Planet Coaster is surprisingly accomplished for an alpha, then, although there are a few cracks beneath the surface. The menus for park items are indistinct and difficult to navigate, and you can’t resize vanity items like signs to better fit a wall you’ve constructed. And, while there are ride and cinematic cameras that allow you to see how much guests are enjoying themselves, there isn’t a way to follow guests around the park. A third-person view is coming, but first-person isn’t currently planned.
Most disappointing, however, is that custom roller coasters aren’t in the alpha—or at least they weren’t when I played it. Arguably the best part of RollerCoaster Tycoon was building obscene roller coasters and seeing how many Gs you could subject guests to before they threw up the $10 burger they’d bought just a few moments earlier.
Worse for Frontier is that there are curves. Lots of curves. Creating a path-finding algorithm on a grid is already complex, but players can create curves at near any angle they like, simply by dragging a slider control. Paths can go up and down too, allowing for theme parks to be constructed like shopping malls across multiple levels. There are no pre-built buildings either—flat rides and their entrances and exits excluded—with a powerful yet simple building tool allowing players to create buildings piece-by-piece, adding facilities and other paraphernalia like lights and signs to encourage visitors toward certain rides.
There are the other aspects of the park to manage, like the staff that need training and paying and being given the right shifts to avoid being overworked. Or the rides that need to be placed in just the right places, and priced at just the right level in order to attract customers. And yet, despite all this depth, Planet Coaster is pleasingly accessible. Despite having not played a theme park simulation game since 2002’s RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, I picked up Planet Coaster with ease. Paths are laid down with a simple click, and dragged out to make them longer. Misplaced items are erased with a right click. Buildings are just as easy to construct.
After just a few minutes building I’d made a passable theme park, complete with a few rides, a concession stand, and some conveniently placed toilets. I even constructed a wall with a bright neon sign pointing towards my freshly built “Star Wheel” ride.