Screamride – Review
I can only imagine the conversations in the Frontier Developments office when they were mapping out Screamride. They must have certainly been interesting because the final product is one of the most eclectic games I have ever come across. It mixes 3 very different game styles into one package all based around the premise that people like rollercoasters but perhaps they like crashing rollercoasters even more. I have to say that despite this mix of gameplay and strange ideas, Frontier has created one of the most unique and appealing system exclusives in a long while.
When I first saw the Screamride trailer I thought it would be another theme park simulator, after all it was being developed by the folks behind Zoo and Rollercoaster tycoon, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Granted there are some small elements of Rollercoaster tycoon in the game but it is much more about speed and destruction than the careful management of budgets, mechanics and wait lines. There are 3 distinct modes in Screamride and I think that it is perhaps best if I give you a bit more detail about each.
The first mode is the designer mode. This mode is perhaps the closest thing to a traditional rollercoaster game. I had to design thrill inducing rollercoasters that met a certain set of goals. Some of those goals included height, g-forces endured, air time, drop and many more. Once I had completed the coaster I could then view the results as passengers were flung out because I made a turn too tight or the coaster didn’t have enough speed through a corkscrew. I had the least fun with this mode but that is not because it is bad but because designing levels has never been my thing. The tools all work well and even if I might have wished for a mouse on occasion the controller handles it all with ease. I can see folk who get a kick out of designing levels in things like Trials or Little Big Planet spending a massive amount of time in this area of the game.
The second mode is Destruction mode. This can best be described as a 3D Angry Birds crossed with crash mode from Burnout. My goal was to fling a coaster carriage into buildings, through loops or onto trampolines with the goal of creating destruction on an epic scale. It sounds simple but there is a touch of subtlety here that belies the premise. Power of the throw, the use of after touch, the different types of cabins and the location of explosives within the levels all needed to be taken into account when planning a launch. I kept coming back to this mode time and time again and just like the aforementioned crash mode from Burnout it was a great impromptu party game with people trying to outdo each other’s destructive high score.
The final mode (and for my money the best) is Rider mode. This saw me taking control of a rollercoaster and guiding it through a harrowing course of twists and turns. I had to manage speed, boosts, turning and timing as I also tried to rack up a high score by riding on two wheels or performing gravity defying loops and jumps. It was nail biting stuff and it shares a lot of similarities with Trials or OlliOlli. It was relatively easy to complete the level but to get that perfect run, well that is where the challenge was for me. I found myself reverting to old Trials behaviours with a missed turn or a poor start earning an instant level restart. The levels in this mode were varied and entertaining making my time screaming round hair pin turns an absolute blast.
Finally there was a sandbox mode I could play with, using any one of the above gameplay styles. I could compete on tracks of my own design or download the best community created ones from Xbox Live. Even though the game is still very young there are some amazing levels available to download and I recommend that any Screamriders out there jump on and check them out. In a lot of cases the user made levels are even better than the high quality tracks the developers made.
Perhaps the biggest issue I have with Screamride is the camera. Through most of the game, especially in Destructive and Designer modes, I felt I was fighting with the camera to give me the best angle to view proceedings. It was the most frustrating element of an otherwise hugely entertaining game and one I hope gets fixed in future updates. It wasn’t enough to stop me playing but it was certainly enough to make me swear a few times.
But in all, my time with Screamrider was super positive. The three distinct modes make it a unique beast on the gaming landscape that will appeal to a wide range of gamers. It may not have the best graphics and the humour sometimes misses the mark but it is the best combination Destruction/Racer/Rollercoaster designer that money can buy bar none and I heartily recommend that you check it out. It may be the exact type of game you are looking for even if you don’t know it yet.