Screamride is a likable diversion, albeit one with a setup that promises more than it delivers. Part rollercoaster game, part demolition sim (with a hint of driving thrown in), there's often something here that will keep you playing, almost mindlessly. At the same time, it's hard not to see it as a collection of mini-games that wouldn't have seemed out of place in a new Fuzion Frenzy. That comparison, if you aren't aware of Microsoft's multiplayer party game series, isn't a compliment. They'd have been some of the best mini-games in the package, but still...
Career mode is split into three distinct gameplay types: Driving rollercoaster cars, destroying buildings, and making rollercoasters. Riding comes first, in which you must get round the course as quickly as possible. Imagine Trials, but your bike is a 'coaster car and the camera is behind the vehicle. Trying to stay on the track by turning into corners, avoiding obstacles by pressing up on the left stick to lean over them, and building up boost on certain track sections all feature heavily, as do jumps and correctly timing a button press for a good landing. For the first few levels this on-rails racing is fast and somewhat thrilling, helped by a stomach-churning camera, but it soon becomes rather dull. What is initially fast and exhilarating soon becomes more about correct button timing, and the enjoyment falls off a cliff.
Kinect support may never have been in developer Frontier's mind, but it's easy to imagine an early version of this racing mode in which you leaned left and right to tilt the car, lifted your arms to jump, and potentially even screamed to score extra points. You'd even get a picture of yourself doing it, just like the snaps taken on the many rollercoasters thrilling people for real all over the world. The fact that the core gameplay could translate to Kinect reasonably well should tell you all you need to know about it.
By far the most moorish game type is Destruction, in which you use a variety of pods or vehicles to take down buildings. Pods are launched from a massive swinging arm, with power determined by an on-screen meter and loft based on when you release - the more power you use, the faster the arm swings and the trickier it is to correctly time the launch. Hit a building with power at a weak point and you'll cause a lot of damage, and more damage means more points. Points equal badges, and badges earn your ranks which unlock new zones. Sometimes power alone isn't enough, and so you have to make use of conveniently placed explosives, bounce pads, thrusters on the pods, boost rings and more.
Some stages change things up by giving you coaster cars to fire off ramps, with a choice as when to glide, thrust or detonate. There's an undeniable thrill in causing a building to come crashing down, and this alone carries Destruction mode through where the others lose their legs a long way before they conclude. It's a shame then that later levels introduce mechanics that remove some of the purely demolition-based gameplay. Certain stages let you navigate into cannons and then re-launch your weapon of destruction, only this time with more accuracy. This slows down an already plodding experience, and removes skillful launches almost completely from the equation.
The third and final game type, Building, is the most in-depth and mechanical of the bunch. You have to build coasters to completion, meeting certain criteria and trying to make the riders scream and enjoy the ride as much as possible. Laying track is easy enough, with more complex parts accessible via a pop-up menu. It's possible to build in first-person, which is fine when designing the most exciting parts of the course, but when you need to hook up to the finish it's best to use the broader overview camera. Building coasters isn't bad by any means, and is certainly more interesting than riding them. After a few stages, however, building to preset specifications will have run its course.
Sandbox is where you create whatever you want, be it a fancy coaster, a destruction level or even the pod launcher itself. After about five minutes of tinkering here you'll realise that the help you got in other sections made things a lot easier when it comes to coaster creation - with no starting point things are a lot tougher initially, and it's easier to become disheartened when you spend ages creating a pretty poor ride.
Harder still is the demolition zone and launcher tools, which the career mode should have introduced you to. Whereas the demo areas in career felt designed to impress, and came across as structures not suited to normal building functions, doing it myself made me realise they had to be like that in order to be fun. A few 'normal' buildings later and my self-made entertainment was tumbling quicker than a professional footballer. If you're likely to give up after 10 minutes, you'll have to hope others don't so you can make use of the level centre, from which you can download and play others' creations.
Spectacular destruction physics and visuals could have given Screamride a 'Wow' factor, but sadly what's on display here is merely adequate. When a building explodes there's a nice shockwave effect, and the towers tumble nicely, but the structures appear to be built from large blocks and break up accordingly. Had things broken into smaller pieces and the debris caused plumes of smoke to billow up and around the devastation, the whole thing would have been much more dramatic - and impressive. As it stands (and falls) it's far from it, with a fluctuating frame rate adding to the disappointment.
If you don't care about creating your own content, then Screamride's career mode stages will be gobbled up with a mixture of glee and then drudgery in a couple of days, with high score leaderboards possibly drawing you back now and again - but Trials this is not. The driving loses its appeal quickly, coaster creation stages become dull, and the destruction is only fun while it lasts. As a downloadable £15 game some of these issues could have been easily overlooked, but at double that price it's a harder ride to sell.
Version Tested: Xbox One.