Review - ScreamRide

If you've ever thought to yourself while at an amusement park that you could make a bigger, better roller coaster, the thought probably ended there. It's not very likely you went out and pursued a degree in engineering and actually designed one. Maybe you grabbed a game like RollerCoaster Tycoon and tried your luck there. If even that game seems like too much of engineering feat, then maybe ScreamRide is the game for you.

ScreamRide is developed by Frontier Developments and published by Microsoft Studios.

The premise behind ScreamRide is pretty simple: users can build extreme roller coaster rides and environments from the ground-up that then require the player to pilot their riders through the tracks with skill. ScreamRide isn't so much a builder game like Roller Coaster Tycoon as it is more of an adventure game. Sure, there are elements of laying out a track for riders to enjoy, but that's really more of a background activity. Sharing these tracks over Xbox Live allows players to send and receive challenges from friends, as well as encourage competition at the top of the leaderboards. Players can specialize in a single role—Engineer, Scream Rider or Demolition Expert—or gain mastery over all three. The real meat of the game is in traversing the attractions that comprise the entirety of the ScreamRide experience.

There are three main modes in ScreamRide: Engineer, Ride and Destroy. In the Engineering mode, players can utilize hundreds of components, ride pieces and modular scenery to create roller coasters, amusements and environments. This is where the "build" aspect of the game plays the strongest, as the player must contend with resource allotments and a few parameters that may impact their building. One of the biggest limiters--gravity--isn't really a factor though. If you're content to build a roller coaster that goest straight up and really ends nowhere, you can do that. Whether or not your riders will enjoy it or you'll be able to build up enough speed beforehand is entirely up to the remainder of the track design. The actual process of designing a track is pretty simple as well, with the player able to move pieces around via a clean interface with little hesitation.

The two other modes of Scream Rider and Demolition Expert are where players will likely get the most enjoyment from ScreamRide. In Scream Riders, players must pilot a car full of coasters through the increasingly harrowing hairpin turns and corkscrew spins. Points are earned through a variety of factors, including speed, two-wheel bonuses and not throwing the riders from the car. Leaning into corners, managing speed and manipulating turbo are required in order to meet level objectives. It's not just a matter of building the rails and setting the cart loose; instead, players have to run a track repeatedly to find the best approach.

In Demolition Expert, the game takes on an Angry Birds feel, as the player is tasked with launching a giant ball filled with riders (referred to as a Cabin) through the air and into inanimate objects to destroy them. There is some control once the ball is launched, but generally physics takes over once the Cabin is hurtling through the air and the goal is to wreck as much in the way of property as possible. There are multiple Cabin types too, ranging from a simple ball type that rolls to a bouncing variant that will bounce around a few times. The name of the game in Demolition Expert is to destroy as much as possible and, strangely, it's quite satisfying when you launch a ball to take out a blimp and that's a level objective.

Part of the appeal in the Scream Rider and Demolition Expert modes is the goal-based orientation of those modes. For instance, a player working through a Scream Rider level is tasked with objectives such as completing a track within a certain time and/or completing the track on two-wheels for some duration. These are goals that you would often associate with racing games and they make sense in ScreamRide. Some of the goals seem a little onerous on the player. One of the first Scream Ride levels requires the player to complete the level under a certain time; a time which seemed a little preposterous. Eventually, the time was achieved, but the other optional objectives were not, which means that players will definitely be playing levels multiple times if they wish to achieve all the objectives.

Player career ranks and future levels also hinge on those objectives being completed, which could lead to some frustration on the part of some players. It's not because of the goal-based nature of the levels; rather, it's because some of those goals are a little too difficult to complete. There's a certain appeal to the try and fail aspect of a game, but that patience only lasts so long before it turns into frustration. It's not to say the objectives are impossible. There just seems to be something of an imbalance between the task and require parameters to achieve that task. Admittedly, the first few stages felt a little boring in some ways. As you progress further and see more of the intricate objectives unfold, it does add a layer of complexity to the game that gives it replay value, despite some of difficulty found in achieving those objectives.

There are moments where ScreamRide feels pretty enjoyable. ScreamRide starts off a little slow as you're trying to figure out what exactly is going on, but once you do the enjoyment ramps up quite a bit. Aspiring builders will probably not find any park management roles in the Engineer mode to scratch any SimCity related itches, but there's more than a robust enough selection of track components to create sophisticated tracks and share them to challenge friends. Both the ScreamRide and Demolition Expert modes add an arcade feel to the game, fitting perfectly in line with the family-friendly atmosphere Frontier Developments cultivates in ScreamRide. If you're looking for an intricate track-building setting that boasts extremely impressive destruction physics with a somewhat lighthearted and humorous touch (think Kinect Adventures), then ScreamRide will definitely be something worth checking out.

ScreamRide is available on both Xbox One ($39.99) and Xbox 360 ($29.99) with an ESRB rating of 10+. It's available in North and South America now, Asia on March 5 and Europe March 6.