Indoorlands | PC Review
Indoorlands is, like the name suggests, an indoor park management simulator, developed and published by Pixelsplit. It was pre-released in July 2021 and achieved a full release in October 2022. It is available only for Windows PC and the full release was timed to coincide with the Indie Showcase event running on Steam from 14th until 23rd of October.
I was excited to pick up a review copy of this game, as an old Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon enthusiast. That said, those games are getting close to 30 years old, and I have not kept up with the genre, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I love building simulation games in general, but it is the park themed ones that have eluded me for some reason. Firing up Indoorlands got me instantly nostalgic, being an indie title and reminding me of especially Rollercoaster Tycoon.
The game starts out with a (skippable) tutorial. Most of the contents felt familiar already, from playing similar games, however there were a few things that stood out. First of all the park is, of course, indoors. Mechanically for the game, it doesn’t really affect much, except that it will be very obvious where you have built paths or other park contents, because it will be inside instead of out in the desert sun. The buildings and paths all adhere to the game’s square grid, and while a path will take up a singular square, ride halls will take up massive space.
Ride halls themselves are like small parks, where you can go into a design mode to select a ride and make the hall look and feel exactly how you want. This design mode does not care about the grid mechanic, and you can basically toy around with all the design options as much as you want. Regrettably, this mode is not very intuitive and makes little sense. The objects you place affect visitor ratings, so you want to place objects with high ratings. At the same time, objects cost very little, and you can change the size, rotation, height, et cetera, cramming an ungodly amount into the same ride hall. This makes for a weird situation, where the game doesn’t know if it wants you to min/max the ride hall, or actually design something that looks nice.
The worst part of all this, though, is the controls around placing decorations. Basically, there are six options to change an object, and you need to select the correct option to manipulate the object in this way. For example, if you want to change the size, option 4 needs to be selected. This makes for a very clunky experience, where you cannot easily modify an object to fit your needs. Also, once you have placed the object, the next one will return to the default size and position, so if you planned to make more of the same, next to each other, you are out of luck. It’s actually decently infuriating and one of the worst parts of the game. The ride hall design mode needs a total overhaul, both in terms of controls and mechanics. The current redeeming factor is the blueprints function, where you can entirely skip the frustration of the design mode. It feels like the design mode was created for the rollercoaster hall, where it actually works decently.
The controls otherwise are fine, and what you usually get for such a game. I did miss scrolling the screen by moving the mouse to the edge, though. Music is relaxed and calming, rather than upbeat and exciting. It fits well for a simulation game like this, which can be played without worrying about any crippling decisions. Graphics and visuals are a little lazy, even for an indie game, and visitor sprites are often teleporting between stuff because there are no animations to show them properly reaching their destination within a ride. I would expect this from a free mobile game, but I would expect a little more from a fully released Windows PC game at this price.
Soon after starting, you will receive a tutorial mission asking you to achieve 50% happiness with 5 visitors. The 5 visitors part itself is obvious, but to select visitors and check happiness, you actually need to find the correct tool for that, and can’t just click them. Finding your way around the menus and options can be a little bit confusing, and I was also missing a big statistics panel to show me where my problems with the park were. The “Feedback” panel kind of works like that, but is in itself difficult to interpret. There are also the “heatmaps” showing you the density of different kinds of problems, and I found those to be a lot more useful, once their location was revealed to me - for some reason they stay hidden if you have anything else selected.
The research mechanic is an interesting one, explained by “observing visitors’ behaviour”, this is a building like any other, but instead of selling stuff, it generates research points to spend. These points can in turn be used to unlock nodes in different trees of technology, in a traditional skill tree fashion. The mechanic itself is sound, but should in my opinion be rebalanced, to contain more nodes, and less unlocks per node, so that progress is smoother and unlocking choices isn’t something you have to think about for a while. It can also be quite difficult to get a good overview of what you need and how well unlocking a node matches that need. The game could be better paced with having fewer things from the beginning, slower unlocks, and giving the player time to toy with each, and learn the benefits and drawbacks.
Currently, it does not feel like every decoration and ride is necessary, and Indoorlands is stuck in the “choices inflation trap” that we already know from early The Sims games, where you are just given an incredible amount of stuff to choose between, without much purpose apart from visual variability. Visual variability isn’t bad in itself, but if that’s what you’re after, there should at least be better hierarchy. Don’t make 100 different chairs where 30 gives a low stat, 30 gives a middle stat and 20 gives a high stat. Make three chairs with different stats, and then apply the visual variability in a separate part of the interface.
The final piece of the tutorial is to teach you about the other progression mechanic. You reach certain milestones, like enough visitors and happiness, and once you do, “Demand” experience and subsequently level increases. When it does, you unlock more stuff for your park, but also new kinds of visitors who will have more and different demands from before. These demands come in the form of tags, and need to be matched with entertainment, shops and restaurants of the same tag. Increasing demand and completing milestones also give you a lot of money, both from the milestones themselves, but also from increasing the viable park ticket price.
Once the game’s tutorial is complete, you are left to your own devices. You can either continue the tutorial level, or start a new one. Starting a new one doesn’t make much sense unless you are unhappy with your results from the tutorial, since all maps offer the same scenario, just with different landscape skins. There is also the sandbox mode, which allows you to enable cheats like infinite money. Other than that, the game doesn’t offer much in variation when it comes to game modes, and it is tied to staying on the same map and in the same park for a long time, and offers little in the way of replayability. Personally I would have loved to see a mission or scenario mode, where you get put in a park in a certain state, and you have to reach a few milestones, and correct its problems, then move on to the next park. This mode could have a symbiotic relationship with an off-map skill tree where you get unlock points based on how well you performed in the mission. Skills that also enhance your ability to perform better in said maps.
Playing and learning this game certainly reminded me of similar such games, which is both a good and a bad thing. There’s nothing really innovative with this one, but it also provides decent fun for a while. There ends my praise, though, because it feels like everywhere I look in this game, I can only see opportunities to improve upon it. It costs a bit more than it should, compared to the effort put into it, and it lacks the fishing hook to reel you in and keep you enthralled for hours.
Victor’s Rating: 2 cotton candy sticks out of 5.
For more information on Indoorlands please use the following links...
Pixelsplit - Developer | Publisher | Instagram | Twitter | Website
Many thanks to Visibility and PressEngine for the Review Key.
Indoorlands | Windows PC
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