I was nervous coming into Screamride and this is not the games fault by any respect, instead it is history which turns a moment of potential optimism into doom and gloom. Frontier Developments made this game, and I have been burned recently by this developer with their poor excuse for Zoo Tycoon and this makes Screamride worrisome. But still I went ahead and looked at Screamride all because I could not judge the developer for one mistake, surely Screamride could be better and it is.
Fine, it is not as simple as Screamride being better, this and Zoo Tycoon are two very different games walking entirely different paths, and the thing here is that Screamride is its own game and not some poor man’s attempt and making a new version of a classic. Interestingly, while I was doing a bit more research for this review I decided to further look into the developers history, and it turns out Frontier Developments is behind one of my all-time favorite games Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, this is certainly interesting given that the developer has proven to have made good work on the idea of roller coasters in the past and this is what Screamride is all about. The question remains can Frontier get this game right?
With Screamride Frontier Developments swaps Zoo’s for Roller Coasters embarking on a completely different journey, you are brought to work for Screamworks a group that uses Roller Coasters to analyze the human connection to intensity and thrill. It is your job to complete a series of varying challenges all to assist Screamworks goals.
The meat of Screamride is broken down across three different career modes, the first of these is Screamrider, this mode puts you in control of the coaster with your goal being to keep the vehicle on the tracks while also performing time trial type activities. In this mode you try to attain points by providing accurate timing on button presses, performing leans that keep you on the track, you push the vehicle forward by boosting to reach great speeds and braking to avoid catastrophe.
There are many levels to this path and many offer new obstacles to try and counter, the big problem is many of these just blurred in with one another as I continued on this path, and trying to attain the best score is simply frustrating and not a lot of fun. I never found myself actually enjoying this mode, and even though it kept me busy I was never entertained by the sheer monotony of what was offered.
Unfortunately this first mode is the key example of what this game really offers, there are other paths but both lack the same level of interest that pulls me through. The next mode is engineer, in this mode you are tasked with completing a series of roller coaster creation puzzles that become increasingly difficult. Trying to complete the goals provided and make a working roller coaster does prove to be quite a challenge and in one way I enjoyed this mode, but it suffers from similar frustrations that make other modes just as annoying.
In the case of engineer the coaster creator tools were hard to manage and I struggled with getting the piece I was using to do what I wanted, it is not that this mode is bad, sadly this was actually my key highlight of the game’s offerings, it is just the tools turn an enjoyable piece of creation into something frustrating to play. It is all made worse considering that the developers made Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 and the coaster creation tools in that game were pretty good, it is the flimsy system that holds this section back from shining.
The final mode available through career is Demolition, as the name pretty much tells you this is about destruction, in a way this brought back minor memories to my time of playing Burnout 3 and blowing up cars. The big difference with this mode is you are demolishing buildings by flinging a series of different projectiles at them, it was hard not to smile when I landed a perfect shot which resulted in the complete destruction of a building all because I managed to hit the right part of the foundation, or seeing explosions arrive from a well-placed shot. It is satisfying seeing one building collapse and then by a simple chain reaction see more follow, but I felt the method of attaining destruction was flawed and while I appreciate the skill requirement it held me back from the good time I wanted to have. Demolition is certainly better than Screamrider’s gameplay but it just loses some enjoyment.
But it is never helped when the game places so many roadblocks in the way, as you make your way through each level they become progressively harder which I am fine with, but they also change and become even worse. The enjoyable destruction of demolition is dialed back in place of precision which is something I struggled with, engineering focuses more on the little improvements then greater puzzle solving. Screamrider loses the somewhat satisfying side involving speed and instead becomes all about maneuvering, I was already bored by this but now my thrill was entirely gone.
Another issue that persists across the board comes down to progression, through each set of levels that you stumble across you are awarded with commendations based on your total point earnings. These are used to unlock a further batch of levels and you need a certain amount to continue to proceed, and it becomes worse as you need to go back and do earlier levels all to simply go and access further ones, the repetition in this game is just annoying and unbearable. This is all made worse because levels are more chores the further you proceed meaning having to replay levels really holds you back and restricts the potential enjoyment, and having to replay multiple levels over and over again just lost something the game really needed.
If the career mode is not for you there is a free form coaster creation mode, I do appreciate this being here as it offers the chance to have more opportunities to find something, but things are still made worse and it is because of the games annoying issues. In order to get the full enjoyment out of free form I was forced to go through the career and simply complete objectives just to unlock some of the better things for my toybox. When career is not that fun in the first place this is a major restriction which dampens the freedom and enjoyment that could be potentially offered. But this mode is still more an issue by the troublesome coaster creation tools which set some of the game back, if you can handle the annoying controls you might find something fun.
At first look Screamride seems to offer fun, the setup is nice, the ideas seem cool and the game offered potential. However once I journeyed into this game I realized that finding the fun here is actually quite hard, I really wanted to like Screamride and part of me hoped Frontier could pull Screamride off but the game is filled with annoying issues that dampened my experience. There is ideas here filled with potential but they sink under the weight of it and lose any enjoyment I occasionally found. At least this game is still better than their previous attempt with Zoo Tycoon not that this tells you much.