Do you love rollercoasters? You probably should because they’re awesome. Developers Frontier Developments (Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, Elite: Dangerous) sure do, and through ScreamRide, they’ve created a pretty awesome title on Xbox.
ScreamRide cuts out all of the tycoon stuff that I kind of hoped would be in it. Instead, it focuses on the devilish part you were always a fan of, which making rollercoasters go way too fast and killing everybody onboard (probably). ScreamRide is almost a collection of mini-games, but it’s real good at all of them! It uses an insanely satisfying destruction and physics engine in order to make the experience even better.
The first of the games in ScreamRide is ScreamRider. This version basically has the player controlling a rollercoaster car on a pre-made track. Inside of the car are four test subjects dressed as crash dummies who are way too excited to be on this. The earlier levels start with your basics: accelerate, brake, turn, and boost. As the levels go on, things get way more creative.
ScreamRider incorporates an incredibly high amount of hand-eye coordination reflexes. It adds timing bonuses by pushing X at the end of a boost, objects on the track you need to avoid by going up on two wheels and more. The tracks can be incredibly frustrating as they can rewarding. You’re encouraged to cause the “biggest scream” by going as fast as possible, but turn too fast and the entire car slams off the tracks, resulting in hilarious ragdoll physics. You have to lean left and right on these turns to keep it on the tracks. I wish it would have been more of a Tony Hawk-grind system versus what it is. The physics are in play, but for such an arcade-style game, I wish the car didn’t handle the way it did. Another obstacle is tracks where only one side is available, forcing you to balance on it. THESE are the leans that are handled well. Like I said, it’s frustrating as the game goes on, but super rewarding when you score a perfect run. The entire experience feels like an ice luge. You memorize every single turn wanting to nail that score. Think the Trials series.
The second mode is my favorite: Demolition Expert. This mode sets up enormous skylines. There’s skyscrapers, small buildings, bridges etc. You are given a giant spinning mechanical arm that holds capsules containing, you guessed it, strapped-in humans. You can adjust the speed from 1-9. Upon hitting A, time slows and you are shown a path to launch it. The idea is basically to level all the buildings using these human capsules.
There’s strategic explosives placed everywhere, and the perfect shot can level entire buildings. The demolition physics are unbelievable as buildings completely shatter in hundreds of pieces. Explosions can even cause pieces of building to rocket out and hit another building, even causing that one to completely cave in on itself. It never fails to be an amazing sight, and it’s incredibly satisfying every time. It’s worth noting there was minor FPS issues, but nothing that drastically affected the experience.
The last mode is Engineer Challenge. This mode lets you build your own ultimate ScreamRider coaster on the idea that you will meet given goals for the individual challenge. By doing the other two modes, you unlock all kinds of parts and variants, each usually more insane than the previous. It can be a little hard at first, but it’s easy to keep it simple at the beginning and learn the ropes.
You can test drive your own track at any time, giving you a lot of great feedback such as where riders became nauseous, or where your most extreme moments were. The most important marker is it will show where you’re most likely to derail, which is the most frustrating part of the game. It’s very reminiscent of the Rollercoaster Tycoon-building days of past, but ramped up for a modern age. Of course, your car will always derail on an unfinished track, causing hilarity every single time. It’s not exactly a bad thing.
You can then of course jump into a massive level editor and create any of the three modes to share online with others. It can be a bit hard to navigate all of your options, but after building your first coaster, you pick it up fairly quickly. I expect to see some incredibly complex and insane creations as the year goes on.
The unique Pixar-like art style is a great and humorous compliment to a world which is sadistic and terrifying (you are strapping humans into balls and launching them at buildings while you hear screams, after all). There is actually a lot of backstory you can listen to through PA announcements, and it sort of reminded me of Portal. I’d love to see the universe expanded on, and I’m incredibly excited to see what hardcore level builders will manage to create. The physics engine is insanely spectacular, the game modes are fun, and you’re never overwhelmed by any one thing. ScreamRide manages to keep you drawn in by focusing on the thrill of it all. Hold on tight.
ScreamRide provides an excellent, yet challenging gameplay experience in an incredibly unique world.
Unacceptable |Not Recommended | Acceptable| Recommended | Highly Recommended
ScreamRide was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable copy provided by Microsoft Studios.