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Sunday, August 24, 2008


A few days ago I bought Thrillville for the Xbox. It was a used copy from Roger's Video, for $9.99. The disc looks pretty scratched up, but it plays fine so far... what kinda bugs me is that there was no instruction booklet with the game. I didn't realize that before I bought it.

I'm always on the hunt for good games that are appropriate for my 7-year-old nephew... but are also fun for me too. For me, it doesn't matter if it's rated E, if it's a good game I'll probably like it. He seems to be into mini-game collections, so I've been trying to track down some good ones.

Thrillville is partly a Sims-style game, but also a mini-game collection. You play the part of a theme park owner, and you walk around your park(s) building rides and games. There is a bit of a storyline, but not much. You have a list of missions to complete, but when/if you do them is pretty much up to you. If you want, you can just walk around talking to guests & going on ride/playing games the whole time.

I really like that kind of open-world freedom. Thrillville isn't a complex open-world environment though.... you can go on all the rides, but basically you're just watching them go, it's not all that fun to go on a roller-coaster. The games, however , are a different deal. They are mini-games, and many of them rip off classic arcade games from the 80's-90's pretty blatantly. There's a mini-game called Sparkle Island that's *exactly* like Sega's Flicky: you jump around on a 2D platform environment, rescuing birds which you have to lead to an escape door. But even though the games are derivative, for the most part, they seem to play quite well. If you're going to rip off some classic 80's games, may as well do it like this.

There are also 2D space shooter games, a 3D racing game, mini-golf courses, a light FPS, trampolines, bumper cars... there are 20 mini-games in all, though some are just repeating the same basic theme.

The Sims-style part of the game has you walking around, listening to customers background chatter... sometimes they'll say things like "I'm so hungry!" or "I really have to go!" which I guess are cues that you need to install a burger vendor or washroom in that area. You can talk to them too; try to make them your friend by going through a tedious multiple-choice series of conversation topics, and/or challenge them to play some mini-games.

There's also stats with how well your theme park is doing; profit it's making, power consumption, etc. Kind of boring, but I haven't had to refer to it much so far.

This game is definitely skewed towards younger gamers; the mini-games are short & not overly difficult-- most games only use the left analog stick & 1 or 2 buttons... with the exception of the FPS games of course-- but don't be expecting Halo here (though there is dual-gun-wielding!) the FPS is pretty gentle; you shoot foam darts at robotic targets.

Even though it seems like there's lots to do, there's a lack of polish to Thrillville that makes it a bit clunkier than it should be. Little issues like when in conversation with customers, the text is often in the way. Overall the game looks.... not great. From The Sims to Grand Theft Auto, Sims-style games usually suffer from poor graphics, but even with that in mind, these are pretty bad, really. Walking around the park, sometimes the camera will get stuck and the screen will fill with light blooming, the models are all very blocky & basic looking. It's too bad, because with a bit more polish to the design & look, Thrillville could've been a really great game. It's not terrible by any means, it's still pretty fun.

For a budget price of $10.00, it's a great deal. But if I had gotten this game only for myself, I'm not sure I'd be replaying it much.


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