Review by Tatanya_Brydon

"My whole family loves it,heres what I think."

Graphics:4 Stars While RollerCoaster Tycoon supports resolutions ranging from 640x480 to 1024x768, the 800x600 screen size is the best; it is crisper than 640x480, and all the 1024x768 resolution does is make everything look too small (even on my 21-inch monitor) without adding additional sharpness or detail. The visuals are incredibly detailed and use the isometric perspective to great advantage. Video acceleration is not supported, but frankly, it seems unnecessary; I have never seen a 3D accelerated game with the level of minutia presented here. So much is going on at once, it is just a wonder to behold. The colors could be more vivid, however, and the depiction of the park is decidedly more functional than artistic or breathtaking.

Interface:5 Stars Despite all the different kinds of things you can do in RollerCoaster Tycoon, the interface is amazingly clear. Everything can be done with the mouse, although several keyboard shortcuts are available for those who want them. The play screen is nicely organized, with a toolbar across the top, status and situation boxes, a message area and movable popup windows. While I expected the zoom feature and the ability to focus on one particular attraction, it was the ability to rotate the viewpoint by 90 degrees that really took my breath away; you really can see what is going on from all sides of a ride, and sometimes, you need to. You may save and load games at will, and an extra bonus is you may even take screenshots of your creations to keep a proud visual representation of your managerial prowess. If you design a particularly intriguing ride, you may add its design to the list of pre-existing choices so you can use it in another park at another time. This product gives you amazing control of your view; you may have underground or underwater views of the action, see through rides or scenery, or make ride supports or people invisible so as to aid you in your modification of an existing park. It is also possible to have gridlines or height marks present or absent, depending on what you want to see and do.

Gameplay:4.5 Stars It takes some time to learn how to construct roller coasters, such as how to get everything to line up right, but believe me, it is well worth the effort. If you make a mistake along the way, it is a snap to delete your last move or to demolish an entire structure. I really enjoy that after you have successfully completed a scenario, you can continue playing it and building up the park to your heart's content, just experiencing the fun with no pressure at all. Indeed, if you are the kind of person who likes to race quickly through a game to achieve scenario goals, this offering will not be your cup of tea, as there is no way to speed ahead to the end of a specified time period once these are accomplished. As a fan of arcade action games, I have to say, part of the thrill is just sitting back and watching the ensuing action on the rides after you complete the construction. The design genius that went into this product is such that if I were to redesign it from scratch, there is precious little I would change. Perhaps tiny improvements, such as hearing about vandalism earlier and with more specificity, or having more flexibility in footpath construction on up-and-down pathways, but little else.

Sound FX:4 Stars The sound effects in RollerCoaster Tycoon are absolutely fantastic. You hear screams of ecstasy, balloons popping, water splashing, cash registers ringing, roller coaster cars moving up and down the tracks, people talking, and even toilets flushing, all with total realism. The only problem is, you hear so many different noises at once, you cannot isolate easily the direction any particular sound is coming from.

Musical Score:4 Stars The background music is quite authentic and will give anyone who has frequented real-life amusement parks a fit of nostalgia. The calliope music is clear and bouncy, and each ride has a different theme. The clarity of the score is wonderful -- much better than the scratchy audio you hear in many old rundown parks in the real world. What you hear depends on what part of the park you are viewing (you hear a ride's unique tune as you get close to it), so there is a nice spatial dimension to the music. The one aspect of the soundtrack missing is original background music to set the overall tone.

Intelligence & Difficulty:4.5 Stars The combination of a superb, full-size manual, which is nicely written and illustrated, and an effective online tutorial makes the rich complexity of this game intelligible to anyone. Rather than including levels of difficulty, RollerCoaster Tycoon arranges its scenarios roughly in order of increasing challenge; novices should stick with the earlier ones, while experts can spurt ahead to tackle the tough ones. A principal component of what makes a scenario difficult is the availability of readily-usable space on which to build money-making attractions. While the algorithms for customer reactions to changing stimuli are quite sophisticated, there is no real evidence of (or need for) artificial intelligence.

Overall:4.5 Stars "Addictive" might be an overused word, but the concept applies to this game; you cannot help but be drawn into the fun of amusement park construction, and you never want to quit because there is always some little tweak you want to add to make your custom park just a little bit better. The sense of utter fulfillment when you finish a complicated twisting and turning rollercoaster and watch people gleefully riding on it is hard to describe. In the end, the atmosphere of real playfulness associated with all aspects of the design is the key to RollerCoaster Tycoon's truly smashing success.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/09/05

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