We have a lot to thank the Minigame Competition for. Not only did TV Game (reviewed this issue) start out as an entry for the 1K contest, but Fun Park was originally the main Spectrum contender for the 2003 4K title. In the end, Amusement Park 4000 - as it was then called - came in second place, but such was its popularity programmer Jonathan Cauldwell promised a 16K version would be developed. And, would you believe it, here it is.
Fun Park is Jonathan's fifth title for Cronosoft, sandwiched between shoot-em-ups Rough Justice and the forthcoming More Tea, Vicar? This one's a strategy game, of course, and the aim is to build an amusement park so big it makes Alton Towers look like an abandoned slide on a Swindon council estate. Easy it is not. You start the game with a meagre £1,500 and from this point on have to start balancing a budget that includes such outlays as research and development, advertising, security and the funding of a whole range of attractions - from helter-skelters to roller coasters; from cafes and pubs to decorative statues and trees. Bankruptcy is always lurking just around the corner for the first few precarious years of your park's development. You can get a bank loan of an extra grand if you want, but I warn you now the APR is daylight robbery.
Visually, Fun Park is a pleasing game to look at, with attractions represented by tidy icons that flash when a ride is in progress or send little karts, cars or logs whizzing around their tracks and waterways. Visitors are shown as Football Manager-style stick people - their animation is about as basic as it gets, yet their antics in the park are bizarrely watchable. Look closely and you'll see some alarmingly loutish behaviour occasionally, such as the commandeering of a go-kart for a round-the-park joyride - sometimes with tragic consequences (represented by a horizontal stick man). Beefing up security is the only way to deal with this sort of problem but, if you want a laugh, cut right back on the muscle, throw in a couple of pubs next to a log fume and wait. Be warned - fatalities are not good for business.
Rides in the park are accessed via pathways and queuing areas, shown in white and yellow respectively, and it's up to you to organise these properly. The amount of land available to you is not immense and you might find that your initial park layout is too generous in its spaciousness later on in the game when Capitalism With A Social Conscience has outstayed its welcome and you just want to squeeze as much cash from the tourists as you can. Paths, tracks and queuing areas you can redo at will, but attractions can't be pulled down so easily. So plan ahead.
Fun Park is an immensely addictive game. The detail that's been packed into it (16K, remember) is extraordinary and, for £1.99 (or 99p if you choose to download it), it's difficult to see how its purchase could be anything other than a truly excellent idea.
Excellent Theme Park clone for the bare-bones Spectrum. Ridiculously addictive.
It takes a few years, but eventually the park starts to thrive
The park's first fatalities. Notice the pub in the bottom right-hand corner. And the runaway go-kart. The two are connected
The roller coaster arrives. Press 3 two times to select the right track to lay
Yay! The log flume! Now we just need to build a new pub to overlook it...