Planet Coaster Makes a Smooth Transition to Consoles In Hands-On Preview
Planet Coaster is coming to consoles this holiday, and I got a hands-on demo of the upcoming PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X port.
Recently, I had the chance to go hands-on with Frontier Game’s upcoming console port of the popular theme park creator, Planet Coaster. So how well has this previously PC exclusive franchise faired making the jump to consoles?
As a child born in the late 80s, one of my favorite PC games was Roller Coaster Tycoon. A product born out of the popularity of other simulation-lite titles, such as Sim City, and the fun and wonder of theme parks. I have fond memories of playing it on my home computer, and it was always a big deal on days in middle school when we got to go to the computer lab and play Roller Coaster Tycoon. Supposedly it was to teach us a lesson or something. I hadn’t had any previous experience playing Planet Coaster before, so when I dove into the new console version for the first time, I was immediately flooded by sweet, sweet nostalgia.
For those unfamiliar, released initially towards the end of 2016, Planet Coaster puts you in the shoes of a theme park tycoon, tasked with creating the best roller coaster park the world has ever seen. Carefully balancing pricing with attractions, staff, and beautiful scenery to attract the most guests you can while netting you as high of profits you can in the process. Visually speaking, even though I was playing over the remote-in client Parsec for the demo, it was still easy to see that the visuals have a stylized look mixed with realistic-looking environments, creating a dream-like experience. A substantial upgrade from the old games I played in my youth.
Having no experience with the PC version of Planet Coaster, I went in without any muscle memory that could distort or throw me off as I learned and got used to the controls on the Xbox One controller I used to play. Moving around the park was relegated to the left joystick while rotating the camera left to the right. It was a reasonably standard mapping and was easy to pick up as much of the game is menu-based, from checking your rides, placing new rides and attending to the visitors, with swapping tabs quickly done via the left and right bumpers, with zooming in and out left to the triggers. It was a comfortable experience, and while I know I could have done somethings probably faster with a mouse and keyboard, I never felt myself fighting with the controls.
The user interface has been redone with this new port, streamlining the look and making it more console-friendly. Various radial menus have been added to help facilitate quickly accessing features and menus, in as few button presses as possibles. These new menus combine with the tutorial mode made learning the experience painless and quick to pick up.
During the demo, I was able to talk a bit with the developers behind this upcoming port about what players can expect this holiday with the release. Planet Coaster will be coming to both the current generation of systems as well as this falls PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. However, the developers were shy and not ready to say what performance they were aiming for, especially with the next-gen platforms.
One aspect they were clear to point out those, was whether or not the fan-created content (where you can design your rides, park decor, etc.) would be shareable between platforms. Unfortunately, PC, PlayStation, and Xbox players will all exist in their separate ecosystems, only being able to share creations amongst themselves. The console versions will be able to share between generations (PS4 with PS5, Xbox One with Series X), but there would be no cross-pollination. Creators on Microsoft’s systems won’t be getting anything from PC players or Sony players.
As much of a bummer as this fact is, it isn’t all that surprising. We have undoubtedly come a long way in the current generation to propagate and grow the notion of cross-platform unity, but this example shows that we still have hurdles to climb. Frontier gave the reasoning that it was to allow each group of players to grow and develop on their own, much like the PC players did. This sounds more like PR speak to me, but with no firm information on a reason, all we know are the developer’s reasons.
Coming away from the demo, I was excited to play more of Planet Coaster. It reignited my urge to explore the genre and reminded me of just how much I loved building theme parks.
Planet Coaster will be available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X this Holiday, but if you don’t want to wait, you can currently snag Planet Coaster on PC right now via Steam.