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September 6, 2013

Thrillville: Off The Rails DS (Part 1)

Who doesn't like carnivals? Who doesn't like roller coasters? Who doesn't like thrill rides? Oh, you'll still like them once you complete this game... except you're gonna start hating the economical competition between amusement parks. Sure, between Six-Flags, Disneyland and the others, it's a market nobody would dare going against. Luckily, none of those exists in today's game.

This exists, by the way.

There has always been simulation or tycoon games. Some of them are available for the PC, others are available on game consoles. There have been tycoon games for almost everything out there and every type of company out there. So, of course, there had to be a tycoon game based around amusement parks. And yes, there is! The Thrillville series, that is. It's weird that a tycoon game based on one of the funnest type of enterprise also happens to be the least realistic.

The point behind a tycoon game isn't just to make you experience the "fun" of being part of the company, it is supposed to be based on very realistic situations that can happen to the company. What do we get here?

Princesses believing they're frogs, fake vampires believing they're real, holograms roaming a large place, and that's not counting all the petty crimes. This sets the mood! Welcome to this review of Thrillville: Off The Rails! (The DS version.)

Never trust a hologram; I have a bad feeling about them.

After you create your save file, you are shown an expert on amusement parks. This man will teach you the most important aspects of taking care of an amusement park. We also find out that Globo-Joy, a rival company whose main mascot is a clown named Blabbo, has seen a large increase in numbers... and that's the reason why the Thrillville parks have lost a good chuck of their clientele. And, with the help of this expert on amusement parks and his mentoring, you can bring the six Thrillville parks back to glory. ...Wait a second, this guy is actually an expert in “Fun-ology”? At “Theme Park University”? You gotta be freaking kidding me. That's not all; apparently this lazy university teacher doesn't even go to your parks, he just... sends a robotic persona who'll receive messages from him. Congrats, you have just beaten Dr. Lobe in terms of stupid, stupid ideas. And in this game, this expert also happens to be... your uncle? Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!

Buy as many rides as possible!
How does this game work? You are in charge of an amusement park. Each time you land in a new park, you will notice it's almost devoid of any attractions, services, arcades and, worst of all, roller coasters. The Story Mode for each park consists of a few missions that you must absolutely complete; there are additional missions for each of those parks, that you don't need to complete if you just want to play through Story Mode. However, completing those additional missions unlock new rides for your theme parks, upgrades to the non-themed rides, and best of all: Roller coaster upgrades! Yaaaaay!

Each ride in your park nets you an amount of money per second, as well as an amount of Thrills per second. This includes the roller coasters; in fact, those give much more money and thrills than any other rides in the park. That's also why you can build only two or three in each park. In order to unlock the next park (there are six parks in this game), you must complete the Story missions of the park AND win a certain amount of Thrills in that park. Yeah, like that makes sense.

Also, there are many visitors in your park, and you can talk to them to know what exactly it is that they need. They say they are thirsty? Build more drink stands! They want skill games? Build skill games! They think the park needs cleaning? Hire janitors! Yes, you can hire janitors, but also electricians and cheerleaders for your park. After a while, though, the visitors won't find any reason to complain anymore, so they'll just congratulate you for your park.

Thrillville Fantasy: We claim to like fairy tales...
We can't even follow them right! 
So, your character is dropped in the marvelous world of fantasy stereotypes. Welcome to Thrillville Fantasy! Yeah, obvious name, isn't it? Anyway, each one of your parks doesn't just have a few themed attractions; they also have a mascot. For Fantasy, it's... ugh... Princess Thrilliana. True to real fairy tales, when you speak to her, she goes all “Rrriiibbbiiitt!” ...Wait, what?

Yes, she thinks she's a frog. Private eye Sam Handy says that she has been hypnotized into thinking she's a frog. Go figure, somebody read The Princess and the Frog and STILL got it all backwards. You must ask a guy named Willy Wombat for information. Turns out he does have information, except he ain't giving it for free; you duel him at Whack-A-Wombat to pull the truth out of him. Once beaten, he doesn't just tell the truth; he gives you the damn machine that hypnotized the Princess! To bring her back to normal, you have to build a really awesome themed attraction. ...Wait, what? (WW Rating: 2. Starting now, the "Wait, What?" Rating will increase each time something that makes no sense happens in this game.) You build the attraction, but it doesn't work. Thus, you must talk with the Princess (who's out of Frog-Talk Mode and now speaks English) to get her back to normal.

This is the only minigame you'll play that cannot be played outside of Story Mode: Reasoning someone. You speak to a character and you are given three possible answers; you select one answer (by copying the stylus movement beside the choice), and the character replies accordingly. Each time you select an answer, you gain Convince Points (or whatever that meter besides means). When the Meter reaches near the top, the person is back to normal! Oh yeah, because we really needed to make rhetoric so much complicated. ...On the other hand, kiddies don't know what rhetoric is, so we'll give it a pass.

