Take a vacation from fun!
Thrillville: Off the Rails isn’t exactly the kind of game you’d expect it to be. The obvious assumption is that it is a theme park simulation game in the vein of the original Theme Park or Roller Coaster Tycoon. While this is partially true, a good portion of your time spent in Thrillville is mission and mini-game oriented.
In this game you take the role of a park manager. Unlike many other sim games, you control an actual on-screen character, rather than playing the part of omniscient manager in the sky. Inside one of your parks, you can talk to guests to gauge their feelings. You can also build new rides and shops, and ride the existing attractions (meaning you’ll watch a short animation of your character on the ride -- what fun!). Walking around the park by tapping the touch screen where you want to go can be a rather tedious task. Thankfully, you can instantly teleport to any point in the park by pulling up the park’s map. This is especially useful, as you’ll need to hop all over the parks to complete their various missions.
The game’s plot puts you in charge of defending your parks from sabotage efforts launched by your rival, GloboJoy. Typically, this involves going into a park, talking to a few key characters, and playing lots and lots of mini-games. You see, in the world of Thrillville, people aren’t helpful for the sake of being helpful, but rather only if you manage to best them in some arbitrary test of skill. In fitting with the game’s amusement park theme, most of the mini-games are recreations of the various kids midway games you’d see on a boardwalk: skee-ball, wack-a-mole, that game where you squirt water at a target to make a horse race across a board, etc. All of these games are very simple, and feel more like chores than fun. The kicker is that lots of the park attractions in the game are unlocked via these mini-games. As such, the entire mission/mini-game portion of Thrillville comes off more as a series of obstacles designed to keep you from getting the most out of the park-management portion of the game.
Once you do get into park management, you’ll find that it isn’t nearly as deep or fun as its compatriots. You won’t be building your dream theme park in Thrillville, as there’s no start-from-scratch mode to speak of. All of the parks are pre-built. You can add, remove, and switch up attractions, food stalls, and coasters, but that’s about it. Because of this, and the sizable amount of money you have to work with, keeping the customer base happy can barely be considered an objective.
Unfortunately, fans of the genre are going to find nothing to enjoy here. The dumbed-down simulation gameplay, simple missions and tedious mini-games all bog the game down. Essentially, it feels like a game designed for children, which is backed up by the quote on the box proclaiming it as “the sequel to the #1 family game of 2006" (based on NPD sales data... and some arbitrary classification of what makes a “family" game). That’s all well and good if you want to introduce your nephew to sim games, but a seasoned gamer will have much more fun with older, more advanced theme park sims.