Theme Park Retrospective (Mac and PC)

By BlueZeroBlueZero
05 Oct 2015 03:57


Travel back to the year 1994. The video game and entertainment world is gearing up for the future of 3D games. I had gotten into gaming on my family’s Macintosh computer and simulation games are taking the world by storm. The extremely addicting Roller Coaster Tycoon is 5 years away and before that game consumed my life, Theme Park from Bullfrog Productions was my first theme park sim:

A super bored kid in the UK summons the Theme Park Advisor who abducts the family and teleports them into the theme park world. Do you have what it takes to build and run the world’s theme parks?


Imagine watching the intro video with the understanding that Toy Story was at least a year away. Yes, this intro CG was impressive for the time. Oh and voice acting in the intro CG was also rare for the time.



The gameplay consists of building walkways, rides, stores and park decorations to build your park. You start by building simple rides like the bouncy castle (which always likes to explode) and the spinning tea cups.
You’ll want to hire staff entertainers to keep them happy, mechanics t o repair the rides and handmen to clean the paths. Security guards are less important and are really only necessary when the local gang rides up on motorcycles (vroom vrooooom) to harass park guests, beat up entertainers and actually make rides explode (!).

Pro-tip: set the Handyman patrol route. Build put food/drink stalls in only one section of your park and use one-way roads so trash doesn’t spread all throughout your park.

Building a Better Ride
Once you’ve invested in your R&D (hopefully in new rides or shops), you can build the much more exciting roller coasters and water tubing rides. For these, you lay out the track and connect it to the starting entrance. If you are like me, these are the rides to extend throughout your park and make them super long and super exciting.


Making Money
You have to content with keeping your guests happy while you extort as much cash from them as you can. My first goal was to build a coffee shop at the front entrance, crank up the caffeine level so the guests would run through the park, spending money even faster. The “test of skill” shops are also easy to set the chance of winning very low and set a high prize value to lure in costumers. You know, just how it’s done at the carnivals.

Like all real theme parks, you will want to force guests to walk past all the stores, shops and money making attractions to get to the rides. If any guest is leaving with money in their pocket, you are doing it wrong. Add one way roads so you control the flow of guest traffic .

Decorating Your Park:
What’s smellier: the Outhouse or the smell of the Strong man?

There is no right answer. For me, it was a fun milestone to research the park improvements and unlock the Super-Toilet. The Spooky tree was also my favorite because it looks so out of place in the game with only two Halloween themed rides.

Decorations improve guest happiness and factor into your overall theme park ranking. Compared with researching rides and shops, it’s usually my third level research goal.


“Full Sim” Difficulty:
At the Full Sim level, you have to negotiate staff wages, contend with company share prices and deal with the store warehouse inventory. If you fail to negotiate with your staff, they go on strike in front of your park. Pro-tip: worry about the mechanics, so pick one up and place him back inside the park and he will go back to work for a while.
Growing up, I didn’t understand the company stock aspect. As an adult, the screen is still confusing and it’s not apparent how much dividend you will get from rival companies.

Shop and store inventory must be replenished with your warehouse inventory. For me as a kid, the warehouse store inventory actually got overwhelming with my park had so many stores and my inventory would be instantly depleted. I literally would have to play the entire game in this mode and click new shipments every few seconds. I guess I never upgraded my warehouse space!

Mac Game Bug?:
The way the game is programmed, after so many years of in-game time, you park visitors will always plummet down to zero. This seemed to be independent of happiness level, ticket prices and the quality of the park. I could make the ticket prices free and no one would show up. There’s nothing so baffling as having an decked out park and there is no one arriving on a Titanic sized bus.

Playing Theme Park on PC for this review, I didn’t run into the park guest bug. Changing the park admission price did impact guest attendance but it was possible to reduce prices and see the attendance increase again. Is this something that only affects the Mac version?

DS Version
The DS version was developed by EA and was released in 2007. The game added new advisors like a young girl, business woman and young man. As expected, there was touch screen controls that made it easy to jump through the many menus. The classic formula hasn’t changed and there are minor graphical updates for the DS platform.

Wrap Up:
Theme Park is still a lot of fun to play today for someone who grew up playing it. If this were your first time playing, prepare yourself for certain archaic designs like no camera rotation and limited ride customization. So check it out and see if it grows on you.

Images captured on PC using DOS Box

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