One of my all time favourite games as a kid was Theme Park on PlayStation One. It was my first introduction to the ‘Tycoon’ style of games, but added humour and a more light hearted take on the genre.
Theme Park, developed by BullFrog was a game that involved building a Theme Park, it was fairly simple and involved completing various missions or targets set to you buy a zany looking Willy-Wonka look-a-like who was always around to offer advice. The game simple concept wasn’t over complicated by it’s introduction of sales forecasts and loans, this game really was all about fun. It threw out the seriousness that games like Rollercoaster Tycoon offered and replaced it with comedy. It’s one of the best games that I used to play as a kid and remains in my top 10 of games I’d like to have a re-make of.
Players always began with an empty plot of land that they received after choosing where they’d like to have their theme park built. This was always very limited at the beginning as each countries plots cost a little more. First you begin in the United Kingdom and are required to build a rather crappy bouncy castle, and ice cream shop, and a few other rather drab amusements. The missions usually involved creating enough profit from ticket sales, merchandise, and food stands to that you can sell your park and buy a plot of land elsewhere and start all over again.
Throughout the game you begin to earn more money a lot quicker and unlock new rides, food stands, and merch stands such as balloons – though this often required research which took time and money. You’re also required to maintain your park by hiring staff which help repair broken rides, or clean up sick that’s often left by some awkward little brat that didn’t want to go into the toilet only a few steps away. Probably the best part of the game was if something didn’t get repaired in a timely manner the ride would usually explode with the little theme park characters flying into the air and ending up in random parts of the park.
Occasionally you’d be required to negotiate with staff over their wages which if done incorrectly often resulted in the staff members in question picketing outside the front gates, though as humorous as it was, it often resulted in the park going down the shitter and essentially failing the game.
Theme Park was primarily 2D with the occasional ride having the option to play a cutscene as if you were riding on the actual ride. I can’t remember too much if the ride was the one you created yourself or just a generic cutscene, but I loved it either way. BullFrog did attempt to re-boot the Theme Park game and bring it into more modern times with a more 3D appearance with Theme Park World but it was ultimately a flop in my eyes.
The original Theme Park maintained a sort of PC game on a console platform with navigation and selections primarily done by using the finger pointer, though this occasionally made controlling the game a little awkward without the use of a mouse, it didn’t hinder the games overall experience.
In 1995 EA, the publisher of many of BullFrog’s games acquired the studio and subsequently closed it in 2004 and merged it with EA UK. Since then EA have released Theme Park for mobile devices purely under the freemium model where you’re required to use real money in order to complete various missions. Personally I think this completely ruins the Theme Park I have grew so fond of, but hey..