Theme Park logo Amiga Computing Platinum Award

You are now entering the Theme Park zone. A world full of over-inflated burger prices, coasters that roll and castles that bounce. Jonathan Maddock takes you around what must be the game of the year.

INTRODUCTION

I have been waiting for this one ever since I saw the pulsating reviews that the PC version received and now it has arrived. Labelled by some as one of the most eagerly-awaited games ever, the pressure was on Bullfrog's business simulator to perform and do the err, business.

I'll admit to thinking that the game might have been hyped to oblivion and that it can't possibly be that good.
I should've really cast these thoughts aside because a casual glance at Bullfrog's back catalogue of software (Flood, Populous, Powermonger, Syndicate) should have put my fears aside.

I don't want to and don't have to wait until the end of the review to tell you just how good Theme Park is. It is bloomin' marvellous and I know that it'll be top of the software charts for a good long time to come.

On the surface it looks like a cutesy, OK kinda game, but underneath there is a startling, in-depth business/strategy simulation that you can't fail to be impressed by.

Theme Park heralds a new era in computer games and it's an era I've been waiting a good few years for.

SIMULATION

Theme Park can be played three ways. Your first choice should be the sandbox level which is aimed specifically at beginners. You can enjoy all the fun of the Theme Park without having to trouble yourself with the strains of dealing with the bank, plus you don't have to do any research and you'll never run out of stock for your shop.

The next level upwards is the sim level. Here you can do some research and also some negotiation screens pop up periodically where you have to barter over staff wages.

Only on Full level do you get to utilise all of Theme Park's options. You're personally responsible for every financial transaction and rival operators can have shares in your park.

Theme Park looks highly cutesy on the outside, but the game is so in-depth that every single thing you could possibly think of has been fully catered for.

Chips shops on your park have salt levels which can be decreased and increased. An increase will make your park visitors thirsty, so a few sign-posts pointing towards your Pokey Cola shop can reap you big financial rewards.

Theme Park will take you an hor to master the controls, but you will spend weeks before you start to run a profitable business for any length of time.

The game is the first in Bullfrog's Designer Series. The series is entirely made up of business simulations, which is where Bullfrog believe the future of computer games is.


 

FLASHBACK

Looking back throughout games' history there isn't anything exactly like Theme Park, but there are few that come fairly close. The Populous series of games, also created by Bullfrog, virtually changed the software industry overnight and expanded creators' thoughts past the platformer and the shoot-'em-up.

The idea was to create your own populous by flattening and raising land while battling with an opponent who had the exact game goal, via some help from natural disasters.

The actual laying down of houses and settlement is very much like the construction section in Theme Park, but that's where any similarity ends.
I can't even remember anything else remotely like Bullfrog's business simulator, but that just goes to prove that the game is a completely original product.


 

ADDITIONAL INFO

The first theme park, Disneyland, opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California. The park centres around Walt Disney's cartoon characters and covered approximately 74 acres. Walt Disney World covers a massive 27,000 acres and was opened in 1971 near Orlando, Florida.

Walt Disney World was enhanced in 1982 thanks to the introduction of the EPCOT centre, which features displays of future technology and re-creates historical landmarks.

Other Disney parks include the Tokyo Disneyland and EuroDisney in France, which covers an area one-fifth the size of Paris. That's the USA, France and Japan catered for, but Brits haven't got it so bad with 15 theme parks spread throughout the UK.

The three largest are Alton Towers in Staffordshire (opened in 1979) which attracts over 2 million visitors annually, Thorpe Park (1980) and Chessington World of Adventure (1987), both of which are situated in Surrey.


 

SOUND

The sound in Theme Park is the vital part of atmosphere generation and thankfully Bullfrog has included it in abundance. Each ride has its own specific tune which plays when your mouse pointer wanders over it.

The tunes don't last forever though, which means you're not plagued by annoying music which starts off good and then gets monotonous.
The sound effects, of which there are many, seem to go by without you noticing them and it's quite hard to name a specific sound, but they are there. It's just that they add to the whole atmosphere of the game rather than just providing you with a second's entertainment.

The only other bit of sound is the introduction which features plenty of sampled speech and I guarantee that you won't fail to raise a grin by the time you see the roller coaster sequence. Buy the game to see what I'm on about!

80%

 

GRAPHICS

I don't even know where to begin where the visuals in Theme Park are concerned. From the amazing introduction (even though it's not quite as good as the PC version) you know that you're about to experience a product of sheer quality.

Once you've found your feet and you begin to experiment a little, you start to notice all the hundreds (literally!) of little touches.
Your visitors wander around with expressions that range from happiness or that burst out in tears, to green faces after a particularly rough time on one of the rides, due to Hamburgus fillus faceus toomuchus.

The rides themselves are the real stars of the game. You start off with basic and very safe rides, such as the bouncy castle and the tea-cup ride which are beautifully presented. After a bit of research you then progress to bigger and more scarier rides, such as the roller-coaster and the haunted house. The control system is clean, well-presented and the icons are designed, so it's obvious just what you're clicking on. The static screens are also spot-on, the management deals over the table and the end sequence when your parks goes bankrupt are two prime examples.

The animation is smooth and everything flows nicely around the screen like it should do. The little graphical touches such as the introduction of scenery (tress, stumps, fences, fountains) enable you to design a park which can be as picturesque as you want it to be.

There is graphically so much to Theme park that I'd take up the whole magazine talking about it. The best thing to do is just sit back in a comfy chair and admire the screenshots.

Cute as hell and in quiet moments even the toughest male on the planet has got a good chance of going "Ahhhh".

80%

 

OPINION92%

Theme Park is by far the best game I've played this year. Just as Populous arrived and changed the industry for the better, I think Theme Park is here now to give other software houses a good kick up the backside, just to show them what can be done on the Amiga.

It is a product of sheer quality, is bound to sell by the truckload and it's all down to one simple and often forgotten thing. Originality. Theme Park, with its three simulation scales, will appeal to just about everyone. Via these scales you can make the simulation as in-depth as you want it to be.

The best thing about the game in my opinion is that it is a fun game to play. You can't help but smile and have a good laugh while you're busy creating your park.