Dramatization. "An evildoing clown who causes trouble
to the protagonists." We ain't running out of those.
Turns out, the Wombat guy is the one who hypnotized her! Guess who made him do it? A big-shoe'd employee of Globo-Joy. Geez, didn't see THAT one coming. Anyway, your story missions are completed in this park. To help pack up with cash and thrills, build roller coasters. It's easy, really, you first pick a type and a size, then you can customize a few parts of the roller coaster with, say, vertical circles, quick descents... and WHOA sections. What is that? Well... It's basically sections that offer much more Thrills, because they are much more... um... thrilling. Yeah. And in real-life, these sections could very well cause the deaths of anyone trying them, because they're absolutely NOT safe. Still, those are pretty much vital to your success, so add them anyway. Nobody dies in this child-friendly game. (TOO child-friendly.) A fun thing about the game, though, is that as the owner of the parks, you can embark in every ride for free, so you can make your character spend his time on his roller coasters.

Aah! What kind of freak park would use this as center
statue? Oh... right...
You can now move to Thrillville Frontier, home of the worst Wild West parodies ever. Don't expect any Blazing Saddles here! The Council of clowns behind Globo-Joy has thought up another evil plan for this park. Apparently, the head clown (recognizable by his clown head) brings up profit margins, interest rates, REAL economy stuff. I like this villain. As a result of Globo-Joy's latest scheme, Frontier's mascot is nowhere to be found and the guests are running out of the park. After asking Billie, a kid (get the lame pun? It's not mine), she tells you where Sheriff Six-Shooter is. You find the guy... er... The mascot of the place is a boot-mustache-and-hat-clad CACTUS? (WW Rating: 3) When you try to talk to him, you find out the sheriff isn't just a cactus, he's also a chicken. Scared of all the bandits in the park... Wait, bandits? Anyhow, you build a themed attraction to calm the visitors. However, once built, you notice it's been broken! You hire someone to repair the attraction, and then you find out thanks to a scientist that it has been sabotaged; a piece of technology that can break anything it is installed into (WW Rating: 4) has been installed into the ride.

Filling up the meter: Build rides and roller
coasters, and then waste your time in them
while the Thrill Meter fills up!
Also, turns out Sheriff Six-Shooter is right about bandits; there are three white-faced desperados placed around the park. Luckily, Globo-Joy also hired chickens to do the men's work, so they run away as soon as you speak to them. After that, you find out that Six-Shooter has captured a fourth one, so it's your time to Jack Bauer your way into the truth by kicking the clown bandit's butt... No, of course not! You play the Reasoning game, and the bandits leave with their fake attires. That's it for the second park. After filling up your Thrill Meter, you are ready to travel to the third park.

Thrillville Villainy is all about being evil. Sounds like a good reason for Globo-Joy to mess with it. Wow, for a clown, the head clown sure is smarter than he seems, what with speaking of quaternary markets and all... Their new plan is even better: They make sure Villainy's mascot hires henchmen from Globo-Joy, so that said henchmen can lay their hands on some WHOA blueprints for the roller coasters. Thrillville Villainy's mascot, the aptly named Mr. BAD, goes around in a floating device. He looks like Eggman's long-lost cousin. Also, he's in possession of some WHOA parts for the Thrillville roller coasters. When you find him, he's talking to two clowns. Why is this a recurring theme... Anyway, he claims to have invented a destructive machine, the Super-Destructo Ray (WW Rating: 5), and he considers you like his enemy. Just your luck.

Since he's too in-character (or hypnotized, probably), you gotta build a machine to prove you can be an ally. Yep, that takes the form of an attraction. Impressed by the machine, Mr. BAD has now warmed up, but he doesn't want yet to give his WHOA stuff to you; you still need to convince him. Play the Reasoning game with him, stroke his Godzilla-sized ego, and he'll hand you the blueprints. However, the two clown henchmen are still around, and one of them has the device used to hypnotize Mr. BAD. So, you duel them at a minigame, while Sam Handy (we almost forgot that guy) searches them.

The fate of the world - no, scratch that -
the fate of your enterprises is lying in
this vital game of air hockey!
Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that earlier, right? This game happens in the same world as Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Season Zero, apparently. Lots of things can be solved by playing a game against the opponent. There are seven games you can put in your park, and the story mode will make sure you try each of them. And you'll need to beat your opponents every time. As for that Yu-Gi-Oh! thing, don't worry; that's coming someday. Those two games I own are just begging to get reviewed.

So, in fear that your plans have still been sent to a rival company (all together: “Globo-Joy!”), you have to build a water coaster with the newly-gained WHOA section. That way, everyone will know Thrillville came up with it first, and thus any similar ride in other parks will be a copy. So... you go ask the two henchmen, and they reveal that they actually wear contact lenses thanks to which the Hypno-Disc won't work on them. How. Does. That. Even. WORK? (“Wait, What?” Rating: 7) However, they do say something about a Mr. X. Now, the trouble is gone from Thrillville Villainy, now we move on to the fourth park: Thrillville Chills, land of the (not so) scary, the (really exaggerated) creepy, and land of the (luckily not sparkling) vampires!

...I'm gonna stop there for the moment. I can only take so much stupidity from a game at a time. I'm not denying that it's a fun game at the end of the day, but... when a story is that silly and the stakes are actually pretty damn low, it's hard to take the matter seriously. You don't feel as invested in the game, there's always your willing suspension of disbelief that doesn't want to embark in such ridiculousness.

If this story still makes sense to you... And if it
doesn't anymore... it doesn't matter.

Guess I'll just have to keep playing this, so read Part 2 next Monday!

(Wow, pictures for this game are freaking rare!)