Theme Park Review (Sega Genesis / Mega Drive)

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Theme Park is a management simulator developed by Bullfrog Productions and published by Electronic Arts for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive back in 1995. The game made its way to many systems such as the Amiga, Super Nintendo and Sega Saturn, with the best version arguably being on PC or the PlayStation 1 thanks to a few enhancements like the ability to walk around your park in 3D.

This port in particular is the one I played growing up. I only had the cartridge with no manual unfortunately as I purchased it pre-owned, so for me the learning curve was pretty steep! I still got a lot of enjoyment from it though, which I’ll go into more in this review.

You start the game in the United Kingdom with just a small handful of rides and shops to choose from. Over time, investing in research allows you to build more exciting attractions, meaning you can jack up the price and hopefully make a substantial profit.

Don’t let the cute and cartoony visuals fool you! Theme Park isn’t about making the most wonderful place on Earth, oh no. It’s about making as much money as you possibly can!

One common example that illustrates this well is with the french fries and cola stands. If you increase the quantity of salt in the fries it will make your visitors thirsty, causing them to buy a drink. You can increase the prices of these and put more ice in your cola too.

This game is full of simple micro management opportunities to fine-tune your park; such as adjusting the speed and duration of attractions, reducing the chances of winning prizes, and increasing the amount of sugar and caffeine in products to cause your visitors to zip round faster, run out of money, and get more people in through the gates. There’s also strategies with the placement of shops and “one way” systems to maximise sales.

There is of course the freedom to play Theme Park the way you want to. I always used to focus on visitor happiness and a great layout back when I younger, but always ended up in debt. However, that could just be because I wasn’t very good at the game. Personally now I try to strike a bit of a balance between making a good profit, getting the price of admission just right and keeping a clean and tidy park. I do hire a lot of staff to keep things running smoothly and with this method I’ve managed to make progress.

During gameplay you will receive plenty of tips along the bottom of the screen to help you with your pricing and let you know how well you’re doing. There’s also a happiness meter and various graphs to help delve deeper into financials and borrow more money if you need to. Every now and then you’ll also play a small mini-game where you must negotiate supply costs or staff wages before the biscuits run out.

The Mega Drive and Genesis version of Theme Park is slightly more simplified when compared to the PC MS-DOS original. I feel they did an excellent job though with the limitations of the system. A few of the rides and features are missing plus the graphics are different, but I actually really like the art style! The music on the other hand isn’t the greatest. I can tolerate and enjoy a few of the tracks, but it seems most people I’ve spoken to don’t feel the same. I guess it can get quite repetitive.

In terms of controls and user interface, they did a pretty good job here. It’s mostly easy to use and understand even without the manual. The only real problem for me was when it came to laying down the tracks for water tubing and the roller coasters. This was a nightmare to work out!

For those wondering, you bring up the menu and press “B” on the rides instead of “A“, then you select the water tube and only then does it allow you to place the track instead of the entrance.

One other slightly frustrating issue is when you’ve researched something only a light bulb appears in the bottom left of the screen and you have to cycle through the rides, shops and additional features to find out what you actually have. It would have been nicer to receive a text alert alongside it to tell me what new thing I could add to my park.

Theme Park Review Summary

B Recommended
Overall Theme Park for the Mega Drive and Sega Genesis can have a slightly difficult learning curve, but is dangerously addictive and easy to lose yourself for hours in; designing your layout, researching new attractions, fixing and maintaining everything and trying to make the most money possible to branch out and do it all over again.

I still have as much fun playing this now as I always have and whilst it may not be the best port of the game, it remains an enjoyable one in my opinion, so if you haven't tried it already, check this out as it’s fairly cheap or go get yourself the PC version.

My first games console was the Mega Drive and I've been in love with video games ever since. Over the years I've owned many systems, which I hope to cover in the future. Most of the things I write and do videos about is considered "retro", but I do enjoy playing my Xbox One and PS4 as well...

Posted on June 9, 2016 | Last modified: 9th June 2016