The only down point to Theme Park is that it is a tad slow on the lower grade Amigas. To get the best out of it you'll need some fastRAM or an accelerator, but that said it still plays well, upgrade or not.

The graphics are simply exquisite, the sound is excellent, it is as playable as hell and more addictive than any drug. It oozes sheer class and everyone that has seen it has had nothing but praise for Bullfrog's business simulator.

I could enthuse about Theme Park all day, but I don't want to because right now I want to get back to my A1200 to continue constructing my park.

To quickly sum up, Theme Park is a quality title designed by a quality software developer, and if you decide not to buy this game, it could well become one of the worst decisions you're ever likely to make.



Theme Park logo Amiga Format Gold

One of the biggest games of the year is Bullfrog's Theme Park. Chances are you've heard of it, but, for those not 'in the know', here's the plot. You have money. Not a lot, but enough to set you on your way to build, run and maintain a theme park.

For many of you, the thrill will be in the creation of the attractions; the building of the rides, the arrangement of the parks, paths, shops, lakes and burger bars - you name it, you can do it. But the more sober among you may prefer the financial management aspect - your park needs to make a profit otherwise bankruptcy is a very real possibility.

Creating the park is a simple process of clicking on icons and shifting the bits and pieces to particular areas and as your skills develop you learn the best positions to place the amenities - like sticking toilets near the exit to stop folk drifting off simply because they need to spend a penny. The people, your customers, are the most important factor - keep them happy and business will bowl along nicely.

This version differs from the AGA in that there are fewer rides, less shops and only young people visiting the park. In general, it's a little less flash than its posh counterpart but it remains a great game and one of the most accessible sims around.



Die Diät-Kirmes

Theme Park logo

Schon auf AGA-Rechnern war Bullfrogs Rummel-Simulation nicht mehr ganz das, was sie anno PC war - am Amiga 500 ist das komplexe Spiel fast nur noch ein Schatten seiner selbst!

So fiel als erstes mal das schicke Intro der drastischen Fastenkur zum Opfer. Weiterhin fehlen ganze sieben Imbißbuden (es gibt nur noch zehn Stück) der vorangegangenen Version, die vorhandenen unterscheiden sich hier zudem bloß durch ein kleines Warenschild optisch voneinander.

Und von den ursprünglichen 26 Attraktionen fanden schlappe 14 den Weg auf die kleine "Freundin":
Achterbahn, Wasserrutsche und diverse Karussels gibt's zwar wie gehabt, die Ritterspiele oder Clown- bzw. Cowboy-Show blieben bei der Umsetzung aber außen vor.

Am Personal wurde ebenfalls gespart, so kann man nur noch Wächter, Straßenkehrer, Mechaniker und eine Sorte von Entertainern einstellen. Und so geht's immer weiter, denn zur Ausschmückung des Rummels stehen magere drei Baumarten, Teich und Toiletten zur Verfügung; der Aktienhandel wurde komplett storniert, und auf Regen- oder Schneeschauer muß der Sparpark auch verzichten - hier herrscht quasi immer eitel Sonnenschein...

Immerhin simuliert es sich so auch von Diskette flüssig, lediglich für einzelne Menüs wird nachgeladen. Auch werden mit der Maus aufgerufene Aktionen meist verzögerungsfrei ausgeführt, doch was man zu sehen bzw. hören bekommt, ist eher traurig: Unter mühsamem Geruckel stürzen sich die niedlichen Besucher ins unmusikalische Vergnügen, das akustisch lediglich eine Handvoll popeliger Sound-FX zu bieten hat.

Okay, spielerisch ist selbst die Light-Version noch ein Schwergewicht, aber feines Gameplay in eher unfeiner Verpackung ist ja auch kein sooo großes Kunststück, oder? (st)



Theme Park logo

Or, more precisely, Theme Park A500. But is it only five-twelfths as good? Eh? Eh?

New readers to AMIGA POWER will no doubt be baffled to find a humble single page near the back of the reviews section devoted to such a glamorous and much-awaited game as Theme Park.

Well, dear readers (and you are dear to us, we love each and everyone one of you. Sort of) it's because we raved about the A1200 version back in AP42, and very nice it was too. It got 91% and everything, and we promised to tell you about the A500 version the moment we got it in. Hence this page.

SPACE THEME
Standard Amiga owners who were dazzled by the wondrousness of the A1200 game and then sickened to the core by bilious jealousy of all A1200 owners will be glad to know that the A500 version remains as fun to play and fine to look at as its posher big brother.

Yeah, okay, corners have been cut and bits taken out, but unless you've actually played the A1200 version a lot, you're going to have a hard time finding fault with this one.

Remember the flashy rendered into to the A1200 version? Of course you don't, because we didn't use any pictures of it in the review or take up any space taking about it. With a game as complex and involved as Theme Park, why should we have wasted space talking about an intro that's very and all, but that you're only going to watch a few times before heading straight for the game? Anyway, it's not in this version, and it's no great loss. Although it was good. Especially the bits with the dog in.

PARK, MORE LIKE
The A1200 version had a lullingly hypnotic sound loop of happy crowds and fairground ambience that started to pop up in my drams after a few days, and that's not in this version either. Neither's the electric sign over the gates that scrolls the name of your park, or the white paving slabs at the sides of the path.

The coffee shops and ice-cream franchises are no longer in huge fiberglass cups or cones, and all the small stands are in generic wooden huts with little signs on the front. Only the Chicken Men survive as entertainers (with the Sinister Teddy Men reduced to lurking elsewhere) and if you scan the crowds, you'll notice that there aren't as many different faces.

Why this list of little changes? What point am I trying to make? Well, the whole game's full of compromises to the graphics, running speed or memory of the standard Amiga, but by making these changes Bullfrog haven't compromised the game itself. I'm sure it would have been much easier to take out entire sections of the game, but you can still play it at varying levels of complexity, plan your park, manage your staff levels and invest in development for rides, facilities and forthcoming attractions.

There's still the same number of countries to set your park in, still the same number of order and management screens and, although the financial matters have been simplified a little, there's still the same 'tool of the devil' sponsorship deal with a major high street bank.

