By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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Why spend hundreds of dollars to take the family to an amusement park when for less than $40 you can have unrestricted access to five unique parks -- with no lines and even create your own rides, too?
This is precisely what you can do -- virtually, that is -- with "Thrillville" from LucasArts for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and Microsoft Xbox, another theme park management game along the lines of "Roller Coaster Tycoon," but with a greater emphasis on personality, presentation and play.
In this family-friendly adventure, which is loaded with optional minigames for one to four players, you are contacted by your wacky Uncle Mortimer who is so impressed with your roller-coaster sketches he puts you in charge of his latest theme park, Thrillville.
After you choose from the available characters (and if desired, customize your character's appearance), you are thrown into accessible tutorials to learn what's expected of you from Uncle Morty.
Essentially, game play is divided into five main areas:
You must get to know guests while walking around the parks. Click the X button (in the PS2 version) to initiate a conversation with a guest, and then choose topics to discuss. Your goal is to improve their happiness. Here, you will also learn what needs improvement, such as hearing a young woman complain about no bathrooms in the vicinity. You also must help teens flirt, which is good for their happiness, and in return, good for business.
You can build rides (such as Ferris wheels), stalls (including restrooms and food kiosks) and games (shooting galleries, for example), all by selecting from the build menu, choosing where they're placed on the park grounds and making sure there's power to run them.
You must also have enough cash to build these structures, so pricey rides, such as roller coasters and racetracks, won't be available at the start. For roller coasters, you can choose from a pre-built track or create your own. It's the same for go-karts and minigolf.
One of the best parts about running an amusement park is you must test all the rides to make sure they're fun for your guests. And even if there's a line, you can walk right up to the ride and get a front-row seat. While enjoying the ride from a first-person perspective (or choose a cinematic view), you can also change seats. As manager, you also can walk up to a game, such as minigolf, and play a few holes whenever you like.
It's your job to make sure the park is making money. You must keep an eye on your park stats and make decisions, such as raising prices for certain rides, spending money on research or starting an aggressive marketing campaign.
At a glance, you can view a particular year's average guest stats, including happiness, thirst, hunger, nausea, bladder and boredom -- and make appropriate changes with this information.
Hire, train or fire the park workers, including mechanics to keep the rides in top shape, groundskeepers to clean the park and entertainers to increase the happiness of the guests. While training them, you get to perform their tasks, which is a minigame of sorts.
For instance, while training the groundskeepers, you have a vacuum strapped to your back and you must suck up a specific number of items before the clock runs out. As an entertainer, you enter a dancing minigame where you must press the correct buttons at the right time.
You can enjoy walking the grounds to fulfill these five key goals, or you can take on 150 missions. In time, you will be able to access four additional theme parks.
If unlocked, you also can play minigames by yourself or "party" versions of these games with friends on the same television. These include a shooting gallery, trampoline-jumping game, racing simulations or a video arcade shoot-'em-up. Eighteen of the 22 midway games are also multiplayer-ready.
Perhaps lost amid the next-generation, high-definition video games making headlines today, "Thrillville" offers both depth and breadth for those looking for a fun and challenging theme-park simulation.
Take a family-friendly ride in "Thrillville," a virtual amusement park.
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