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Thrillville: Off The Rails

Kids will love this theme park management sim, adults will love making coasters crash

Following in the hallowed footsteps of Theme Park, Thrillville was a rollercoaster management game that somehow made the transition to the consoles, so this sequel has good heritage. As far as gameplay goes, you simply build the biggest, bestest coasters then ride them!

Mark Montoya and Toby Mast of LucasArts take us through the title. "This is a kids' game," explains Montoya. "It's about kickass coasters, mini-games and socialising with your guests." Players can start making coasters almost immediately, and the game currently loads really quickly. First, though, you have to create an avatar from a large range of cutesy types that can all be customised to suit your desires; Mast goes for a nubile young lady so he has something nice to look at while he's playing.

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You need to maintain an income to keep building your coasters, which means you need to keep your customers happy. But how do you know what they want? Well, you ask them - they'll tell you exactly what they want if you just walk up to them, whether that's more bathrooms or better coasters. Each customer is an individual, so they'll show different preferences for rides and say different things. However, this is a kid's game and hence not particularly challenging, so you don't have to talk to them if you don't want to.

There'll be 15 theme parks in the game, ranging from a traditional carnival to the monster trucks of Stuntsville. Each theme park has its own, er, theme, and the game changes the scenery nicely to match this. When you put down a ride, mini-game or stall, the camera zooms out so you can see what you're up to, and ghosts out a shape of the item so you can choose where to place it. You can customise each item's appearance or set them up to automatically match the theme of each park.

Then you can start putting down coasters! Here you can choose what sort of ride you're going to make, then start laying down a track. The game gives you help, telling you where the track is going and what effect this is going to have on the passengers. If you make an unfinished track the coaster will crash, though the people will all parachute down to safety - this is a kids' game after all. You can also share tracks with friends over Xbox Live.

'WHOA PARTS'
Souping up your rollercoaster is easier with the new Whoa! Parts. These are physics-defying effects that you'd never be allowed to do in a normal theme park, because of foibles like Health & Safety laws. They include things that defy gravity, that break the track, jumps without any connecting cables or safety gubbins, and so on. If you're not sure how to use these stunts, or if you're just a bit confused about how you go about setting up the track in general, then you can use pre-built tracks and edit them instead.

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You can get help at any point in the game, ideal for kids who've got stuck. When you're making a coaster you can just click on the Trick Out button and the game will attempt to work out a solution for you. You can do this bit by bit or just complete the whole track. Handy for when your towering Mammoth Ride of Death seems to be tied in more knots than MC Escher's efforts at getting his scout badges. You can also autocomplete the stalls and mini-game stands so that they fit in with your current park's theme.

At the time of writing, the game was fun to play but there was still a lot of work to do. Most notably, the look of the game wasn't quite up to the polish we were hoping for, probably due to its co-development on weaker, older platforms. However, the lack of micromanagement and the kids-oriented setup should make this a family-friendly and popular title.

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