We'll admit, checking out the brochure beforehand, Thrillville wasn't winning any awards for ride of the century. Even with the knowledge that development was spearheaded by David Braben (creator of the free-roaming space epic Elite), we were still looking at the game as a cheap Theme Park rip off. But, after spending a few hours running around the parks and trying the amusements on offer, we unearthed a nostalgic night out, reminiscent of the tacky fun fairs of old.
That's right; fun fairs. Off The Rails lacks the essential spit and polish to put it on a par with the fireworks of Disneyworld or the insanity of Thorpe Park - or to reach the heights of our gold award - but embrace the game as the emulation of those cheap but fun amusement parks of old and you'll find there's much to like.
The game's park-editing functions take a back seat to the wealth of mini-games on offer. Nintendo's premier console has been the victim of many identikit titles trying to cobble together a series of mini-games and sell them as a complete package but Off The Rails successfully sells its veritable family feast of delights due to the central subject matter. The mini-games are a valid extension of the rides on offer in the park. Although with such a huge variety (50 games are on offer) comes a price: quantity winning out over quality.
For the most part, they're broken down into four easily digestible genres: 2D shooter, racing, rhythm action and first person shooter. The template for each is strictly regimented, meaning that apart from the odd graphical tweak, you'll be over-familiar with the back catalogue once you've played one game in each genre.
More Oh Than Woah
You'll notice a few 'artistic interpretations' of arcade classics (Bubble Bobble and Gauntlet immediately spring to mind) that do a good job of retaining the flavour of the originals but the main problem is with the fluctuating difficulty levels. Too few are perfectly balanced, with most swinging indiscriminately between walk-over easy and frustratingly difficult. We remember pumping too many coins into arcade booths to try and get past the first level back in the day but imitation here isn't flattering. It's just irritating.
Both the park-editor and park management systems fall short of their full potential because the game's tilted towards the younger audience. While the game captures one important facet of the scenario (playing on the rides), it fumbles these other two elements.
Between rides you'll be wandering around, accessing the park's reputation among the milling crowds. While the third-person perspective gives you a better understanding of the visitors' perceptions, the lack of a proper overhead map lessens the impact of seeing the changes you've brought to the park. Having the park already up and running when you start might allow players the ability to jump straight onto rides and wander round, but it means anything you do feels like a tidying job rather than a completely original creation and you'll never feel the park is teetering on the brink of chaos.
So Thrillville sits uncomfortably between the three. It's too simplistic to be a proper management sim but what it does have might be too complicated for a younger audience to enjoy on their own. MySims has proven that a series can strike the right balance between the two. As it stands, the admission price for Off The Rails doesn't quite cover the potential of the experience on offer.