park beyond preview

Park Beyond Hands-On Preview – Above And Beyond

Not simply coasting along

Limbic Entertainment has quite a diverse back catalogue of developed games from role-playing to open-world survival, but its most recent project went deep into sim management territory with Tropico 6. Coming off the back of that, the studio says it wanted to be done with city-builders but also still leverage the skills gained there for the next big thing. That big thing is Park Beyond, and after getting my hands on the game for a second time, this time around with a slightly deeper build and more time to play, I’m confident this is going to be something special.

Park building and management games have been a quiet staple in the industry for as long as I can remember, going back to the days of Theme Park, Sim Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon right up to more modern interpretations like Planet Coaster. For all of the good things to come from those games though, Park Beyond instantly flags itself as a massive step up in scope and production values from what I’d normally expect of the genre.

Park Beyond Preview

While the game’s marketing will no doubt focus heavily on its unique twist of ‘Impossification’, which is transforming coasters, flatrides and even shops and staff into impossible versions of themselves for fun and profit, coming off the back of this preview I really believe the secret sauce is in how adaptable and customisable the game is as a whole.

THE CHEAPEST PRE-ORDER: $79 AT AMAZON WITH FREE SHIPPING

Straight off the bat the game’s tutorial sequence is a how-to on building rollercoasters that sees you construct a coaster that creeps out of an apartment window, through city streets and into a nearby theme park. It serves as a set-up to a thin narrative and introduces some characters along the way, but importantly it’s a primer on just how intuitive and malleable the coaster-building experience is. Park Beyond‘s intelligent snapping system means that chucking down sections of track is easy as pie, while being able to go back and scrap or improve prior sections is simple enough that I never felt like I needed to agonise over any initial placements.

Park Beyond Preview

With smart keyboard controls (that should hopefully translate quite well to a controller when the game hits consoles) that allow height, pitch and yaw to be adjusted on the fly, it’s great to be able to quickly snap together a giant ride that tunnels through mountainsides and shoots riders through cannons and then go back and really finesse it so that those riders don’t die in the process.

Following the basic coaster tutorial, I had the chance to dive into the game’s first two campaign missions which serve as further tutorials on both park management and that idea of “Impossifying” your rides and structures. The campaign is laid out in a really smart way that feeds into Park Beyond’s overall ethos of allowing players a degree of control over the game’s goal-setting from the big-picture to the nitty gritty.

Before you start a campaign mission you’ll find yourself in boardroom meetings with the game’s core cast of characters and asked to decide what your vision should be for the park you’re about to restore or build. The choices you make will change what the overall Milestones are for the park and what you’ll need to do to progress through the mission, which is a great way to keep things structured without making you feel like you can only build the way the mission designers wanted you to.

park beyond

That same personal touch comes through in a lot of the actual park management as well, with a great example being the optional Hooks that you can set when building a rollercoaster. These add small, achievable goals to your coaster build like making sure it reaches a certain height or including certain features, and in turn will augment the demographic appeal of your coaster. So if you want your park to appeal to mostly adults, for example, you can slot in Hooks that lean toward high thrills and often the literal threat of a flaming death and your ride’s appeal with adults will go up accordingly.

RELATED:  Hyper Light Breaker Hands-On Preview – Break On Through

As someone who usually finds the fun in these types of games to be making my park look great more than making sure it’s in any way profitable, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed diving into Park Beyond’s deeper menus to find insights into how my park was performing. The tutorialised first couple of missions do a great job of introducing you to the tools at hand, which helps, but the tools themselves are also wonderfully intuitive and genuinely useful. The stand-out is a heat map overlay that allows you to choose a focus, like fun factor, profitability or cleanliness among others, and then gives you a colour-coded view of your park that can help you quickly identify where things are working and where they’re not.

Park Beyond Preview

Of course it’s not just the operational side of things, the nitty-gritty of the finances and marketing jargon that I’m sure many will froth, but the aesthetics of your theme parks are wide open for personal interpretation. Not only can you cobble together entire structures from hundreds of building and environment pieces to build literal castles and the like, but even pre-fab facilities can have most of their bits and pieces customised for colour and even sound.

Then there’s the Impossification aspect, which is introduced in the second campaign mission and lets you really crank the dial on your flatrides, coasters and even shops to turn them into physics and logic-defying creations that do away with all sense of reason in the name of generating even bigger crowds (and profits). You can’t just go wild though, with visitors to your park prone to becoming too euphoric after the thrill of their lives, so proper balance and management is a must.

Park Beyond Preview

I said this in my last hands-on preview but Park Beyond is also surprisingly gorgeous in comparison to other park sims I’ve played, brimming with detail and fantastic lighting and effects. It’s especially cool to see how much effort has gone into cutscenes and dialogue sequences with great-looking character models and just as much impressive work done at eye level as it is in the usual birds-eye view (a massive benefit for when you decide to jump into a ride yourself).

My only real gripe last time around was a UI that’s a little rough-looking, and that doesn’t seem to be changing. The sketched-out motif to a lot of the menu boxes and icons makes some sense in the context, but it can be hard to read and a little cheap-feeling in comparison to similar games with a much more polished UI.

park beyond

While the game’s Sandbox mode, which strips away all the campaign progression stuff and simply lets you build the park of your dreams, is available in the preview build it’s not something I spent too much time with this time around. As someone that suffers greatly from choice paralysis when being faced with a big, blank canvas and a bajillion tools to play with I much prefer the game’s campaign structure so far with its pitch-perfect balance of player choice and goals to progression.

The best thing that Park Beyond can possibly do now is release, so that I can continue on with my domination of the theme park market. Luckily, it’s not far off with a release set for June 16th on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

Better still, a closed beta is kicking off from May 9th to May 19th on PC, and you can register right here for your chance to give it a go.