Screamride Review: Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

Screamride review
out of 5

It’s a shame Screamride wasn’t held back for virtual reality’s imminent arrival as I’m sure anyone who ponied up for an awkward headset would have gotten their money’s worth from this game alone. At least those who didn’t throw up when the screen went into an insane corkscrew.

To understand the unrestrained logic behind Screamride think MTV’s Jackass combined with futuristic roller coasters set in the world of Portal or Mirror’s Edge, then throw in some three-dimensional Angry Birds-like destruction because – why not? – there’s already a capable physics engine that apparently had an appetite for additional destruction. Skip the Engineering mode unless completing coaster track segments like strands of DNA in Jurassic Park is on your bucket list, but even so, two out of three modes offer ample thrills and replay value galore.

Developer Frontier Developments’ inaugural Xbox One game was the utterly forgettable launch title, Zoo Tycoon. There’s no “tycoon” element in Screamride to worry about despite Frontier’s work in the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise, though the poor nobodies that have to ride on a roller coaster at absurd speeds are eerily similar to the patrons meandering around the zoo.

Screamride Screenshot 1

The first mode up to bat is Screamrider and it’s the signature way to play the game. Four of those nobodies are strapped into a coaster and you’re tasked with pushing them to the brink of death without sending them hurling off the track in dramatic fashion. Though believe me, watching the dynamic destruction unfold as they careen into and through buildings is most certainly encouraged to try given the game’s Achievement that rewards the first derailing.

Screamrider scoring is affected by speed, which includes timed X-button presses on marked sections of twisty track to gain nitro bursts, tilting up onto two wheels to tempt fate, and the ability to not die repeatedly, among other goals offered up on a per-track basis. The scoring is so damn complex in the seven-figure range that I guarantee no one will ever score the same number twice. Not only that, the text for this scoring is so small on the screen that you’ll have to get up and press your nose to it in order to see it. I’d rather remain with butt firmly sunken into couch.

Screamride Screenshot 2

Next is Engineering mode, or as I lovingly refer to it, Sightseeing mode. The goal of engineering mode is to complete missing sections of track by placing your choice of new sections that are straight, curve, dip up or down, etc. Messing around with this is a downer after the thrilling speed and accomplishments of Screamrider mode, and it didn’t help that I continually ended up stalling the coaster and having to start the track from scratch.

The final mode is the wild card that has little business alongside its brothers yet manages to beat them all. Demolition Expert throws the same nobodies into a capsule and then lets you catapult them into buildings and other formations with the sole purpose of toppling them. It sounds simple in concept, but then throw in capsules that split into three, exploding barrels, after-touch capsule steering, and even after-touch rockets, and now you’re playing with fire.

Screamride Screenshot 3

The destruction engine in Demolition Mode alone is worth a round of applause. Aim your capsules well and topple one building right into another one as shards of building fly all over the place. Those with the gift of spacial recognition will be able to study the buildings laid out before them and device a plan to take them all down with as few capsules as necessary. It’s Angry Birds in 3D, but with the added bonus of hearing the nobodies scream as they fly through the air.

Frontier Developments ties these modes together with a sandbox tool set that allows players to create their own coasters and demolition sites, then share them out on Xbox Live for Xbox One or Xbox 360 so anyone else can try them out – and vice-versa. The tool is robust enough that you can create anything offered in the standard game modes, and of course much, much more. It isn’t Microsoft’s version of LittleBigPlanet, but the building blocks to create a massive community of content to share are in place.

Screamride Screenshot 4

Screamride is relatively mindless fun, family friendly as the riders are always rescued, and provides all the tools and wildly variably scoring necessary to keep the game fresh for a long time to come. Even though the price is a bit steep at $40 for what you get, you could do much worse after spending much more.

Screamride was reviewed on Xbox One and the game code was furnished by Microsoft for the purposes of this review. It is now available for Xbox One and Xbox 360.

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