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Planet Coaster review

Let's get this elephant out of the room: Planet Coaster is made by Frontier, developers of the well-loved RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. The day before its release, Atari's RollerCoaster Tycoon World comes out, having had a rough beta thanks to flaws including limited coaster heights and a clumsy camera. The community is siding with Planet Coaster in a repeat of SimCity versus Cities: Skylines—the official continuation alienates fans, the nostalgic throwback wins hearts.

And Planet Coaster is definitely a throwback, sharing enough RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 DNA it should come with papers like a pedigree dog. It has a cartoon look that disguises the spreadsheet management side, and a lovely 3D engine that lets you experience your own rides in first-person. It's comfortingly familiar.

There are three ways to play Planet Coaster. Career mode hands you someone else's half-built park and the job of saving it from calamity, whether unhappy customers or an alien monolith that makes rides break down. RollerCoaster Tycoon featured a park spread over several North Atlantic icebergs, so there's form for this kind of oddness. Even at its weirdest, career mode does feel like playing with someone else's toys. You can't even use the terrain tools to make some of the nice tunnels Planet Coaster is capable of.

The campaign levels do provide inspiration for my own parks, and can be exported into the freeform sandbox mode where funds are unlimited, terrain deformation is on, and there's no need to research rides and shops to unlock the good ones. Almost everything can be customized, encrusted with theming down to signs with your own text in a variety of fonts. If you're the kind of person who can happily spend hours designing a toilet block this will make you happy.