And so Theme Park DS will forever be known as the first and last game to be developed by EA Japan – a studio that’s had a muddling existence since being set up almost three years ago. Anyway, developed is not quite the right word to use here: this is actually an enhancement of the PC original. Good on them for not taking the lazy route and using the shrunken Mega Drive / SNES versions as source material. You can always count on the Japanese to do things properly.
Theme Park needs no introduction – it was even released on the Atari Jaguar, such was its popularity upon release. Certainly it has been superseded by the likes of Thrillville with its playable mini-games and the insanely detailed Rollercoaster Tycoon, but there’s still bags of charm and despite the improvements made by copycats the goal is always the same: build a theme park, mop up vomit and rake in the cash.
The presentation has received the biggest overhaul. You can now choose from four advisers, each of whom constantly nag you to raise or lower ticket prices and such. Thankfully you can change adviser when opening a new park, so you’re not stuck with the same dullard all the way through.
The touch screen controls work quite well – to select an item from the construction menu you can either draw a ring around it or draw a small tick on the icon – although when creating paving you need a steady hand or you’ll end up with wiggly lines everywhere.
At the start only basic rides, shops and attractions are available. If you’re playing on the stress-free sandbox mode then new additions are unlocked sporadically, but if playing the sim mode you can put money into different areas of research and get the good stuff earlier. There’s also a full mode that puts you in charge of everything, right down to having to order more burgers and ice cream, and partaking in handshaking mini-games that affect staff pay.
As we said: it’s years old, but it still plays the part. The not-very-detailed customers could have done with a spruce up, but they’re impressive in number, and watching them go about their business while providing feedback via thought bubbles is always mesmerising. There’s barely a dull moment, really: thugs need to be chucked out, toilets cleaned, old rides replaced before they blow, and new staff hired and routed. You can even change the amount of ice in the coke and alter the chance of winning on the hook-a-duck stall. Like a thieving gypsy.