I was worried that this version might chug along so slowly as to render the game unplayable, but it's fine, although it does drag its heels a little as your parks get bigger. And as it comes on just two disks, rather than the 1200 version's four, there isn't even the problem of needing to play it from a hard drive, as there's little disk swapping. None if you've got a second disk drive, of course.

All in all, it's a huge thumbs up for Bullfrog. There are fewer shops and fewer rides, but that's a small price to pay for such a great game. Seeing as the alternative was no A500 version at all, it's a fine compromise.

So run out and buy it today. No, drop this magazine right this second and run out and buy it, not because the review's convinced you (because, let's face it, if you didn't read the review in AP42, you won't have a clue what the game's about) but because I say so. And I'm unusually big and enjoy reading about attack helicopters. Oh yes.



Theme Park logo CU Super Star

This could be the biggest selling A1200 only game ever - and now it's available for non AGA machines too. Ernest Lee takes it for a ride.

It seemed as though Bullfrog could do no wrong with top-selling Populous, Powermonger and Syndicate behind it and Theme Park on the way with great expectations.

Most of which were fully met when it finally made it out in September of this year. Unfortunately it could be the last Amiga game to emerge from Peter Molyneux's Berkshire development house and the big problem from fans of Theme Park was that it was AGA only.

Why, if overall Amiga software sales are decreasing, does someone bring out a game which works on less than half of the used Amigas in the country? The answer is that because Bullfrog are developing mainly for PC nowadays an AGA version was easier to convert immediately from that format.

They had always planned an all Amiga version, but weren't quite sure if and how they cold do it properly. But they have. And it's good.

LESS DISKS
Giving this game of editorial in yet another magazine may seem like overkill. I could have saved myself both time and energy simply by telling you to buy the blasted thing and stop reading about it because it's brill, but then you wouldn't be getting value for money with one sentence on the page, would you?

However if you've read our previous review of the A1200 version (Sept '94) and like the sound of it then stop reading right now, there are no changes in gameplay and minimal changes in graphic content, in fact the biggest difference is that there are less disks!

However, for those as yet uninitiated in Theme Park's ways and who haven't bothered trying out this month's exclusive Christmas cover demo here's how it goes.

You inherit a lorry load of money, how much depends on the level you select, and build a Theme Park for the hell of it. You start off in dear old England by default, because it's cheaper than anywhere else in the world (now aren't you glad the government blocked the EC Social Charter, making us more competitive) and make paths, set up shops and attractions and charge 'little people' money for partaking in the merriment.

The first difficulty level is called the Sandbox game, where you are given access to rides and staff and only have to plan things properly to keep the punters happy; which may seem difficult at first because they are a demanding bunch, but soon gets easy and turns into more fun than challenge.

Difficulty level two is known as the Sim Game, which not only provides you with less money but less initial resources too. In this game you have to deal with labour unions, research and invent new rides and improve park facilities and amenities.

The highest level of difficulty is the Business Game where you have to juggle more figures than ever, keeping shop stock levels high enough without tying too much money up in stuff that's not selling fast and buying and selling stakes in other, Rival Theme Parks.

This level is by fast the most involving, won't put it down until the early hours of the morning, part. It is complicated and major profits will be lost if your money is put in the wrong place. There is also competition from the other (computer) theme park owners.

GRAPHICS
Graphically this game is as cute as can be. There is a slight loss of detail and animation quality in the transition from AGA, but the characters were never that accurate anyway and the whole cartoon look is admirably retained.

Theme Park is easy to pick up and play and the tutorial introduction is brilliant, allowing beginners the chance to get an idea of how a park is constructed and functions without being too long or laborious.

Theme Park is more accessible but also more quirky than a game like Sim City 2000 which, I suppose, is its nearest rival (though not on your A500/A600). It appeals more to the business and fun-minded and to something in our childhood past rather than the egotistical world builder in all of us.

It is a brave and original title and although I'm afraid I wouldn't play it for ever, unlike our original A1200 reviewer Cal Jones, I can heartily recommend it to all sim fans.



Theme Park AGA logo AGA Amiga Format Gold

The main aim of Theme Park is simple. Start out with a modest wad of cash, build, maintain and constantly seek to improve a Theme Park and squeeze every last penny of profitability out of it.

To do this efficiently and effectively, you must learn and master the mechanics and disciplines of the game, but even before you do this you must first build your park. This is deceptively simple to do. Imagine cutting and pasting brushes and creating a collage in Deluxe Paint IV. That's basically what it's like. Only simpler and faster.

After initially mucking about and placing things willy nilly, the game forces you to think in terms of design. The aim of this is to make the most efficient use of space to maximise the number of rides, shops and amenities that constitute a profitable Theme Park.

This is easier said than done. Only after many plays does visualisation of space-efficient designs begin to take place in your mind's eye. By this time, you'll have interacted with the little computer people who visit the park. There's a lot more to these small folk than meets the cartoon graphic eye. Each one has sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms programmed into their metaphorical little brains.

Apart from the initial sum of money you get at the start of the game, these people are your only source of income and need cultivation as a profitable resource. Each of them has their own traits and preferences, and acquainting yourself with their peccadilloes makes sense.

For example, young people pay most attention to the exciting rides, The more exciting rides you have, the longer they'll stay in your park. The longer they stay in the park, the more they'll spend on the rides and food. The more they spend, the more profit you make. The more profit you make, the more you'll be able to spend on building exciting rides. The more exciting you make the ries, the more young people you'll attract - ad infinitum.


Be prepared for a never-ending, nerve-wracking rollercoaster ride to game addiction hell and back.

Swings and roundabouts
Young people are only one of several niche types worth exploiting. But what about the oldies? They've got money to spend too. But their wants and needs are different. They're more likely to be impressed by facilities such as toilets, the amount of litter on the ground, the pleasantness of the surroundings and the quality of the amenities. So catering for older people should be a consideration too.

To aid you in your understanding of what the punters are thinking, you can opt to question them as they walk about the park - a form of instant market research. Replies are shown as thought bubbles above their heads.

