Planet Coaster is a game that has been a long time coming on console. Though to be fair when this game initially released for PC back in 2016 I think most of us probably thought it would never release on console. So here we are four years after it originally released for PC, but has it been worth the wait? In short, yes and I’ll tell you why.
First of all what is Planet Coaster? Well firstly there are some subtle changes made to this version of the game for it to be accommodated on console, hence why it’s called Planet Coaster: Console Edition. Secondly it’s of the construction and management simulation genre and it’s developed by Frontier Developments.
I’ve only really had a brief experience with Frontier Developments, at least up until recently. My first experience with the studio was during their very early years and that was with the very first Rollercoaster Tycoon console port which was released for the original Xbox back in 2003. This was a very different game to what was on the PC, because the OG Xbox was way behind PC capabilities during that time. Nonetheless even though this version of Rollercoaster Tycoon could be considered a very basic version of the game, it was still a lot of fun, despite me running every theme park into bankruptcy.
Frontier Developments would venture into a number of games over the years both in and outside of the simulation genre. However it wouldn’t be until 2018 when I experienced a game from the team this time with another simulation game, Jurassic World: Evolution. It’s also worth noting that while this doesn’t carry the Rollercoaster Tycoon name, Planet Coaster is very much considered to be the spiritual successor of the classic theme park simulator.
Jurassic World is labelled as a “business simulation” whereas Planet Coaster is known as a “construction and management simulation”. Despite having a slight difference in genre, to the untrained eye it would be easy to mistake both games to be of the same genre and in the most part that can be considered the case. However as I quickly found out, there is much more to Planet Coaster: Console Edition to that of Jurassic World: Evolution.
Don’t get me wrong Jurassic World: Evolution is a fantastic game (as reflected in my review), but it’s far more streamlined compared to Planet Coaster, which is probably why Jurassic World: Evolution was able to make such a seamless transition to the Nintendo Switch. So with this in mind when I first started to play Planet Coaster: Console Edition I was very overwhelmed to the point that I thought I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the game. Thankfully however I stuck with it.
Upon starting Planet Coaster you are advised to play the tutorial and it’s quite an in-depth one as it probably took me about an hour to finish, but I’m glad that I did instead of jumping blindly into the game. The tutorial as you might expect teaches you all the basics, but not everything as you’ll still be picking up new mechanics and tricks when you start your proper campaigns.
However even when I had finished the tutorial I was still feeling overwhelmed as there was so much to learn. It got to the point that I nearly gave up as there was so much to process. After all I was more accustomed to the more streamlined Jurassic World: Evolution. But I couldn’t leave Planet Coaster at that, I couldn’t be someone that was beaten by the necessary complexity of this game which could have ultimately affected my review in a negative way.
So I stuck with Planet Coaster, I even went back into the tutorial to refresh my memory when I had been away from the game for a few days. Then a good week or so later after starting a campaign almost everything clicked and when that happened I started to see Planet Coaster in a different way. Sure I was still playing the game at a basic level, especially when compared to some of the more experienced players, but finally I felt like I could get somewhere with this game and when that happened my theme park started to take shape and I began to have some genuine fun.
Outside of the introductory and very necessary tutorial Planet Coaster: Console Edition has three main modes, Career, Challenge and Sandbox. Career mode might be considered to be the main mode of the three. Here you will not only run your own theme park, but you must beat set objectives and meet certain park requirements. Whether it’s meeting a set financial target, reaching a high level of customer satisfaction, constructing rides, maintaining staff morale, achieving park ratings and more. Career mode will throw various scenarios at you with the difficulty increasing as you progress.
In Challenge mode it pretty much does what it says on the tin. Similar to that of Sandbox mode, Challenge mode will begin with a clean slate, a huge plot of land to build your theme park and you will also have a choice of three difficulties, Easy, Medium or Hard. Depending on the difficulty you choose will of course impact the challenges you face. However regardless of the difficulty you will be restricted with limited finances and resources. Once the Challenge mode is completed you will then be rewarded with a park rating and a wad of cash depending on your performance.
Sandbox mode is where you’ll have the most fun in my opinion, though I’d always recommend playing the other two modes first so that you can get used to most things that Planet Coaster has to offer. As you might expect Sandbox mode lets you play Planet Coaster with no restrictions. You’ll have a big plot of land with all attractions unlocked and unlimited funds. If you really wanted to build and construct your very own dream theme park, Sandbox mode will quite literally give you all the toys to play with.
Speaking of toys to play with when you’re building your own park you will have the choice of many blueprints whether there are rollercoaster’s, Go-Karts, entrance ways, kiosks, scenery and more. Just about everything is here to help you build your ideal park. However you can also edit the blueprints to add your own twist. However you can also create just about everything you want to the extent that you can have a particular theme of your choosing. So if you wanted to take the time to create a Star Wars theme park, you can.
Your creations can also be uploaded to the workshop for others to download; likewise you can download other players’ creations and some of them are simply fantastic. Already I’ve seen and downloaded Pirates of the Caribbean ride and even an Imperial Walker from Star Wars. If I was to have one criticism with the workshop, it would be that it’s not cross-platform with the PC version, which would have unlocked a new tier of community creations. Hopefully that will change in the near future.
I can’t honestly compare Planet Coaster: Console Edition to the PC version, as I’ve never played it on PC. However I can at least acknowledge that most sim games are much easier to play and navigate with the keyboard and mouse. Yet I must give credit to the developers at Frontier because despite feeling like this is a game best played with a keyboard and mouse, they have made it very playable using a controller.
It might take a while to get used to the shortcuts, manoeuvring the camera or fine-tuning a bend of a rollercoaster using a controller, but considering the insane amount of depth that is involved in this game, it’s incredible to think that it was originally designed for keyboard and mouse. The developers have done a fantastic job allowing this game to be played using a controller and from what I hear, everything included in the PC version has made its way into the console port. All in all I may have found Planet Coaster: Console Edition to be quite daunting and overwhelming to begin with, to the point that I at one stage felt like giving up entirely. However after a few hours of persevering when I eventually clicked with this game my whole perspective changed.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t a watered down version of a PC port. Sure this game has been adjusted to be playable on console, but the fact that this is the full experience, it’s going to take a little bit of time and patience to get used to how the game works. However when you do click with this game (and you will), you’ll find it to not only be incredibly deep, but it’s also one of the most rewarding games I’ve played in recent times. As much as I love Jurassic World: Evolution, even on PS4 Pro Planet Coaster is the definitive theme park experience on console.
Finally for those that purchase Planet Coaster: Console Edition on PS4 or Xbox One, you will be gifted with a free next-gen upgrade when you make the jump to PS5 or Xbox Series X|S.