Frontier Developments and Microsoft Studios have brought us Screamride in hopes of exciting Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners with a new roller coaster building simulator. It’s too bad that the majority of the game is a bore and severely lacking in fresh or exciting content.
Screamride takes place in a future where a company called Screamworks is trying to raise the bar in amusement rides and entertainment. You play as a new, unnamed Screamworks employee who is tasked with showing off your skills as a roller coaster builder (or destroyer). This setting, although it may sound interesting, causes one of the largest issues with the game. The “futuristic” look makes the settings seem dull and lacking in personality. Capitalizing on colorful backdrops, characters, and environments would have made the game more exciting even with the lacking gameplay.
The game does technically look nice enough. The textures are well done, and the water effect is very good, and I will admit that the first few times I watched a building crumble in real time was very enjoyable. The camera work is also (usually) fantastic, in all but one instance which I will explain later. I noticed some frame rate issues, but the game’s main issue graphically is the drab art direction. The game’s music consists of very forgettable, generic electronic tunes, but at least the sound design is decent enough. Cutscenes repeat often and are very rarely entertaining. You’ll find yourself mashing on the A button every time they show up, and they sadly show up way too often (before and after every single minigame). The extent of the humor presented is basically: “Ha! Look! Someone hurt themselves after falling off of an object!” The developers made a bad decision by making the characters an uncanny mix of realistic and cartoony. They really should have went for one or the other; it could have made the cutscenes much more entertaining. The characters were incredibly obnoxious and were usually having a lot more fun than I was. Every time one of the riders would yell at the camera with a horrid wide-angle lens, I wanted to punch something. The riders, along with the absolutely lifeless robotic narrotor, make the atmosphere and world a complete failure.
The main campaign is made up of 3 different minigames: ScreamRider, Demolition Expert, and Engineer. ScreamRider gives you control over the roller coaster cart itself while it blasts though one of the game’s pre-made courses. Although the first few times playing this mode were legitimately exhilarating, mainly because of the great camera and blur effects, it became tiresome quickly. The gameplay mainly consists of tilting and braking your cart at the correct time, along with some timed button presses. Although the mode does add a few more obstacles throughout the campaign, it never feels like anything more than a minigame to play a few times before growing tired of it.
Demolition Expert is essentially Angry Birds in 3D. You are given a launcher with several balls to throw towards structures like buildings, and the goal is to knock down as much of the stage as possible. Once again, this mode is decent fun for the first few times, but it quickly grows stale. Sadly, even less is added in later stages in this mode than in ScreamRider, so the monotony sets in even faster. The destruction is well animated, but it’s simply not enough to keep players invested through a 50+ level campaign.
The last minigame is Engineer, and it is easily the most aggravating one of them all. This mode gives the player a section of a pre-made stage, then asks you to finish the course using the game’s coaster creator. It’s very much a puzzle type of mode because you have to follow the stage’s specific goals before your coaster is considered a success. The mode is decent enough in and of itself, but what almost kills it is the awful controls. You are given very little control over the camera which makes it very difficult to see where you need to place your next pieces. Also, placing pieces in the direction you want can be a pain because the analog stick is configured in such a strange way. It feels as if the game is constantly fighting against you, preferring to force you into a certain choice instead of easily giving you free reign.
One of the game’s saving graces for some might be the sandbox coaster creator. Although it does have the control issues that I mentioned before, it is not bad for a rollar coaster building simulator. Sadly, all you can do with your created courses is play ScreamRider on them… again… and again. There’s no amusement park simulator, managing, or anything else to make the gameplay at least have the illusion of being more substantial. Thankfully, in the Xbox One version, you can share your levels with friends and download ones made by other players. That’s always a welcome feature.
Screamride is not terrible, but it is very flawed and feels rather lacking in all areas. It does have bouts of fun within the first hour or two of play, but 3 minigames and a fairly limited creation mode simply do not cut it for the price tag of $40. With how lacking in varied content this game is, it really should have been $15 at most. Ori and the Blind Forest (also from Microsoft Studios), which I reviewed earlier, is half the price, a masterpiece in game design, and feels more varied even though the campaign is about the same length as Screamride’s. With how disconnected the 3 minigames are and how lazily put together the campaign is, it feels as is if Frontier Developments didn’t have a solid vision for this title. I recommend waiting for a sale on this one. Screamride simply doesn’t reflect the fun of a real roller coaster or amusement park well enough.