There are many grumbles to be gauged. They can take the shape of the person being too hungry, too thirsty, peeved at the price of admission, hacked off at the lack of basic facilities, disappointed in the attitude of the staff and so on. There are so many of these that it takes ages to remember them all.

Keeping the almost innumerable variables balanced in your head is one of the great strengths of the game, but due to the very nature of the game's goals and mechanics, there's no perfect way to run the Theme Park and you'll constantly think of new ideas and approaches. Not one single theory can claim supremacy.

It's a mathematical model of life in a micro consumerist environment. In fact, if the mayor of Sim City met Rogue Supermarket Manager in a Theme Park, they'd probably dream up Peter Molyneux's prodigy. Theme Park lets you realise the dream.

It's a test of your intellectual capacity and ability to juggle figures in your head. Propeller-head marketing whizzkids with attitude, perceptive advertising people, retail managers with flair and anyone else who's ever balanced a budget will find rewards in the boundaries of this cyberspace theme park

Big wheel of fortune
The poorer your strategies and management skills, the quicker you fail - just like real life business ventures. But this time, bankruptcy means that you can start afresh without the worry of the bailiffs coming round to haunt you.

The way that the four core marketing concepts of product, price, place and promotion meld together to form such an entertaining whole is amazing. Marketing is as boring a subject as economics, yet Theme Park builds on these rudiments in a way that induces worryingly compulsive behaviour.

If you buy this game, set aside a pre-ordained time. Set an alarm if necessary. Do no overstep this time. If you do, prepare for a never-ending rollercoaster ride to game addiction hell. It's that intense. So hey, be careful out there.


BUILDING A DREAM THEME PARK
Anyone familiar with brush painting in DPaint IV will feel at home while building the park. Below are some of the basic components that make up the infrastructure of a successful park.

Theme Park
Pathways constitute the basic building block of the park.

Theme Park
You can create a basic queue to direct the punters to the entrance of rides...

Theme Park
...and tweak the design for maximum efficiency when the crowds roll in.

Theme Park
Junctions can be a profitable location for shops and stalls.

Theme Park
Plant tree and rose bushes to make the park seem more pleasant.

Theme Park
After placing your ride, choose sensible exit and entrance points.



Rummel am Rummel

Theme Park AGA logo AGA A1200 Speziell

Der Name Bullfrog zergeht Liebhabern komplexer Spiele nicht umsonst wie Zuckerwatte auf der Zunge: Am Anfang war "Populous", vor einem Jahr räumte "Syndicate" ab - und jetzt wird endlich auch am Amiga ein eigenes Digi-Disneyworld gebastelt!

Das nette Intro mit gerenderten Grafiken und astreiner Sprachausgabe macht schon mal mächtig Appetiti aufs Spiel. Wer dann die Vorspeise nicht gleich mit allen Gewürzen dieser schmackhaft-komplexen Wirstschaftssimulation genießen will, beginnt im Sandkasten-modus mit allzeit fröhlichen Parkbesuchern und ohne die bis zu 39 Konkurrenten.

Gestartet wird stets in Großbritannien, wobei das ziemlich mickrige Anfangskapital zunächst nur wenige Attraktionen, Buden und Dekorationen ermöglicht - zumal auch erst mal gar nicht viele im Angebot sind.

Doch wozu hat man schließlich die verscheidenen Entwicklungsabteilungen? Und wenn dann irgendwann 26 Fahrgeschäfte von der Superachterbahn bis hin zum Riesenrad samt Rittespielen oder einer Cowboy-Show (inkl. Vorstellungen am Screen!) stehen, sieht selbst das Münchner Oktoberfest alt aus...

Auch für das leibliche Wohl der Besucher will gesorgt sein, also bieten diverse Getränke- und Imbißstände Fritten, Burger, Eiskrem, Steaks, Cola oder Bier an. Einen warmen Geldregen versprechen auch die Unterhaltungsbuden, bei denen sich sogar die Gewinnchancen festlegen lassen.

Allzu unfair sollte man dabei aber nicht sein, sonst lernt man bald den Verbraucherschutz kennen, der selbst über den Salzgehalt der Pommes oder die Menge der Eiswürfel im Cola wacht. All das zählt aber fast schon zur hohen Schule, denn die Basis eines erfolgreichen Parks ist ein übersichtliches Wegenetz mit möglichst klug gesetzten Hinweisschildern.

Wenn sich die Leute nämlich auf der Suche nach dem Ausgang oder dem stillen Örtchen die Hacken ablaufen, wird ihre Stimmung bald im Keller sein - genau wie die Bilanzen.

Wer hingegen vernünftig mit seinen Einnahmen wirtschaftet, wird alsbald auch Teiche einlegen, Palmen, Eichen oder Rosenbüsche pflanzen und darum schützende Holzpalisaden oder Hecken errichten können.

Auch das Personal kostet, aber die Wege und Toiletten wollen nun mal saubergehalten werden. Wächter, die den Kids zeigen, wo's langgeht oder gegen randalierende Rocker einschreiten, sind allerdings genauso Luxus wie kostümierte Unterhalter, die den Besuchern bei Regengüssen mit einem Schirm aushelfen - während Mechaniker zur Instandhaltung unerläßlich sind, denn nach einer gewissen Zeit geben die Attraktionen den Geist auf oder fliegen den Gästen sogar um die Ohren.

Sobald ein Rummelplatz ausgereizt ist, kann man daran denken, ihn zum Jahresende versteigern zu lassen und an einem der 24 weltweit verstreuten Orte von Grönland biz zur Antarktis ein neues Projekt zu starten.

Experten nehmen dabei dann das Lagern der Lebensmittel ebenso in die eigene Hand wie Tarifverhandlungen mit den Gewerkschaften oder lukrative Aktiengeschäfte.

Die grafische Präsentation ihres Parks können sie freilich nicht beeinflussen, werden also mit vielfältig, aber ruckelig animierten Knuddelsprites und einem multidirektionalen Scrolling des Parkausschnitts ohne Weichspülerqualitäten leben müssen.

Andererseits herrscht an optischen Details nun wahrlich kein Mangel, und Drehorgelmusik sowie gelungen Sound-FX lassen die richtige Stimmung aufkommen.

