The great irony of the Xbox 360 is that one of its killer apps, Xbox Live Arcade, involves the least next-gen games around. Who would buy a next-gen system for old-school titles? Apparently a lot of people, as the Xbox Live Marketplace has already seen 24 million downloads of online content. Heck, even current-gen Xbox owners have a penchant for old-style games, modding their consoles to install MAME and other surprisingly basic titles.
What makes the upcoming game ThrillVille so unique, then, is that it’s bringing everything gamers love from the next-gen Xbox Live Arcade experience to current-gen Xbox and PS2 owners. Granted, ThrillVille’s online functionality is still being determined, but its simplistic gameplay and focus on fun is basically a clone of what Arcade users are clamoring for: simple games, a variety of experiences, and a title in which the graphics take a backseat to good old-fashioned gameplay.
ThrillVille is basically three games in one: a tycoon-style game, a theme park simulator and a midway/arcade-game compilation. The overall premise is to build your own theme park, complete with roller coasters, log-flume rides and carnival games. Like Zoo Tycoon 2 and other recent simulation games, though, ThrillVille then lets you walk through the park and interact with your guests, polling them on what’s working, what’s not and then altering your park accordingly. The third piece of the ThrillVille puzzle is park management, as the game lets you set overall admission prices, determine prices for each carnival game and conduct R&D on new amusement park trends that might benefit your park in the long run.
The coaster-building portion of ThrillVille will probably get most gamers’ immediate attention. With 25 different types of coaster and more than 300 different pieces and types of track, there’s really very little work involved in creating the ultimate coaster. Once the ride is complete, you can hop in the front row and take it for a test run, or you can edit the coaster on the fly if you find that one twist, turn or corkscrew doesn’t have quite enough oomph.
In terms of overall depth, though, the carnival games offer the most bang for your ThrillVille buck. Who hasn’t been to an amusement park and plunked a few quarters into the lightgun shooting range, banged around in the bumper cars or played a few rounds of miniature golf? Well, ThrillVille lets you include those games in your own park as well, and just like the roller-coaster parts, you can actually take them for a spin.
So, if you create a custom putt-putt course for your guests, it’s completely free for you to hit the miniature links yourself. Or if you create your own bumper car arena or go-kart track, you’re completely welcome to hop in the vehicle and take a ride. You can even design your own shooting range and play through it like a first-person shooter, or install an arcade with a game called “Luftwaffe” and play the top-down 1942 clone to your heart’s content. That’s right: all those Live Arcade and MAME-style titles that next-gen gamers are willing to pay for are included in ThrillVille, and they’re available for split-screen multiplayer parties from the very minute you load the game. Creating your own courses and tracks simply adds to the fun.
Although LucasArts is still trying to iron out the game’s online logistics, the company plans to let players trade their tracks and games with friends, presumably via Xbox Live and the PS2’s online service. Considering the popularity of map editors and sharing maps online, there’s little doubt this will be a popular feature if LucasArts can pull it off.
ThrillVille still looks rough around the edges, even for a game where gameplay is the developers’ primary focus, but there’s still time for LucasArts to polish things up and smooth things out. With 150 single-player missions, from persuading an acrophobic guest to ride a rip-roaring coaster to achieving certain admission milestones, ThrillVille has a lot to offer, but even with all that “stuff,” it would still be nice to see a bit more attention to the graphics. From a pure gameplay standpoint, the game looked ready to go at E3, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it again. Next time we do get our hands on it, though, we just hope it’ll look a bit more finessed graphically.
— Jonas Allen