I don’t know if it’s a dream you’re building after all…
Fans of Rollercoaster Tycoon and Theme Park have been clamoring for a new amusement park simulation game for years, and when Fugazo announced Dream Builder: Amusement Park, it almost seemed like this colorful take on the genre could be just the thing to fill the virtual park-going void. Unfortunately, Dream Builder: Amusement Park is too basic and linear to be an instant classic. With that said, this ride is not without its casual entertainment value. For those clamoring to get back in the gates of a sim like this, it may even be worth the price of admission.
Dream Builder: Amusement Park offers four parks to customize, with each being unlocked through dedicated play in the park(s) that come before. You’ll start off simply, building a bouncy castle, cotton candy stall, some midway attractions, a fun house and more basic theme park offerings, and will be guided through the entire game by a Magazine Challenge feature that sees you completing sets of goals to earn trophies. These trophies allow you to unlock subsequent theme parks and even additional attractions, so earning them is key to moving on. Unfortunately, this locks you into a very linear progression of unlocking rides, building rides and attractions, and then decorating your park to fulfill these goals. The whole thing feels less playful and far more like the completion of a glorified checklist, which goes against the spirt of styling your park with a sense of individualism.
With each ride or attraction placed in your park, the admission price increases, giving you a fairly steady stream of coin profits. The other currency comes in the form of hearts, which are earned when a guest sees or experiences something noteworthy or particularly fulfilling in your park. Hearts are then used to research new attractions, activate marketing campaigns, unlock “zones” within your parks (a food zone, a scary ride zone, etc.), and flesh out your available content. Researching most items takes time, as does simply accumulating hearts in the first place, leaving Dream Builder: Amusement Park feeling quickly like one of the lines in its parks: a waiting game that requires far more hearts (and player goodwill!) than you currently have on hand.
Supplementing the doldrums, however, is the ability to switch between challenges on the fly to find those that are easier to complete… at first. Once you’ve finished just a few, all of them become increasingly difficult, requiring you to either spend time unlocking new attractions or redesign your park so that “compatible” structures sit next to one another. A noisy ride can’t sit next to a quiet ride, for instance, or both attractions suffer in terms of appeal.
The same goes for dark and bright rides, which overly complicates the game and limits the amount of freedom you’ll have in decorating your parks. That is, if you want a carousel to sit next to a haunted house, since both are fairly light in their thrill value, you’ll need to accept that one is light and one is dark, and both will suffer because of it. This is ultimately the worst part of Dream Builder: Amusement Park, as any freedom you’re given is quickly stripped away by building zone limitations or light, dark, noisy, quiet, etc. markers.
To be fair, you can ignore these limitations and even the Magazine Challenges altogether if you’d like true freedom, but without completing these challenges, many rides will never be unlockable and you’ll never unlock subsequent parks within which to play. You’ll simply be able to place duplicates of the few items you have unlocked until you’ve filled the park’s limited size and will be stuck there until you give in to the game’s hand-holding. In a way, it feels like a game designed for a poor free-to-play model trapped within a premium pricing strategy, but still bound to the rules of freemium.
Dream Builder: Amusement Park comes with colorful graphics and plenty of rides to unlock, but unfortunately, you won’t hear the iconic sound effects or customer laughter and screams that would make your parks come to life. Furthermore, the game’s many limitations are completely unnecessary, as even the least seasoned gamer would be able to enjoy the freedom of simply building a park and making it look pretty. The game’s Magazine Challenges and research system do more harm than good, and ultimately keep Dream Builder: Amusement Park from being immediately recommendable. If you’re expecting the next Rollercoaster Tycoon or Theme Park, you won’t find that here, but those that are fine with linearity and limitations will likely enjoy the lengthy gameplay that (eventually) waits within.