Die Maussteuerung über Iconleiste und Pulldown-Menü ist zwar etwas hakelig geraten, aber dafür können die wichtigsten Funktionen ja auch direkt via Tastatur aufgerufen werden.

Ein bißchen traurig ist, daß selbst dieser AGA-Version ein paar Features des PC-Rummels fehlen; etwas das Feuerwerk, die Delphinshow, der OktopusMann und die nostalgische Achterbahn.

Zumal die Hardwareanforderungen nicht von Pappe sind: Wer weder auf Sound noch auf das bequeme Spielen von der Festplatte verzichten mag, muß mindestens 2,5 MB RAM (und damit am 1200er eine Speichererweiterung) unter der Haube haben!

Das läßt für die angekündigte Standard-Version nichts Gutes ahnen - dabei ist es doch so ein richtig befriedigendes Gefühl, das witzige Gewusel auf einer reibungslos funktionierenden Kirmes zu beobachten... (st)



Theme Park AGA logo AGA

We keep telling you - it's a FUN FAIR. Don't you speak the Queen's English?

First there was Populous, and the there was another one. Of it. Then there was Syndicate, a sort of future Populous with guns, and killing and stuff. And now there's Theme Park, a game best described as Nice Populous with a bit of Happy Syndicate thrown in for good measure. I'll say one thing for Bullfrog, they certainly like their forced-perspective, highly-populated world, master-of-all-your-survey games.

I'm sitting here trying to work out what to write after about four days of playing Theme Park and I'm having all sorts of problems. It is a very, very big game. It is a game of epic proportions. It is a game that modern urban myths and legends are based on, and possibly so large that any single human brain might well explode if all the facts and details were crammed into it, and the thing is that even after sitting in front of an Amiga for far longer than is healthy, even though I ignored advice to take ten-minute breaks and ploughed mamoth sessions building up my own entertainment empire, even though my food intake has consisted entirely of pasties, coffee and yoghurt, I still haven't built a rollercoaster, developed all of the 36 or so rides or got anywhere near taking over the world. Not being sent a manual didn't help much either, mutter moan grumble etc.

Theme Park is a multitextural game that works on a fascinating number of eclectic levels (You have to do lots of things - Ed) but on the surface layer, it's similar to Sim City. You're given a finite amount of space in which to build your park, and you've got to work out the best way to make the punters part with their money using all the underhand and sinister methods that modern creative marketing can manage.

You could, for example, concentrate everything in a small space near the entrance, but such a dense network of paths might confuse the public. At the other end of the spectrum, you could run a path right around the park area and dot rides all over the place, but there again, the public could well get bored with all the walking. Finding the right balance is the key to success.


You're given a finite amount of space

CONTROL
On a broad level, Theme Park is similar to Syndicate in that you've got to try and conquer all areas of the world by building parks all over the place, but unlike Syndicate when you leave a country you sell your park and use the proceeds to buy another one.

Different countries have varying tax rates, real estate prices and terms for loan repayments. They've also got differing weather conditions, so whereas Europe's rainy and miserable (a fact the Euro Disney people found out the expensive way, tee-hee) and not really the right climate for outdoor entertainment, California is great. Yakutsk in Northern Siberia, with its freezing weather and minimal population, is rated as fiendishly hard for obvious reasons.

Casually observing the game it seems like the tourists wander around randomly, but not so. They talk to each other, react to all manner of different stimuli and have drastic mood swings, and it's this 'intelligence' that makes Theme Park fascinating.

If tourists go on a ride and like it, they'll tell the people they meet, who will in turn want to go on the ride. However, if they eat a stodgy, overpriced burger, have to queue to use a smelly toilet or are forced to walk for ages to buy a drink, they'll gradually get more and more miserable, put a downer on everyone else's day and eventually head for the exit.

Making (and keeping) the tourists happy is a job that uses the majority of Theme Park's strands of gameplay and once you see how they work together you start to realise what a complex game this is. You can only increase the admission when you've got more attractions (otherwise consumer groups complain) so you've got to plough money into research for new rides. Keeping the tourists well-fed produces more litter, so you've got to employ more maintenance men.

Planning rides with long queues commits tourists to the ride, but you've got to keep them entertained by employing a Rhinoman or two. You see? It all interlocks.

As well as making pots of cash you compete against up to other 40 theme parks for the annual awards. To date, I've managed to have the most aesthetically pleasing parks (which I put down to scented bushes around the toilets and tree-lined promenades) but consistently lose massive amounts of money due to my inability to swindle people and sack malingering staff.

When I discovered two Teddy Men (the cheapest and therefore most suspect members of the staff) lying in the path I assumed they were drunk or something and instantly sacked them, only to discover they'd been mugged. Oops. In another (possibly apocryphical) tale, a writer on PC Format magazine swears blind that he saw a Chicken Man sloping off into the bushes and smoking a quick ciggy. Still, these stories all go towards showing you what an intricate little world it is.

To go on and on about all the features would take up another four pages, so I'd better cram in a bit of comment at the end. Despite the obvious cute look of the game, it doesn't take you long to realise that it is all a bit hard nosed and cynical. That's not a bad thing of course, as you're supposed to be making loads of cash, but after an hour I was starting to wonder I'll ever go to a 'theme park' again.

Marking up toys over 100%, watering down the booze in the bar and packing burgers full of fat instead of meat are the only ways you're going to afford repayments on your loans and survive in the cut and thrust world of international fairgrounds.


Sloping off into the bushes

CRUELTY
Against all my expectations, the business side of it is really fun, and once you've played the game with it and go back to the Sandbox level (where you just plan out the park) it all seems very sparse. Setting out paths, making sure tourists don't get lost and trying to channel them towards shops is fun for a while, but trying to keep your income higher than your outgoings is truly the sport of kings. Sacking staff may be distressing, but it's not as bad as watching a ride explode because the mechanics were overworked.

The bits I don't like is the staff and goods negotiation screens, which are intrusive and always seem to happen when I've gone to make some tea. Every year or so, you've got to agree on stock and wage rise, but using the system or moving a hand up and down a scale until you quite literally shake on it means that I'm always committing 20% rises. Apparently you can get it as low as four, but I've never managed it.

