Review by jessetro

"A challenging game full of thrills, fun, and...puke?!"

Like most quality simulation games, I enjoyed the amount of freedom and difficulty Roller Coaster Tycoon had to offer. In this game, you are in charge of turning barren land and a $10,000 loan into a profitable and exciting theme park. You can hire “skilled” personnel, purchase nauseating thrill rides, and create terrifying roller coasters to construct your own ideal park. Just be careful not to kill any innocent guests along the way!

The controls in Roller Coaster Tycoon are essentially simple, because almost every command uses the mouse. The buildings menu is pretty straightforward and descriptive, showing the ride’s picture and statistics. This makes placing the various facilities and small rides a cinch, if you can find the space. There are various categories of small rides available including thrill rides, gentle rides, and water rides. These are mostly just crappy generic attractions like spinning chairs, swinging ships, and haunted houses: they are cheap and don’t draw customers or pay off very well. But they will get you enough money to build the big stuff, like water slides and roller coasters. These rides can be as impressive, nauseating, dangerous, or just plain crazy as you want them to be.

Roller coasters, the most important rides, are ironically the most difficult to make in Roller Coaster Tycoon. First of all, building them in itself is rather complicated. You have a complex construction menu that takes some time to get used to, and there is rarely enough room to build the slopes and turns necessary to make a ride fun. Also, the planning takes a certain amount of skill and self-control to not make a ride too scary. Guests will often not ride roller coasters with steep drops or quick turns, so you must be able to predict how fast a coaster will go and how nauseating it is while you are making it, because revisions are nearly impossible to make. And if you make a roller coaster that crashes and happens to kill a few dozen people, customers will consider your rides too unsafe and not ride them at all.

Although they are difficult to plan and construct, roller coasters can be rewarding things to master building, and can be impressive stuff to see when you make them right. You can send your customers flying through corkscrews, flips, and helixes, or you can be devious and propel them backwards or forward at 50 mph! If you do enough research, things like a water splash or revolving seats become available. Still keep in mind, though, that there is a thin line between a roller coaster and a death machine. It isn’t too hard to throw your innocent customers into nearby walls, rails, and water.

Another challenge in Roller Coaster Tycoon is the maintenance of your park staff. You may spend a lot of your time and money hiring and placing personnel, all of which have a very bad AI. You can hire as many handymen as you want, but if you don’t plan carefully where you put them they will often walk far away from where they’re useful. You must also hire security guards to watch for vandals, or else you will end up with broken chairs and garbage cans to replace. Also, you will definitely need plenty of repairmen to maintain and repair rides to avoid losing both attractions and impatient guests.

There are many unique places to build a theme park, from watery islands to hilly deserts. To get more places you must beat some often-difficult scenarios, which requires skills in the placement and designing of your attractions. They often deal with getting a high park rating and enough customers or park value before a specified time. The difficulty of the scenarios is graduated, ranging from being easy enough for a young child, to being insanely difficult even for experienced players. It can be pretty hard to keep up with the ever-changing demands and interests of your customers over a long scenario. Once you get done taking care of the litter and broken ride complaints, you then have to replace your old rides that you put so much effort into, because they lost their “novelty value”. The one challenge of scenarios above all else is planning for the future. Roller Coaster Tycoon’s scenarios require a fine mix of patience, planning, and creativity to succeed in.

The graphics in this game are quite decent. The famous (or infamous) 45 degree overhead perspective allows for a pretty good view, but it will sometimes cause things to block one-another and hills to completely obscure your view. Another small problem is that, except for clothing colors, all guests look the exact same. The ride graphics are pretty neat, though. It was easy to tell that much attention was paid to the animation for the roller coasters. There are graphics for every angle of the roller coaster cars and the guests riding in them, and the actual track has pretty good animation, too. The speed and acceleration of roller coasters are nearly true to real-life physics. You can also see things that people are carrying, ducks on the pond, people throwing up, etc. There’s a lot of detail, but nothing that will absolutely “WOW!” you.

The sounds, other than being a tad high pitched, are very realistic and interesting. People scream when they roll downhill, things explode when they crash, and there is even a cha-ching sound when people buy things at shops. The music is less than bearable, though. Although all music has its own theme, they all sound like they could be found in Dawn of the Dead somewhere! Luckily, music is optional.

Altogether, Roller Coaster Tycoon is a pretty decent game. It has progressive, advanced difficulty to challenge your skill and creativity. This game also has decent graphics and sound, and interesting-looking rides. There are a few things to do that seem like chores and some difficult construction controls, but this game has a large variety of attractions and challenging scenarios to entertain you for hours at a time.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 01/16/03, Updated 01/18/03

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