There’s something highly satisfying about management games. Building something from nothing; forging its path financially, physically, culturally. Seeing it grow, struggle, ultimately succeed or completely collapse. Whatever befalls your creation the narrative of your reign makes the whole experience worthwhile. This is the case with title such as Theme Park, the Sims, Civilisation, and indeed this title, Water Park Tycoon. It’s not without its problems, and these issues are mighty enough to significantly weaken it, but at a fundamental level, Water Park Tycoon’s management heart is intact and entertaining.
You, obviously, are in charge of building and managing a water park. Through purchasing and placing amenities, facilities and water-based attractions, it’s your goal to meet your visitor’s needs and make shed loads of cash. It’s a very traditional management title, less concerned with the micro-management of prices, marketing and logical design and more focused on placing structures to your own aesthetical whims. As such it’s a simple game. Visitor’s moods are projected with smiley to angry faces floating above them, and their thoughts are a mere click away. It’s then just a matter of taking their complaints to heart as admission sales gradually bring in the cash.
However, whilst Water Park Tycoon is an easy game to play, no help is given when it comes to deciphering the UI. Previous management game experience is your best friend here; it’ll give you enough clues to figure out the majority of Water Park Tycoon’s less obvious features – rotating objects, adjusting admission prices. The Tutorial shows you the basics of building structures but asks you to visit stat screen with no hints on how to find them. It’s a highly frustrating introduction; a simple game made impenetrable. Once you’ve clicked absolutely everything on screen – or taken a quick peek at the manual – the UI becomes clearer and the experience is revealed as the accessible water park manager that it is, but what a terrible first impression it makes.
With the concept of running a water park cemented, it’s time to actually try managing one. Three ‘Quests’ are on offer to test your management skills. Ranked bronze, silver and gold, each one offering more challenging goals as you move through them. Beyond these few quests, however, only Free Play mode remains. The quests are also fairly easy to overcome, although, their pacing is so slow it still takes several hours to complete them. Visitors, and therefore money, trickles in, making building your park a very slow process. This does facilitate planning on your end, and there’s a tinge of satisfaction in saving up for that new tree, store or attraction and seeing it’s effect on your park, but a lack of things to build soon compromises even that.
A mere five kinds of water slides can be built, with an equally pitiful selection of other objects. You’ll place the same trees all over the park, multiple slides of the same type, and weep as your creativity is strangled. The fifth slide allows you to craft giant slides of your own shapes, choosing the colour, angle and direction of each segment, but even then there are only so many designs you can construct. Water Park Tycoon is crying out for more content and variety. It’s common to only fill a corner of the land available for each park, and that corner is saturated with clones.
Yet despite the lack of content, the limited tutorial, some visual oddities – such as visitors floating around because their walk animation is slower than their speed – it’s still fun. Certainly it’s only going to be fun for management game fans, but it’s enough to forgive a lot of sins. Hiring staff to stop the pools from turning green and keeping the park clean and safe, building playgrounds for those who don’t fancy the water, surrounding and filling pools with jet toys and slides, and placing stores to keep your visitors happy and fed: it’s a compelling set of objectives. And a great feature is being able to paint cobbled stone and sand onto the ground, for no cost. It’s not going to hold your attention for long, but what little content there is provides enough enjoyment for a day or two of water park building fun.
MLG Rating: 5/10 Format: PC Release Date: 23rd May 2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Water Park Tycoon for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two days on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.