Theme Park was originally released in 1994, a simulation title where you were tasked with running and designing your own theme park. Within only a few years of the game's debut, Theme Park was on just about every popular console at the time including the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Super Nintendo, and, cough, the Jaguar. A few years after its debut, EA released Theme Park World, an update that didn't change all that much. Since Theme Park World, the series has been stagnant, but EA has resurrected the original game and released it on the Nintendo DS. The good news is that the game is just as fun now as it was thirteen years ago.
Before you begin Theme Park you'll need to enter a profile name, select your blood type, enter your birthdate and enter a personal message. This profile is so you can visit other people's parks via the Nintendo DS Wi-Fi connection. You'll then begin your game in the UK. For every park there are two goals - to have a certain amount of money in the bank and to have your park valued at a certain amount. When you first begin you'll need to select an advisor, and this guide will stay with you throughout your whole campaign, and assist you by telling you when your ticket prices are too high, or when visitors are stuck in the park.
Before jumping into the park, you're able to select the level of difficulty and whether or not you want to go through the tutorial. You can choose either sandbox, sim or full. The sandbox mode is basic and just has you trying to manage the park while stocks and staff are automatically taken care of. The sim difficulty option lets you invest money in research and development, you're also able to negotiate wages with staff. Finally, the full difficulty level challenges you with managing finances, buying and selling on the stock market and controlling your inventory.
After you've selected your difficulty level you can jump straight into the park. You're given a blank slate of land and you'll need to turn the land into a successful theme park. Your park appears on the bottom screen of the Nintendo DS, and a map occupies the top screen. There are four "build" options that you can use to customise your park. The first option is for paths, which are constructed by dragging the stylus around the bottom screen to show where you want your path to head. The second option is for building rides. When you select what ride you wish to build, you simply need to place the ride, the entrance, and the exit, and your ride will be ready to entertain. Third is shops; there are plenty of these in the game, and you'll need to place these in convenient spots so they get maximum exposure. The fourth build option is for plants, trees, toilets, lakes and more gardening items. You'll need to use a combination of these four options to create a theme park that people want to attend. Certain combinations work better than others, naturally.
You'll also need to hire staff so the park can run. You'll need guards for guarding your park from hooligans, mechanics to fix machines, handy men to clean up litter and entertainers to keep your guests from getting bored if they're in a queue. These options are really only the basics of Theme Park, and once you up the difficulty level, you'll need to negotiate with staff, keep an eye on stock levels and make sure you're not running out of food. This is what makes Theme Park so appealing - it's genuinely a difficult game, there's always plenty to do, and as the years progress you'll unlock better rides, superior amenities and some great food shops. You'll eventually take great pride in the look and design of your park, then you'll need to sell it.
As soon as you reach your quota you'll then move onto the next park. There are more than ten parks in total and the objective is to try and "beat" all of the parks. Disappointingly, as soon as you're finished with a park you are forced to sell it and then you'll need to start all over again. This is a little disappointing; it would have been good if you could keep your park and still move on. This means Theme Park can become a little repetitive, because as soon as you move onto another park you'll start with poorer rides and shops that barely draw in the visitors. The challenge is upped a little, but it's hard not to feel a little bit deflated that you lose the rides you've fought so hard to unlock. It can make things feel a little primitive.
On the subject of primitive, the fact that there's only one save slot is extremely frustrating, and doesn't make all that much sense. The game autosaves as well, so all you need is for one of your friends/relatives/a homeless man to turn on your DS, start a park, sell the park and then you've lost all of the work you've spent hours upon hours on. There are also a few glitches in the game; the graphics will sometimes mess up, you'll think you've discovered a new object but it's actually just the game glitching. Mechanics also have a habit of getting stuck behind machines all too often. The Wi-Fi mode, which we mentioned at the beginning, isn't worth getting excited about. You can swap profiles via the Wi-Fi mode and see other people's parks, but that's about all.
Theme Park on the DS isn't an upgrade from the original game that debuted back in 1994, but it doesn't have to be. While it would have been nice to have more rides, more than one save slot and less glitches, Theme Park is still a thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended game. The Nintendo DS is perfectly suited to it as a matter of fact, and even if you never played the original, it's still worth investing in.