You might have noticed that this review looks slightly different to other reviews on VideoGamer.com. That's because we look at games clearly designed for younger gamers in a slightly different way to other games. We'll endeavour to tell you just what you need to know in a clear and concise way so you'll be confident it's the right purchase for whatever your situation.
What is it?
A theme park management simulation packed with basic mini-games. You take control of a number of theme parks as you aim to keep your punters happy and make heaps of cash, all the while enjoying everything yourself.
Thrillville Off the Rails can feel a bit overwhelming at first. After you've picked your character you're thrust straight into park management. There's a lot to take in, including everything from the micro-management of your park finances to implementing marketing campaigns needs your attention.
Gameplay is divided into two parts, park management and straight-up party mini-games. You can manage by either walking up to the various bits and bobs in your park, like rides and people, or you can access everything from the game's menu screen, where you can take on missions, like training cleaning and entertainment staff through mini-games. The mini-games are simple to play and you get a lot of variety too, with everything from rhythm action to classic arcade clones like Stunt Rider and Tank Frenzy. There are 34 of them in total (14 new, 20 from the first Thrillville game).
Despite its cartooney appearance and teenage appeal, the game has some in-depth features. Building your own roller coaster, for example, can be quite tricky. On the Nintendo Wii version, the version we tested, you use a combination of the Wii Remote and the Nunchuck to raise, drop, twist and turn the tracks so you can make the most thrilling coaster while keeping the throwing up factor down to a minimum. While there are aides helping your construction, it can be quite cumbersome getting the track to do what you want it to do, and you might get a little frustrated with the Wii Remote after a while.
The game feels like it's aimed at the older end of the kid gamer market, perhaps young teens. The soundtrack and presentation suggests it's right for anyone who would actually get giddy at the thought of going to a theme park. You can interact with the people in your park by simply walking up to them and chatting, and if you have a teenage character you can even flirt with other teens. The dialogue here though isn't anything to write home about. We spent most of our time getting the brush off from quick-witted teenage girls.
Because of the complexity of the game, Thrillville Off the Rails won't be much fun for younger gamers - it's just too complex and in depth. But it should be fine for younger teenagers or just under, who, if they have experience with video games, should be able to get a great deal out of the game. It's not your typical boys and their toys video game either, so we reckon it will be just as suitable, if not more so, for young women.
The game's graphics are poor, but the question is does it matter? The answer depends on who will be playing the game. If you're used to games designed for older gamers on other consoles, you won't be impressed at all. Thrillville doesn't look anywhere near as good as it could.
But this might not matter. It depends on the gamer of course. If you don't care too much about how a game looks, Thrillville will be fine. The spoken bits of dialogue are decent enough, especially from the eccentric professor who guides you through the game. You'll hear lots of chatter as you mingle with visitors to your park too, and if you do decide to talk to them everything is fully voice acted. Some of the menus are hard to navigate though, and look pretty basic and boring. But we'd say Thrillville will do enough to satisfy the kind of gamer who would like it.
Anything for adults?
We can't see many hardcore gamers being interested in Thrillville Off the Rails - it's just too focused on younger gamers to have any appeal. If you're looking for a game to rekindle the feelings you had with classic funfair sim Theme Park, you'll probably be disappointed. And if you're looking for a multiplayer game to play when you have friends round, then there are much better social games out there. But there is a degree of depth to Thrillville that might catch your eye, if you have patience. Just don't expect much from the mini and arcade games - they're a bore in single-player.
You shouldn't buy Thrillville Off the Rails for the mini-games - there are much better social video games out there. But as a theme park creator it's not bad, and has literally hundreds of options to tweak and manage. We'd say it's a decent purchase for younger teens, but it's quite niche and can be quite complex at times.