Review by JPeeples

"Missed opportunities on line four..."

Rollercoaster Tycoon is, simply put, the most disappointing sim game I have ever played. As a fan of Theme Park, and games of that ilk that let you create your own theme parks, I expected this game to be the best of the bunch, sadly, that isn’t the case. The game is marred by simple problems that I have never seen in any theme park creation game, problems that shouldn’t be there to begin with.

The first key problem with the game lies within the clunky system used for creating things. Unlike most other sim games on consoles, where just one menu is needed on-screen to accomplish many things, RcT has two menus, two very small menus that could have easily been combined to make one menu, which would have made park creation a little easier. This problem is magnified by the game only using the left analog stick for menu movement, which makes no sense and isn’t the least bit practical, since a slight nudge of the stick will send you to another selection, which is quite easy to do due to the sensitivity of the stick. This problem causes the player to waste copious amounts of time in the long run, which is something I definitely don’t dig.

Another key problem I have with the game is that the gameplay perspective isn’t an overhead shot like in Theme Park, or Theme Park Roller Coaster, it’s a ¾ overhead shot that leans to the side, which is then scaled out. This causes many, many problems with the game. With objects being so small, it’s nearly impossible to place anything where you want it, when you factor in that the game features options for slope and stuff, which is a nice touch in theory, it makes things even harder to place. There is a magnifying glass to help you see things in this game, but even that is too small, and doesn’t let you see any significant area of the park due to parks being so massive. This brings me to the next big problem in the game…

Screen clutter, which is something that simply shouldn’t exist at all in a game like this. RcT is chock-full of screen clutter, a problem that is magnified by everything appearing to be too small in the game, which adds more complications towards simply adding things to “your” park. Clutter like a mass amount of trees, which you can’t do anything with, just waste space and prevent you from being able to see your visitors, or your rides, for that matter. This clutter also makes it difficult to just navigate through your park, as the endless trees make it easy to get lost in “your” own park. You might be wondering why I put your in quotes, well, that’s because in this game, you don’t actually get to make your own theme park.

That’s right, in RcT, you just get to edit and tweak the existing park designs in the game, some of which are based on real parks. This is another key problem I have with the game as it takes away quite a bit of the freedom that players have in other theme park creation games. On top of that, some of the problems in the game, like the cluttering, could be easily prevented if players were able to create their own parks from scratch since they could move things around to best suit the gameplay perspective. These problems really make it nearly impossible to derive any enjoyment from the game, but thankfully, it’s not all bad.

First up, the game does give you many options for what to place in the park of your choosing, this is due in part to the first two add-on packs for the game being thrown on the DVD, which is nice. There seems to be more options for what you can have and where you can place it in this game than in any other, sadly, this is effectively negated by the fact that it is nearly impossible to place anything where you want it due to the clutter, and shoddy menu system, and horribly-executed slope features, but if the stars align, and you are able to place something where you want it, you’ll have plenty of things to choose from.

Secondly, the controls, barring the clunky menu system, are fantastic. Using the right analog stick to move the camera around your park was a great move by the folks at Infogrames who ported this game to the Xbox. It’s a simple thing, and it makes the game a bit easier to navigate through. Using the black button for menu closure was another nice move, as it’s handier than having to find a “close” button in every menu. The lack of any d-pad support in the game is definitely a bummer though, as it would make so many things easier, like the aforementioned menu stuff. Aside from that problem, the controls are pretty good, for the most part.

RcT’s graphics are easily the most lean of any sim game I’ve ever played on a console. While they are finely detailed, the scaled out viewpoint makes it nearly impossible to make out these details. There is also a lot of stuff on the screen, which is all given the same, thorough amount of detail. Sadly, that is also negated by the scaled out viewpoint. As it stands, the graphics in the Theme Park Roller Coaster on the PS2 run circles around this game, hell, Theme Park on the Genesis makes this game look bad, even that game gave the player some nicely detailed graphics, and even on the Nomad’s small screen, the graphics are infinitely preferable to those in this game.

Ah, the sound, something that can be used to convey a certain mood or theme. Theme Park Roller Coaster did this well, with the cheery tunes fitting the themed areas quite nicely. Even Theme Park did this, the music was simple, but it conveyed a sense of joy and whimsy, which is perfect for a theme park. This game though… well doesn’t do any of those things. You’re “treated” to tunes that sound like poor imitations of cheery music. The music is quite repetitious, and doesn’t really add to the game in any way, it just exists. The sound effects are a step up though, and are probably the best I’ve ever heard in a sim game on a console. They’re crystal-clear, and have quite of a bit of volume and depth to them as well, which is certainly a nice touch. Hearing multi-layered sound effects in a sim game is something I never thought would be done, but this game does it, and does it well.

RcT’s replay value is crippled by the inability to create your own theme park from scratch. Had that seemingly standard feature been put in, the game’s quality would have shot through the roof, with some of it’s faults being obscured by the player-controlled nature of the beast. While tweaking the many pre-made parks and unlocking new ones does have some merit to it, Theme Park let you do the same thing, more or less, and gave you much more freedom with your park than this game does.

Rollercoaster Tycoon is a supreme disappointment. I came into it expecting something great, and left it feeling disgusted by the problems in the game, problems that simply shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The entire game is just a mish-mash of good ideas gone wrong, as well as missed opportunities. I wouldn’t mind seeing Infogrames release a sequel of some kind to this game, fixing the problems that exist in this one. Right now, RcT is a solid base, with many faults to be smoothed out. Once that is done though, the end result should be great. Sadly, this end result isn’t great, in fact, it’s far from it. That being said, the game does have some worth, with the price point now being at about $20, it’s worth your money. If you are able to get past the problems, you’ll have fun with it, if not, well, just get your $20 out of it, or, better yet, go trade the game in for credit towards Theme Park Roller Coaster on the PS2, a game that is infinitely superior to this one.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 07/23/03, Updated 07/23/03


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