ScreamRide Review

Lee Bradley

You can almost hear the sighs of relief coming from Frontier’s Cambridge offices. Freed from the limitations of Kinect, the developers of Kinectimals, Zoo Tycoon and Disneyland Adventures is now in a much better position to give Microsoft what it’s wanted all along: colourful, fun, family-friendly experiences.

ScreamRide is all of these things and its Frontier’s best Xbox title in more than a generation. Drawing on the studio’s history of coaster contruct-em-ups, it’s a brilliantly entertaining game with a variety of overlapping activities, all of which are capable of keeping you hooked. I loved every moment and, despite completing the career, feel like I’m only just getting started.


ScreamRide’s Career mode is split into three activities; Scream Rider, Engineer and Demolition Expert, spread across over 60 levels of racing, building and destroying.

Scream Rider is the racing aspect of the game, tasking players with making it to the end of the track in the fastest, most skilful manner possible. You’ll have to hit commands with split-second accuracy to build your boost meter, push the cart up onto two wheels in order to avoid obstacles, and keep your speed in check so you don’t derail and send your coaster car spinning into the distance.

With these pretty meagre ingredients, Frontier has created a fantastically simple but increasingly tricky arcade experience. Completing a level is easy: all you have to do is make it around the track and the penalties for derailing are slight. But unlocking further levels depends on attaining a high score and earning commendations, with a variety of bonus challenges thrown in for good measure.

This is what you’ll spend most of your time attempting to do in Career Mode, across all three of the different disciplines: repeating, refining and improving. In the case of Scream Rider it means you’ll keep coming back to tracks, memorising patterns and inputs in an attempt to finish with a quicker time, build your boost to 100%, or make it around without derailing once. Scream Rider inspires the best kind of 'one more go' compulsion, despite its simplicity.

Demolition Expert is a lot more involved. In its simplest form the activity is about flinging amusement ride pods at buildings and watching them tumble. That alone is satisfying enough, in an Angry Birds kinda way. There’s something incredibly pleasing about identifying a weak point on a structure, nailing it, then watching the building collapse into dust, especially when you manage to create a few chain reactions along the way.

What makes Demolition Expert even better, however, is the increasingly complex levels. You’ll be given new kinds of pods that fly further, bounce further, can be controlled more precisely or detonated, as well as some decidedly tricky environmental obstacles like bounce pads and invincible shields. Attaining the highest score on the most difficult levels demands a deep understanding of your selected pod’s abilities, pinpoint trajectory precision and above all the willingness to improve and perfect.


In one of the later levels I must have spent about 45 minutes attempting to discover how to destroy a building that was far out of reach for a normal throw. Experimenting with different pods, trying to bounce off numerous pads, aiming for magnetic launchers that effectively allow you to re-launch the pod from a different location - I tried it all.

I didn’t even really need to do it. I’d done enough to open up the subsequent levels, but the desire to improve my score and my placing on the leaderboards was strong. ScreamRide is that kind of game and Demolition Expert is Career Mode’s finest activity. I did it in the end. I reached the building at the far end of the map, hit an explosive canister and watched the whole thing come tumbling down. All for a few extra thousand points.

The last of Career Mode’s activities is Engineer, in which players must build rollercoasters within strict guidelines; using a limited number of track parts, linking to pre-built sections and reaching certain speeds, among other objectives. In some ways it’s Career Mode’s least compelling activity. It’s pretty fun to make tracks and the track editor tool is intuitive to use, but you really just want to create something crazy and the structure of the levels reins you in. But really, the best way of thinking about Engineer is as an extended tutorial.

Get through all of the Engineer levels and you’ll be equipped with all the tools you’ll need for ScreamRide’s Sandbox Mode (literally, as completing levels in any of Career Mode’s activities unlocks further track pieces for you to use). And this is where for some ScreamRide players the game will go from an entertaining diversion to an obsession. In Sandbox Mode you can build whatever you like and then share it online.


Want to build the craziest, twisting, turning, swooping coaster ever seen? You can do that and then challenge players to race on it and compete for high scores. Wanna build an entire, intricate city for players to destroy? You can do that too, although it’s a struggle. Unlike the coaster creation tool, the building creator is a little fiddly - you can use blueprints but to build something from scratch you have to place each section of wall individually. I suspect it’ll take a little while for players to get their head around. But when they do, I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

That’s what I mean when I said that I feel like I’m only just getting started with ScreamRide. I’ve completed all but two levels in the entire game, but it’s the bonkers stuff the community will come up with that I’m anticipating most.

It’s exciting, but it also highlights a shortcoming with ScreamRide itself. Demolition is the most fun activity, but for me the real enjoyment came from attempting the really tough shots like I described earlier. There are far too few of them and they mean far too little. I’m anticipating the community will devise some fiendish challenges, but really they’ll be making up for the core game’s shortcomings.

But perhaps I’m missing the point. ScreamRide is designed for players of all ages to get stuck into. It’s a fun game that’s incredibly easy to pick up and reasonably tough to master. But I was left wanting for more in terms of challenge. At least Frontier has provided the tools for the community to fill that gap. Let’s just hope the community rises to the challenge. Bring your best efforts, because I’m ready and waiting.


Free from Kinect, Frontier has been able to deliver a game that revels in split-second timing and precise controls. The result is the studio’s best Xbox game in years that's a brilliantly fun coaster-racing, track-building, building destroying experience in its own right. ScreamRide feels like a reaction to the studio’s Kinect work. Where Microsoft’s motion-detecting device demanded games without precise input, ScreamRide revels in it. The result is a joy.

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The music - largely uptempo dance tracks - is initially bouncy and enjoyable but quickly becomes slightly annoying. Post-level cutscenes and dialogue are repetitive.


Anyone who has played a Frontier or Rare game in recent years will be familiar with ScreamRide’s cartoony style. The frame rate tumbles when levels are building in.


Easy, accessible fun with some tougher challenges that inspire 'one more go' attempts at perfection. Track building is intuitive and blueprints make the fiddly building creator easier.


There’s over 60 levels in ScreamRide’s Career Mode, but it’s Sandbox Mode that gives the game real longevity, allowing players to create and share levels with the community.


A mostly fair list that steers you around ScreamRide’s multiple modes and challenges while only rarely feeling punishing. Sandbox achievements likes Trendy and Builder sound like a pain.

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