Don't worry, this kid will quickly become your BFF.
The upkeep missions primarily involve you hiring and training the three staff members needed to maintain the park, and here you'll find both the best and the worst minigames. The worst minigame is by far the one for training your mechanics, as its difficulty begins trivial and stays that way. However, the best minigame is a really neat little rhythm game for training your entertainer. Here, you're given a song and, like most other rhythm games, you match button presses in time with the beat while pressing the thumbstick in the direction indicated onscreen. Each new park has a different song, and you'll be able to find even more in the party play mode. And instead of the ubiquitous pop-punk trash that seems to be invading video games soundtracks these days, you'll be treated to a few indie adult contemporary bands, as well as a few in-house-produced tracks, which are all quite good and work well in the game. Oh, and you'll clean up vomit in the groundskeeper training game, which is always a good time for everyone involved.
Finally, guest missions, shockingly enough, involve interacting with your guests. Here, you'll engage park-goers in stimulating discourses on third-century athletics, and while these conversation starters would more likely get you stuffed in a locker in real life than help you ascend the social ladder, they do offer up some interesting and often entertaining tidbits. And you'll frequently cross paths with 5-year-olds who will both agree with you and then do you one better. These topics are broken up into various categories, such as science, history, food, or entertainment, and through trial and error you'll be able to figure out which topics to raise to build your friendship. By chatting up the guests, you'll build a rapport, and they'll in turn clue you in on where the park could go for some improvement. At least, theoretically. Unfortunately, aside from completing the guest missions, you'll never really want to converse with your patrons, mostly because there aren't that many dialogue choices, so you'll find yourself just spamming through the appropriate topic icons to build your friendships as quickly as possible. Also, you won't need to pump them for information, since the ambient chatter you'll hear as you run by patrons will be enough to fill you in on what needs to be done around the park. Ultimately, interacting with guests just doesn't feel quite right.
Apart from some of these dubious design issues, Thrillville is a well-put-together game, in that there isn't much here that will aggravate or frustrate you. For instance, you're given a map of your entire theme park and can jump to any location whenever you wish, and you can switch between any of the parks you have unlocked just as easily. You're even given a run button to speed up your exploration of the park in search of pickups. Also, since missions are dispersed all over the park, finding them very easily could have been a real hassle, but thankfully that isn't the case. You can see exactly which missions you have yet to complete, and you can jump right into any mission wherever you are in the park with just a few button presses. Plus, you have access to a sizable amount of the minigames right off the bat in party play mode, as well as blueprint mode that lets you design any kind of coaster or racetrack right from the get-go.
Aside from some sharp-looking cutscenes featuring Uncle Mortimer's stylish digs, Thrillville definitely has a dated, last-gen look to it. The game takes on a cartoonish look to mitigate its shortcomings in this respect, and for the most part it helps in deemphasizing the issue. It should be noted that the PlayStation 2 version looks significantly worse than the Xbox version, as a lot of the character models lose even more definition and are aliased to the hilt. In both versions, though, characters do animate well enough, there are absolutely zero frame rate issues, and there are no clipping issues or anything like that. Also, the game does a nice job of simulating motion on rides (enough to get us feeling a bit woozy, at least), and since you'll be able to ride any of the coasters you create (or race on any of your custom-built tracks), it's good to see that the game has no problem handling the visuals here.
You can make your own coasters as convoluted as you like.
Every aspect of the audio in Thrillville is great, ranging from Mortimer's loony ramblings to the ambient noise and radio DJ at the theme parks to the voice-over dialogue of guest conversations. The PSP version does lack a good deal of the voice work and in-game narration, but all of the music and ambient noise is still there, so it isn't a huge loss. The soundtrack in particular stands out as exceptional, both because it expands the repertoire of what's conventionally heard in video games and because the performances are really enjoyable. Plus, the music is incorporated into the gameplay seamlessly, cueing up in the background without being obnoxious and being a central aspect of the excellent rhythm minigame. It's just too bad that more songs weren't thrown into the mix, especially in the single-player mode.
Aside from the mostly superfluous tourney mode, the PSP version has just as much content as the console versions. You'll find an equal number of minigames, parks, and missions, and by and large, the game looks and runs at least as good as the PS2 version, if not better due to the aspect ratio. The PSP version also features ad hoc play, so you can share your madcap coaster and racetrack designs with friends, or just battle it out in party play mode. The minigame format makes Thrillville great on the go.
Thrillville is a nicely made game that offers enjoyable and often complex minigames, a diverse gameplay experience, and a great soundtrack. It might prove a bit too simplistic for some, and as tends to be the case with most minigame collections, not every one of them is a winner. However, the whole of the experience is a good one, and it makes for a nice change of pace from the usual style of theme park-management games.