ScreamRide is a bit of a surprise on the Xbox One’s library. It’s a cross-gen game, of which there are fairly few on the downloadable storefront, and splits its focus between four somewhat-related, but different game concepts. One major part of it is a sandbox component for track and building creation, but the core gaming concepts are split into thirds. You’ll race on a roller coaster track with a group of living crash test dummies inside. There’s a baseball pitch-esque game where you have a capsule full of people and toss them into buildings, through hoops, and into screens for MASSIVE DAMAGE. Finally, there’s a track creation tool to tinker with where your end result will be tested by the test subjects’ ability to be scared by it and also live to tell the tale.
Each game type is made for a short and sweet play session that is designed to be replayed. You’ll start off each one with a set of goals and a minimum score to reach. In order to progress to the next stage within that game type, you just need to beat the minimum score. Really kicking ass and beating that score and also reaching the set goals will allow you to breeze through certain sections. The racing section is definitely the most accessible with standard trigger and stick controls alongside some twists. Everything’s nice and responsive, so you don’t need to worry about the controls hurting you here. You’ve got a turbo meter that is filled up by hitting X right as you exit bright blue zones. They’re a bit like F-Zero’s recharging zones in appearance, but allowing you to maximize your boost.
Doing so means that you can zoom through stages and increase fear for a higher score at the expense of taking more risks. Blasting through the whole stage can result in losing your group a few times, resulting in a lower score. You’ll also run into sections where you need to tilt the car in one direction. Sometimes, it’s for a short while to avoid a roadblock, while other times it’s due to the tracking losing half of its length, so you need to lean to a side to continue. Later on, you’ll encounter rapid back and forth sections for each and really need to master the tilting mechanic.
Still, while there’s a lot to do here, it’s really fun and easy to learn. The second type is the baseball-style one and that’s a lot tougher. You’ve got a power meter and a lot of things to destroy within nine swings of the human-filled capsule. Going for a subdued swing makes sense for closer buildings, targets, and hoops. Smashing targets, hoops, and screens will net you big bonuses. It’s tough to nail them exactly, so your best bet is to smash a building and then have the debris come in contact with it. You’ll still get the bonus, and not run the risk of wasting a turn.
Later, you’ll be able to split the capsule into thirds for the aftertouch. The destruction mode as a whole is very much like Burnout’s crash mode, just with people and a vastly different setting. Instead of cars and tracks, you have a fairly sterile-looking testing area to destroy. Luckily, it’s full of color thanks to all of the kinds of things you have to destroy. There are basic buildings, the other objects, and even structures made to resemble giant mechs. Unfortunately, the hardest part of this mode is the camera. While you can move it around a bit, you can’t zoom out enough to gain a clear picture of where your throw is going to land at a certain speed. You get an arrow giving you a very rough estimate, but it doesn’t do much good.
Fortunately, retrying is as easy as pressing down on the d-pad, and the quick nature of every event type in the career mode up to this point means you never lose more than a couple of minutes worth of progress. The final career mode game type gives you a really small area to work with and tasks you with making a coaster. The key here is to always look at the objectives and try your best on the first attempt because this is the most time-consuming career mode mini-game. You’ve got make sure things curve in just the right way and much like with the tossing mode, positioning the camera takes a while to get right.
This issue continues into the sandbox mode that gives you the ability to build breakable levels and coasters with a variety of parts. It’s really easy to make buildings and large structures, and this portion of the game reminded me of making gigantic LEGO creations as a kid. You can make just about anything you can imagine for the purpose of destroying it, which will either entertain a kid or the inner child in an older gamer. I loved creating coasters in theme park-creation games many years ago, but here, the interface is a bit too clunky to really work with in a 3D space. It’s definitely doable, just very difficult.
Visually, this is a massive disappointment given what the Xbox One is capable of. The character models have a cartoony look to them, but lack detail. In a way it kind of works, since it isn’t unappealing, but it doesn’t feel like the hardware is being taxed by them. What’s worse is that there are a lot of framerate drops during the game. Sometimes they’ll creep up during gameplay, but they’re really noticeable during replays or when destruction is going on. Sure, the destruction is impressive to see unfold, but if the same concept can be done on much older hardware like the original Xbox without slowdown, then surely that should be the case now on something as powerful as the Xbox One. With that said, this is a nice game to look at as the environments are lush and diverse, with picture-esque views before each level.
Musically, this is also a lot like Trials Fusion. The soundtrack is full of dubstep and mechanical-sounding stuff that is hit or miss. Some of the songs are enjoyable, while others are a bit more on the annoying side of the ledger. The narrator’s robotic voice isn’t very fun to hear for a long time, but the screams of the riders are great even if their silly ride-starting yells get old really fast. ScreamRide isn’t really a game that loses anything if you play it muted, and that can really help you do better and focus more on the task at hand.
ScreamRide is a really hard game to recommend on its own as only about half of the gameplay elements are super-fun in their current form. However, with it containing a free demo that lets you enjoy a ride, some destruction, and some creation, you can see if it jives with you. If you dig it in demo form, then you’ll enjoy the full game. If you don’t like it, then you’re better off skipping it or waiting for a hefty discount before giving the full game a try.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
This review is based on a digital copy of ScreamRide for the Xbox One provided by Microsoft Studios.