And that's my criticism? Well, yes, I suppose it is. I could go on about how you use the mouse and how the system of placing rides works, but why bother? The tutorial section of the finished game's on the front of this mag, so you can find out all that stuff by playing. If you've not played it then why not? If you haven't got a computer then why are you reading this? What are you, weird or something?

But anyway, if the music gets too annoying, you can ditch that, if the year's dragging by you can speed it up and if you're not getting new rides fast enough, you can pumps masses into research.

CRASH
You're given warnings as you run out of cash so the end isn't a surprise and you've ten save positions to record your triumphant rise and (in my case) breakneck decline. Bear in mind that the game takes hours and hours to play and is likely to ruin sleep patterns, marriages and exam revision schedules. IN short, it could well destroy your life.

Bear in mind also that I realise that I've only skimmed the surface of the seemingly myriad possibilities of this game. I dare say that when I've played it fully, I'll probably look back at the score and wish I'd added another percent or so. In six months or so. Maybe.


SINISTER MOOD MANIPULATION

It's your job to make everyone as happy as possible, because if they're happy, they'll stay longer, spend more and make you rich quicker. However, it's inevitable that you're going to have to cut corners, compromise quality and cheat a little to get every last coin out of their nasty, grubby hands.

COFFEE SHOP
Theme ParkBoost the caffeine levels in each cup of Joe and you'll have wide-awake tourists coming back for second, thirds and more! Get them hooked then boost the prices, that's my hint.

BIG TIME BURGERS
Theme ParkBurgers are cheap to buy in bulk and the punters think they're jummy. Once you've got a huge mark-up on these processed offal slabs, why not inject more and more fat into them? If no one notices, you can double your profit margins.

BIG TIME FRIES
Theme ParkSmother the fries in masses of salt and giggle in glee as parched punters rush to buy cold drinks. They've paid extortionate prices for chips, only to pay again to quench the thirst! You simply can't lose.

POKEY-COLA
Theme ParkWhy sell expensive carbonated drinks when you can sell cheap water? Rake in the cash big time and rip off the snuffies by packing masses of ice into each cup before filling it with generic, non-named brand cola.

MR VALLEY ICES
Theme ParkPack your freezy-whips with almost illegal amounts of refined sugar, so when weary mums buy whining brats a 99 they inadvertently create hyperactive, hyperglycemic whirling dervishes who run from ride to ride and speed up their spending. Until they're sick.

TAX RETURNS, INVOICES AND E322 FORMS. IN TRIPLICATE

The Sandbox level of the game completely frees you of the burden of paperwork. The Sim level introduces negotiations for staff and goods rises, and prepares you for the Full level, which throws everything at you, including the stock market.

Theme Park
Money Matters.

Theme Park
Yearly statements.

Theme Park
Research and Development.

Theme Park
Ordering stock. Fascinating.

WAGE SLAVE PROLES OF AN OPPRESSIVE MASTER

These are you whimpering curs, to hire as you see it. They will clean toilets for you, they will repair your scary mechanical amusements for you, they will dress up in large animal costumes and frighten small children for you. You can work them tirelessly and then, when they're no use to you, cast them aside without a pension. For you are their master and they are there to serve YOU! Ha ha ha!

ENTERTAINERS
Theme Park Theme Park Theme Park Theme Park
These cheery fellows stop people in queues from getting bored, keep everyone jolly and happy and even hand out brollies when it starts to rain, stopping them from getting soggy and going home.

GUARD
Theme Park
As you start to get popular, thugs flock to your park, rough up the entertainers and break your rides. This guy's here to kick ass at your command.

HANDYMAN
Theme Park
Fast food stands proce litter and visitors produce, erm, other things. To stop your park from becoming insanitary, you need the ever-diligent handymen to pick up litter and mop the toilets.

MECHANIC
Theme Park
It would all come grinding to a halt without this highly-paid lot. They tut a lot, much sandwiches almost endlessly and then run to repair rides once they start to burn. Mechanics, eh? Can't live without 'em, can't eat 'em.

TEDDY MAN
Theme Park
Being the most poorly-paid entertainers, the Teddy Men have to get their job satisfaction 'other ways'. Using their fluffy suits and funny pogo sticks, these minimum wage 'reformed' ex-cons lure their teenage 'friends' into the maze where they... (That's about the staff. - Ed.)



Theme Park AGA logo AGA CU Super Star

It's all fun of the fair with Bullfrog's amazing theme park simulator. Cal 'the clown' Jones overcomes motion sickness to take the ride of a lifetime.

After the floods, lightning strikes and plagues of Populous, the wars of Powermonger and the flame-thrower carnage of Syndicate, Bullfrog's latest creating might seem a bit tame. Theme Park is very much a family game - it's not unlike Sim City, except that instead of fire stations and stadiums you're building roller coasters and burger bars, and ticket prices replace taxes as a source of income.

Violence doesn't seem to enter into it at all, unless you count people being sick, thugs who break into the park and beat up your entertainers and rides that explode, hurling the unfortunate customers into orbit. Still, what it lacks in violence it more than makes up for in the entertainment department. Theme Park is good fun, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

The game is based on a relatively simple idea: using money left to you by an eccentric aunt (which varies from $50,000 to $150,000 according to the level of difficulty) you have to build the ultimate theme park. It isn't just a case of slapping down roundabouts willy nilly - you also have to provide paths to walk on, food stands, gift shops and, of course, toilets.

You'll also need to employ people to take care of it. mechanics are a necessity, if you fail to keep your attractions in good working order, they explode, rendering both the ride and the ground it's built on unusable.

Handymen are also a must, because without them your park will start to disappear beneath a sea of burger boxes, coke tins and vomit. And then you need a security guard or two to evict troublemakers from your park. Finally, the kids need to be entertained, and who better to this than a bunch of second-rate, out of work actors dressed in various animal costumes?

