even if you aren't in debt. A combination of fun (which comes from visitors going on fun rides they like) and cleanliness creates your park appeal level, which unlocks new shops, rides and coaster modules. Amazement (which comes from visitors going on amazing rides) is the currency used to impossify things. These aren't complex, but the way the game interacts with them seems designed to prevent snowballing - which feels like an odd choice in a game that's so overtly goofy.

Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing a top down overview of a park, and several notifications about shops that are in debt
Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing the huge, impossified kraken ride next to the much smaller standard one

The first clue was when I built an absolute showstopper of a rollercoaster. It was the most amazing, most fun, and yes, most profitable ride in the park. I built it near the entrance, with plenty of amenities nearby, and waited for my guests to be thrilled. They were not! They didn't go on it, or even think about it.

As there's a system for 'guest rejection', where you get negative feedback on rides and shops, having nobody think about the ride at all left me unable to realise what the problem was until I explored the sandbox mode, which inexplicably has more tutorials:: guests will visit rides they 'like' before visiting rides they 'love'. I can only presume this is to prevent exactly what I did - players building popular coasters to build up good stats in the early game - but I can't fathom why it's a thing Park Beyond wants to disincentivise.

Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing the construction hooks for building a coasters
Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing some dubious pathing, and guests walking in a circle in mid-air outside a shop
Ritual sacrifice for my spiralling debt, anyone? (It's a metaphor, you see, for my spiralling debt).

Instead of my would-be showstopper, then, guests went to the nearest ride they just 'liked', which was much further away - and on their journey through the park got hungry, or thirsty. This would make them unbearably unhappy, and they would leave. No matter how omnipresent my food and drinks shops were, everyone left before even thinking about the showstopper.

Then there's impossification. A fun detail about campaign missions is that you can choose optional goals within them, so in one I chose to impossify as many rides as possible. This is where I discovered that each impossification becomes more expensive the more you do it. An upgraded flat ride will give a tiny boost to amazement - in the tens per day - but the threshold to be able to impossify another ride will go up by thousands. Impossifying shops can give you a tiny multiplier (1.05!) to fun or amazement, and it's only temporary.

The effect of this is that the two most appealing things to do in Park Beyond - to build exuberant coasters, and to make cartoonish upgraded flat rides - are constantly being worked against by the rest of the game. It's fine not to snowball, but my parks typically got worse over time. Planning around guest's odd priorities is a manageable frustration with 3-4 rides, but as parks expand it's impossible to predict which previously popular rides will suddenly become ignored. Two routes to a doom spiral appear: either its nearby amenities go unvisited too, and I have starving, dehydrated guests leaving the park early, or chance decides that my most profitable ride is now a now man's land.

The propensity for Park Beyond to increasingly spiral towards destruction is compounded by the fact that right now, the game is riddled with bugs. The already opaque management tools also communicate poorly with the rest of the game, telling me that Luxury Toilet 3 is losing money, but, when interacted with, taking me to Soda Shop 4. Paths - the bane of many park games - are incredibly fussy, so whenever visitors get stuck at a junction, they become terrible vortexes of unmet needs and dropped litter, which there's additionally no way to direct staff to.

Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing a profit and loss chart where October seems to have dramatic decreases in income
Screenshot of Park Beyond, showing a luxury toilet with an oversized fountain on top of it
The economy is in the (very fancy) toilet.

More than once I ended up in debt because a ride had stopped processing guests, leaving a full queue and burning through upkeep costs but taking no ticket fees. To keep the promise of absurdity, though, the silliest reason I ended up in a debt spiral was because of my toilets. Specifically, whenever you place a new one, it resets the fee for every toilet in the park to zero. In that specific park, apparently loo profits were the only thing keeping the lights on.

In a game where you can convert space simulators into actual rocket launchers and build totally non-lethal train crashes into your coasters for fun, I didn't expect to talk about the toilet economy - twice. On the face of it, Park Beyond is very excited about its silliest, most exuberant elements, and so was I. But I ended up building brilliant coasters that nobody rode, in parks that went bust, because it inexplicably insists on wanting you to manage its economies very, very seriously - while holding back both the tools you'd need, and the rest of the fun with it.

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