Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Benita de Wit’s World – #53: Theme Park

In Amiga, DS, Mac, Mega Drive, PC, PlayStation, PS3, Saturn, SNES on January 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Title: Theme Park

Format: Amiga, Mega Drive, PlayStation, Saturn, SNES, Mac, PC, DS, PS3

Released: 1994

Theme Park Box Art

Hello Internet.

I’d like to tell you a story. A story about a child who spent a lot of time alone on the computer. A story about creativity.

As a kid I loved building games (that is to say, games where you build. I didn’t build games, great as that would’ve been). I loved to spend hours making something original, whether from paper or pixels.

I grew up in a bit of a gaming family and enjoyed a thorough videogame education. SimTower, Age of Empires and World of Warcraft were favourites of mine as they all had wonderful elements of customisation, where you could play the game in your own weird way. Being an odd child I took the most joy in making odd things happen. I loved allowing a 100-storey building to become roach-infested, building a civilisation of monks who converted entire enemy armies to a peaceful way of life or riding my frostsaber across the plains as a male night elf in a wedding dress.

WOW Frostsaber

Not pictured: marital gown

But people are familiar with these wonderful games so I thought I’d write this post about a game some may not know.

I spent many happy days of my primary school summer holidays shut away in the study playing a game called Theme Park on a large, grey box of a computer. It was a wonderful game by Bullfrog that ran through MS DOS and allowed you to build your own customised theme park on a huge plot of land in a country of your choice. Why go to Disneyland when you can make your own? Because Disneyland is awesome. Seriously, if you have the choice, go to Disneyland.

The game started in beginner mode where you were forced to comply with a passive aggressive Willy Wonka but once that was done you controlled everything from where pavement was placed, to hiring staff, setting ticket prices and building shops and attractions. You could build your own rollercoasters with loops and corkscrews and splash rides, hire enthusiastic morons wearing animal suits and plan fireworks displays. Whilst expensive, the fireworks would make the entire population instantly happy. Very useful for raising consumer ratings and shareholder stakes.

Willy WANKA!

More like Willy WANKER, am I right! Guys

Tiny pixel people would wonder around your park with large thought bubbles pictorially demonstrating what they wanted. As well as learning about business I learnt lifelong lessons about humanity and that all problems can usually be boiled down to someone being hungry or needing the toilet.

It was a swell game and quite the challenge until a friend told us the cheat code (which is HORSA, if you’re interested in free computer money). From then on it became less fun to play by the rules and more fun to let the pixel people run wild.

See, what was so great about this game was not the happy family theme park side of things, but all the inbuilt ways that your park could go horribly wrong. This game came with a heavy dose of pixelated realism. If you didn’t build your rollercoaster safely, tiny people would literally be flung off mid ride. If you didn’t hire cleaners the rubbish would build up and people would become unhappy and eventually, very ill.

Shiiiiiit

“Iregretnothiiiing”

In fact, all it took for a heavy outbreak of vomiting was a French Fries stand near a Rubber Tubing water ride and no cleaners onsite. Someone would be sick and then other people would see the vomit and be sick and pretty soon the computer would be emitting a synthetic symphony of spewing. I even created a park named Vomitland, with nothing but French Fries, Rubber Tubing and rides that spun quickly. It was an unsettling victory when the park eventually lived up to its name.

One of the other wonderful side effects of a dirty park was that eventually the hoodlums would arrive. Tiny animated terrors would arrive on a motorbike to beat up your suited entertainers, trash rides and generally cause the happiness of your patrons to plunge rapidly. Ever the optimist, I saw this as an excellent opportunity for discipline and would lead them to the rear of the park using some tricky pavement construction where I would then enclose them within a square of feature hedges, build them a toilet and let them stay there until they had learnt some lessons about public etiquette. I was an odd kid.

Park

But time went by and I grew up. The much used CD Rom was put away in an ice cream container of miscellaneous unwanted things, the grey box of a computer was replaced by a slightly thinner grey box and I never played the game again.

I have sometimes thought of Theme Park and how I’d like to play it one more time. But if that day never comes at least I carry with me the precious lesson it taught me as a child:

“No matter how bad things get, there’s nothing you can’t fix with cheating and fireworks.”

Benita 2

Benita is a theatre nerd currently studying directing in NYC. Sometimes she says things on Twitter @benitadewit

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  1. […] was utterly ignored as we sat indoors and played our way through Jurassic Park, Super Mario World, Theme Park and many other fantastic and not so fantastic games, to the chagrin of our despairing […]

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