LEVEL HEADED
You can play the game on three different levels. The most basic, the sandbox game, is suitable for younger players and those who are new to the game and don't want to dive in at the deep end. At this level, all you have to do is make sure that the money you spend on building rides and shops is balanced by the money you make from admission prices and shop goods. New attractions become available each year, and if you can afford to buy them, you can build them straight away.

The intermediate level is known as the sim game. You have to do everything you would in the sandbox game, but you also need to research almost everything which goes in the park because it doesn't just get handed to you automatically any more. This is where it starts to get tricky. Research costs a lot of money, (you can alter the amount from slightly pricey to horrendously expensive) and whilst it's tempting to get all the flashy rides as soon as possible, you could find yourself slipping heavily into the red if you spend too much.

Research money can be pumped into different areas. You can invent new rides or improve the ones you've already got, develop new shops and sideshow, make the park a even nicer place by creating better toilets, plants and fountains, pump money into staff training or boost the buses which bring the punters to the park.

It's up to you whether you concentrate your research money into one area or spread it across several, but don't forget that the shiny new roller coaster you just built is little consolation to the person who is forced to go to the toilet in a awfully cramped, dirty and smelly wooden outhouse.

In addition to research, you'll have to negotiate pay rises and increases in the price of stock for your shops. Every so often, the negotiation screen pops up, and you have to reach a deal with the union representative before the pile of biscuits in the centre of the table runs out.

You can raise and lower your offer, but if you fail to come to a compromise within the time allowed, bad things happen. If it's a pay dispute all your staff will stage a mass walk out and if your rides go up in smoke, there's no-one there to fix them. If it's a goods negotiation, the company supplying the goods will simply stop sending them. And that's bad, because hungry punters who can't find anything to eat will take the next bus home.

IT'S THE BUSINESS
The hardest level is the business game, and this features all of the above and more besides. On this level you have to order stocks for the shops in your park (and these always run out quickly), and you will also be able to make money buying and selling shares on the stock market.

Whichever level you choose to play at, there will be rival theme parks which are always trying to take away your customers, and on business level they can buy shares in your park or you could buy shares in theirs.

Theme Park has a lot going for it - it's colourful, addictive and fun. Unlike Sim City, you don't have to stop after you completed your park; instead you put it up for auction, take the money and start up a new one somewhere else in the world.

There are 22 different locations to conquer - Britain is the only one you can afford at the start of the game - and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The American parks are pretty straightforward because the weather is good and the population is rich, but try building one in Antarctica if you want a real challenge.

I haven't enjoyed a game this much for ages - in fact, it has become something of an obsession with me. Whether you're young and eager or old and jaded, Theme Park will keep you going into the wee small hours of the morning. Buy it.


STARTING YOUR PARK
Theme Park

First things first: you need to lay a path. Select the path icon and drag it in the direction you want it to go.

Now add a ride. The bouncy castle is cheap and fun, and whilst it isn't very exciting, it's a start.

Theme Park
Theme Park

Your punters need something to eat - Mr Whippy makes exceedingly good ice creams.

Next, recruit some staff. Mechanics are vital for fixing rides, handymen keep the place clean and entertainers entertain.

Theme Park
Theme Park

The punters won't be over impressed with the rides you have now, so put some money into research.

The speed at which new rides are invented depends on how much money you have invested in research.

Theme Park

Theme Park CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Computing Platinum Award

Theme Park is now available for your CD32. Bullfrog's hit business sim, which requires you to build your own amusement park, has been tweaked, enhanced and made all that bit nicer for the CD version. You start off with your piece of land and can then go on to build rides galore, hire staff, purchase shops and attractions and everything else that will turn your park into a success story.

However, life isn't that easy. There are other, greedier, entrepreneurs trying to lure the Joe Public into their parks instead. It's not just a case of building the biggest and best attractions either, because being a shrewd businessman comes into it too.

You have to negotiate salaries, plan your site, and keep an eye on the little people's opinions. Luckily they don't keep their thoughts to themselves because a memory bubble appears over their heads letting you know if they are hungry/thirsty/tired of walking/think your park is a con etc. and you can alter your park accordingly.

Graphics are superb and will make the most hard-hearted go "Aah." Each ride has been well animated and even the little sprites are endearing. The sound effects work well too and create the atmosphere of the park, with children laughing in the background and music playing for the different rides.

Three different simulation levels enable you to play the game as simply or as complex as you want. Sandbox level is for beginners and you won't have to worry about all the financial decisions. The next level brings in some of the managerial aspects where you will have to negotiate with staff and so on. And if you want the proper business simulation you can play on Full level, whereby all the finances are down to you and rivals can buy shares in your park.

The differences to the CD version are mainly cosmetic and the intro has been improved. Another thing to note is the use of a CD controller rather than a keyboard/mouse, but this is slightly more fiddly. However, this is still a highly recommended release for CD32 owners and for a light-hearted, but in-depth business sim, you couldn't go far wrong with Theme Park.

90%


Theme Park CD32 logo CD32

Mindscape * 01444 246333 * £34.99

Look, this is bloody annoying, and a lot of you were probably really looking forward to seeing Theme Park on your machine. The control method. Oh, by the way, this is a god-build-a-park-and-do-the-accounts-while-you're-at-it game - you must have heard about it by now.

The control method is awful. It says in the manual you can use a mouse - you can, except you can't input figures and letters which obviously makes the mouse redundant. Hut if you've already decided to use a mouse, then found it unsuitable, deciding to insert the joypad, you have to start the game again. Doh!

Other than that, it's a straight port of the funsome floppy version. There is a tidy animated sequence at the start (no speech) but you'll only watch it three times. It's good to see that Bullfrog are releasing thigh high-profile title on CD32 but they really should have looked at the control method from less than 40 yards.



Budenzauber auf CD

Theme Park CD32 logo CD32

Bullfrogs populärer Digi-Rummel war am 1200er eine kleine Enttäuschung und in der Standardversion dann ein mittlere Katastrophe - auf CD liegt die Wahrheit nun ziemlich genau in der Mitte.

