#69 Theme Park

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  • Original release year: 1994
  • Consoles: Dos, Amiga, 3DO, Genesis/Mega Drive, Saturn, Sega CD/Mega CD, Amiga 32CD, Mac OS, Atari Jaguar, FM Towns, PS1, SNES (later: iOS, Nintendo DS)

I’m not 100% sure, but I think there is a chance that Theme Park has been released for every console ever. Just look at that list above! Is there anyone left in the world who hasn’t experienced this wonderful, creative Simulation game? Anyone? If you haven’t played Theme Park, you need to find/download a copy right now.

This is one of those games that stands out for me in my childhood. When I was a young child, my parents tried to buy me video games that would encourage me to think and use strategy. They didn’t want to just buy me mindless beat-em-ups or shoot-em-ups, that may “encourage violence”. In retrospect, I think that was fair enough. I mean, they really did try to get me good, enjoyable games. It wasn’t like they were buying my Biblical/Religious propaganda masquerading as video games, or dull, crappy ‘edutainment’ games, or even soulless, cutesy cash-in licenced platformers. They tried to get me fun games that would also encourage me to use my brain (don’t get me wrong, they would still allow me to have some mindless games too). Many of these games appealed not only to me and my brother, but also my father and, to a lesser extent, my mother. So it allowed us to bond as a family.

What I’m trying to set up for you, is just how Theme Park fitted in my life and how it influenced the games I grew to love. It was, to my knowledge, the first Simulation/Strategy game I ever played and what is a more prospect for a young child, than having the chance to design your own Theme Park? That is exactly what this game allows and the user interface and gameplay is all simple and intuitive enough for a young person to get into, but deep enough for gamers of different ages to enjoy.

Make sure you hire plenty of mechanics to fix the rides when they break down.
Make sure you hire plenty of mechanics to fix the rides when they break down.

The concept is really simple. You begin the game with a free plot of land in the UK and start with a bit of money to get you started. From there, you develop and build your theme park however you want, but with the aim being, obviously, to try and make your park as profitable as possible. You can spend money on everything from shops, to building rides, to hiring staff, to building facilities and scenery.  You’ll earn money by people entering your park, buying refreshments and merchandise. Eventually, you want to grow your park well enough so that you are in a position where your park can be sold and a new lot can be bought from another part of the world in order to start building a newer, even bigger theme park. As you do better, newer products can be bought after researching them (I think if you play on easy, you don’t have to worry about the R&D side of things).

Theme Park is so much fun. You can literally design the park anyway you want and it’s really exciting unlocking new attractions to use in your park. I recently played it on the Sega Saturn and personally, I think it’s still a ton of fun even today. If I had to recommend a version, I’d suggest trying to get a version running on the PC if you can. Otherwise, I imagine any of the console versions should suffice. If you’re interested in playing it on the go, I haven’t played the Nintendo DS version, personally, so can’t comment on that one, but I’d recommend avoiding the iOS game. It’s apparently a crappy ‘freemium’ version of the game that requires spending a crap-load of money on ‘in app purchases’ in order to get anything close to the experience of the original. In other words, it’s bordering on being a complete scam.

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