Reviewed: December 11, 2006
Released: November 21, 2006
LucasArts’ Thrillville is a theme park simulation, a bit of a people sim, and a variety of mini-games all rolled into one. As the theme park manager, you play an important role in designing the park, managing the finances, hiring staff, and marketing—but, as it should, Thrillville makes everything, even picking up trash and washing vomit, a game.
Thrillville’s premise is simple: your uncle Mortimer is a mad scientist who also happens to be a genius at designing theme park rides, and he’s invited you to help him run Thrillville, the ultimate theme park experience. As the new park manager, your job is to decide what rides to build, what food and souvenirs to sell, and what customers to target in your marketing plans.
Building your ideal amusement park is easy. Attractions are listed by category (such as carnival rides and games), and pre-built areas can be rotated and placed in virtually any configuration you please on the given build zones. Additional “coaster” zones allow you to design your own rollercoaster from scratch, using bits of track that you can turn and tilt to your heart’s desire.
Unlike most PC-based simulation games, Thrillville puts you in the middle of the action. Once you’ve designed your character, you run him or her around the park from a third person perspective. Not only can you interact with your park guests on a personal basis, you can also ride all the rides and play all the games!
The mini games that you unlock by enjoying your own park attractions are definitely the fun part of this game. These games can be played in Party Mode with up to four players (with the separately sold PS2 multitap) and, just to highlight a few, include a handful of racing games, shooting galleries, a rhythm game, first person shooters, and—my personal favorites—a Gauntlet-like action game and a WWII-themed shooter. These mini-games range in level of difficulty and complexity to suit gamers of varying experience and the controls can generally be learned very quickly, so kids, casual gamers, and party guests will likely be able to enjoy this game without too much prior practice.
To make sure your park runs smoothly, though, you’ll have to do more than just play the mini-games. You’ll have to keep track of your finances and maybe take out a loan to give your park a jumpstart, research new rides, hire and train staff members to keep guests entertained and the facilities clean and well-maintained, and talk to your customers to see what they really want out of their Thrillville experience.
Chatting with park guests is much like chatting in the Sims games: people will like you better if you talk with them on subjects they’re interested in—and here’s where the game’s educational value comes in. Conversation topics include subjects like science, animals, and geography, and your character happily recites little-known facts like a talking encyclopedia. (And, as far as I know, the facts are true.) You can even challenge guests to a one-on-one round of a particular mini-game.
You can also choose the “matchmaker” option with guests you’re friendly with to help them find romance while in the park. The pick-up lines are pretty cheesy, but as with everything else in this game, you could choose to play the mini-game instead and forego the sweet talk.
In all, Thrillville includes five different parks, each with its own set of missions for you to accomplish and its own bonuses for you to unlock. The game has a very gentle learning curve, though, and frankly, the mini-games make completing tasks more fun than work.
The graphics in Thrillville are brightly colored, cartoonish, and very simple, sometimes blocky. The character designs are whimsical and they do the job, but don’t expect anything high resolution or overly detailed during actual gameplay. This was a bit of an issue during character generation on a smaller TV screen, and the simplicity of the visuals can make certain objects difficult to identify sometimes, but otherwise, it’s not too bad for most of the game.
The CG cut scenes, on the other hand, are smoothly animated and somewhat reminiscent of recent Pixar shorts, but they are few and far in between, usually only appearing to introduce the next new area you’ve unlocked.
Thrillville incorporates a decent range of voice talent into the game, from the hyperventilating mad scientist to children prancing through the park with their suburbanite parents. Though many of the voices end up sounding like variations of the surfer and valley girl archetypes, nothing beats a surfer dude intoning “I must stop the sorcerer’s evil plans” at the beginning of a mini-game level.
The sound effects are very cartoonish, and the background music is mostly a selection of tunes you might have heard on the radio. There’s also a few fake ads and announcements thrown into the mix for the theme park ambience. It all works pretty well together.
Retailing for $39.99, Thrillville isn’t a bad buy for folks who find this kind of game appealing, with its 101 customizable attractions and 20 mini-games that can be played in a variety of ways. Most of the mini-games can be played in single player, multiplayer battle and co-op modes; and some of them have an unlockable, more challenging “turbo” mode that can be unlocked with gameplay.
The mini-games included represent a fairly respectable spread—from music-based rhythm game to first person shooter to monster truck demolition derby—but some of the mini-games are actually fairly similar and only different in theme. Still, the game plays fairly well in both single player and multiplayer situations and can provide many hours of amusement, especially for younger audiences.
To sum it up, Thrillville is all about the mini-games. Virtually every aspect of park maintenance can be accomplished through beating a mini-game, and it’s probably the mini-games you’ll keep playing after you’ve finished building up all five theme parks. Its mild difficulty level, whimsical cartoon style, variety of multiplayer-capable mini-games, and educational qualities can make this game an entertaining diversion for children and adults alike. Surprisingly fun and quick to pick up, Thrillville could make for a great family game.