This was it: the finale to 45 minutes of obsessive testing, re-testing and trials. I had meticulously placed a speed rail, three twists and a brake rail to maximize the thrills, but minimize the danger. It was perfect.
Or, rather, it should have been perfect. Instead, my adrenaline- and likely urine-soaked riders ran face first into a ball, tearing the carriage in four places, and sending the second cart hurtling into the glass window of a building; a building, which I later learned, was full of explosive barrels. The screams of the riders filled the air…and all was silent.
I tapped the down arrow on the digital pad for what seemed like the hundredth time, and tinkered with the end of the track.
If you’re a completionist, this will likely sum up your experience with ScreamRide…but that’s hardly a bad thing. The game excels at getting you to fine-tune everything, from how you control the rollercoaster’s car, to how you tame the physics of a course, while still being able to deliver a terrifying experience while maximizing your scream rating. At it’s core, though, ScreamRide is a clever exercise in physics.
The game is broken up into three components: ScreamRider, Demolition Expert and Engineer.
ScreamRider has you controlling the actual cart in a rollercoaster, to maximize thrills. The primary controls are speed (right trigger), brake (left trigger) and boost (A button), but you’ll have to use all three constantly, to not only survive the track, but to achieve the highest rating. Tracks are not only littered with hairpin turns, they also include missing track segments, track obstructions and jumps…all of which must be navigated by leaning the cart (often on two wheels) to avoid a crash. Plus, the aforementioned physics come into play as each track completion adds extra speed, and with it, more chances to crash.
And speaking of speed, each level of ScreamRider features neon blue track that you will pass over at varying speeds. If you successfully tap X at the end of the blue tracks, you’ll earn bonus boost which can be banked for use later. A nifty trick we employed was blasting boost just as we’d see the blue tracks–due to their design, you’ll rarely crash on blue track, regardless of speed. Use that to your advantage and max out your points! Of course, use too much boost, and you’ll crash. It happened to us a lot.
Crashing is something that will happen throughout your game…but thanks to a generous aftertouch system, you can vent a little steam by making the cart explode, or activate glider wings and sail it around the level…or simply just cause a massive chain explosion that levels the map. Sure, you screwed up and crashed…but you also wrecked the course on your way out! Little details like this make Screamride an incredibly clever endeavor.
Demolition Expert is arguably the most fun of the three, simply because you get to break things. LOTS of things. Entire buildings, office parks and meticulously-crafted theme levels…and the best part? All you need to do is tap Down on the D-pad and everything resets so you can do it all again. Though I’m sure Microsoft and Frontier won’t be happy about it, there’s a very “Angry Birds” feel to Demolition Expert: you’ll take turns flinging balls and cylinders at massive, towering structures in a bid to create the most destruction possible. Of course, you’ll need to master the physics of the throw to orchestrate maximum damage, in addition to the different “cabins” styles.
Yes, in a bid to create the ultimate thrill, the designers built two seats into each ball/cylinder, which throws its riders into walls, explosive barrels, massive glass screens, trampolines, targets…the list goes on and on. There’s the standard cabin, which is essentially a big wrecking ball; a rubberized cabin (rubberized wrecking ball); an explosive cabin (guess what it does!); and a cabin which splits into three different pieces.
Lucky for you, the designers generously scattered explosive barrels throughout each level, so half the fun is discovering which explosions you can daisy chain together to cause the most destruction…and attain the most commendations.
Lastly (and certainly not least) is the Engineer mode. In addition to level challenges (which can be incredibly intense), Engineer will force you to create a solid, scary rollercoaster within a variety of constraints. You’ll often need to take into account inversion levels, nausea levels and abject safety in order to complete the level…to say nothing of each level’s bonus! Luckily, unlike Demolition and Screamrider, there’s a distinct progression to each level, so as you progress, each challenge will seem more manageable. By the end of the game, creating a solid map in the Sandbox mode will be a breeze, and thanks to the forced dynamics of the levels, you’ll have a firm grasp on not only the game’s physics…but also the specialized track components that will turn a normal rollercoaster into a nightmarish speed monster.
There’s a certain pride that comes with designing the perfect rollercoaster system, and there will be plenty of times you work and re-work the design until it flows together seamlessly. From there, you can watch it run, like a virtual model train, until your heart’s content. Or, you can tap Y and cycle through the game’s different viewing modes, in a bid to make your friends hurl. Believe it or not, the first- and third-person modes can be exhilarating to watch…especially after you spend an inordinate amount of time on it…like we did!
As I mentioned before, each level features a slew of necessary progression markers…but there are also bonus objectives and leaderboards to top. That’s where the game’s true replay value comes in. Sure, Demolition is a fantastic way to shake off the day’s stresses, but getting the perfect ride in ScreamRider is a close second. And there’s a feeling akin to raking a digital rock garden that comes with crafting the perfect coaster. It’s a fantastic, zen feeling, and I encourage you to check it out for yourself.
In summation, ScreamRide is an absolutely fantastic game. It looks gorgeous, plays great (minus the occasional frame-rate hiccup) and has a great “feel” to it…once you invest the time to learn its mechanics. It has a price point that’s $20 below the “standard” range (and $30 less on Xbox 360!), and would be a excellent addition to your family game library.