So ist z.B. das für den 500er stornierte Intro wieder da und dauert sogar ein Quäntchen länger als auf AGA-Disk - dafür muß man hier auf Sprachausgabe und Sound-FX verzichten. In Sachen Features entspricht die Scheibe sogar voll dem AGA-Park (die auf kleinen "Freundinnen" vorgenommenen Amputationen wurden also wieder rückgängig gemacht), allerdings muß man gerade am CD32 trotzdem so manche Kröte schlucken: Wer sich beispielsweise im Einstellmenü für die wesentlich handlichere Maussteuerung entscheidet, kann seinen Namen nur noch eingeben, wenn er über eine Tastatur verfügt.

Aber theoretisch läßt sich die Kirmes natürlich auch anonym oder mit dem Joypad aufziehen. Praktisch wird man sich jedoch gewiß darüber ärgern, daß wegen des begrenzten batteriegepufferten Speichers der Commo-Konsole nicht alle Einzelheiten der mühsam errichteten Vergnügungsanlage abgesavet werden können, sondern nur die wichtigsten Daten wie z.B. der Kontostand.

Der Unterhaltungswert des Spiels ist freilich trotzdem noch recht hoch: Wie gehabt bestückt man das Gelände mit diversen Attraktionen von der eher unattraktiven Hüpfburg bis hin zur Mega-Achterbahn.

An den Buden werden immer noch salzige Fritten, zuckersüßes Cola und fettige Burger an die Besucherschar verkafut, der man dann bei den Glücksspielständen durch unverschämt niedrige Gewinnchancen auch noch den letzten Pfennig aus der Tasche zieht, ehe sie mehr oder weigert zufrieden gen Ausgang strebt.

Mit Blick auf den guten Ruf, die Konkurrrenz und nicht zuletzt das Gewerbeaufsichtamt sollte man es mit dem Nepp dabei aber nicht übertreiben.

Verschwenderisch kann und soll der Parkbetreiber dagegen mit schmuckem Beiwerk wie Palmenhainen, Blumen, Laternen, Zäunen, Teichen etc. umgehen.

Gewisse (und meist stille Örtlichen sowie ein durchdachtes und mit ausreichend Hinweisschildern versehenes Wegenetz dürfen schließlich ebensowenig fehlen wie das für Wartung, Reinigung und Entertainment zuständige Personal.

Jede Menge Statistiken und verschiedene Komplexitätsstufen, bei denen dann Entwicklungsabteilung, Aktienmarkt und Lagerverwaltung in den Vordergrund rücken, vermögen selbst den anspruchsvollen Wirtschaftssimulanten an den Screen zu fesseln - insbesondere, wenn er die noch etwas ausgefeiltere PC-Version nicht kennt.

Die niedliche, leidlich animierte und kunterbunte Grafik entspricht genau wie die nicht umwerfende, aber gut zum Thema passende Soundbegleitung der AGA-Urversion, wodurch sich diese Scheibe trotz aller Mankos vor allem für die Besitzer eines CD32 empfiehlt - andernfalls müssen sie nämlich komplett auf Theme Park verzichten... (st)



Theme Park CD32 logo CD32

Mindscape/£35
Amiga version: 91%, AP29

And welcome back to Theme Park. Yes, truly one of the best games of 1994 is now about to hit your CD32. Only it's erm, been on a bit of diet. In fact, if such a thing were possible, then this version of Theme Park would make Barry Bethall and Slim-Fast look positively fattening. You see, there are a couple of problems with the CD32 version. For a start, you can't save the parks you create. Well not really.

I mean, you can save your details and the amount of money and all that, but once you switch off your machine, the park you've spent all that creative energy on disappears faster than you can say "Oh no"

But there's more to it than that. The intro for instance. Yes, it's still nice to look at, but for some reason the speech has disappeared to be replaced by some naff 'clown' music. What's the problem? If you can't put speech on a CD, where can you put it?

And then there are the menus: they haven't bothered altering the text, so message like 'press left mouse button' still pop up. Yes, you can connect a mouse, but even then the opening menu screen has F1-F5 optimistically placed alongside the options. It's all got a rushed, sloppy feel to it, as if the CD32 version is merely an afterthought.

Admittedly there isn't much they could have done about the save-game problem, given the CD32's lack of on-board memory, but Theme Park is now quite a bit less fun.



Theme Park CD32 logo CD32

Price: £34.99 Publisher: Mindscape 0444 246 333

Bullfrog's Theme Park finally makes it to the CD32, after scoring a hit on just about every other computer and console format.

Despite the subject matter, Theme Park isn't a white-knuckle thrills extravaganza. Quite the opposite in fact. There's all the fun of the fair, but you don't get to go on any of the rides. Instead you play the manager of the park, with the job of building an entertainment centre to rival those of Walt Disney.

Before you start, it's advisable to read the 'New Business Portfolio' (why can't they just call it a manual?) as it's nigh on impossible to get into the game without any background knowledge. The Instructions are bigger, longer and chunkier than a box of Yorkie bars, but then big games call for big manuals.

The trippy 3D cartoon intro sequence gets things off to a good start. As the game loads, it checks to see whether you've got a joypad or a mouse connected, and adjusts itself accordingly. If you choose mouse control, you can't enter your name and details on the set-up screen, unless you have a keyboard attached. However, you can with a joypad. Strange but true.

There's a built-in beginner's guide to help you get started, although it's still a bit confusing to the first time player. Once you've passed the Olympian task that is the beginning, bought a few rides, deciphered how to open your park and started the game properly, things become more fun.

Watching your little customers milling around with their balloons is quite entertaining and the sound effects and music are very pleasing. It's like Sim City with rollercoasters.

If you have been playing for a couple of hours and you want a rest, you would think it is wise to save. In this version, you cannot save your actual park, only your details and the amount of money you have. This means that next time you come back to it, you have to start with an empty park, which detracts substantially from the game.

You can set the game to run at one of four speeds, which is handy if you want to get rich quick, but the top speed is a bit of a scunner as all the animations skip a few frames and end up looking like something from a weird Eastern European catoon.

There's plenty of satisfaction to be gained from building your park and watching your customers enjoy themselves, but the lack of a proper save game feature spoils it all. Having to rebuild the park every time you play is demoralising, and will be enough to put many people off for good.