Review by BigCj34

"A real classic theme park building sim, showing the way they should be made."

The Tycoon games series originated with games such as Transport Tycoon, released in the 1990's and Railroad Tycoon, all published under Microprose. Chris Sawyer, who designed Transport Tycoon, went on to design a game originally called White Knuckle, but as this was published by Microprose they retained the traditional Tycoon names. Various expansion packs and sequels have followed, with RCT2 having many tweaks was also designed by Sawyer himself, and RCT3 featuring fully functioning 3D graphics, also with Sawyer as part of the Frontier team.

Roller-coaster Tycoon is the original of the Rollercoaster Tycoon series, designed by Chris Sawyer and featuring an isometric view for your park. Although it states rollercoaster's, it's actually a lot more than building rollercoaster's, you have to build and manage a successful theme park, achieving goals in each scenario, from keeping your reputation over a certain amount to achieving a park value. It kicks Bullfrog's Theme Park, one of the early theme park management games, in the butt with it's much better graphics and you can actually build real roller-coaster's, as opposed to near vertical slopes that go up to 6 kilometres high.

When you start the game, there's a whole list of scenario's to choose from, but if you want to play them you have to complete the scenario's to unlock new ones. You start off with six, with the flat forest park Forest Frontiers or Evergreen Gardens, a garden that requires you to turn it into a thriving theme park, maybe transforming a desert with on roller-coaster ride to a major theme park. You can unlock new levels, such as a scenario where you trabsform Brighton's amusement park by the beach into a more Blackpool-esque part, with less concrete, or maybe a level requiring you to turn a pier in the sea to a monster park. There's a large list of unlockable levels, all in different shapes and sizes to keep you busy. Can you complete them all?

So what makes this game great? There's a simple answer, flexibility and options. Building a successful park involves you having to change the landscape, building paths, placing shops and building lots of rides. Roller-coaster building is spot-on, with roller-coaster's ranging from a classic wooden roller-coaster to corkscrew and bobsleigh rides. Maintaining a reputation can only be done by responding to complaints, having facilities and building lots of rides, and if you really want to impress guests you have to build lots of scenery and gardens. You also have to hire the appropriate number of staff, handymen sweep up the puke from those 5-loop rides you made that you made your guests go on., mechanics fix and inspect your rides and security men stop your lampposts and seats being trashed up. The roller-coaster building formula doesn't only apply strictly to roller-coasters, but virtually anything that runs on a track, from the car-ride to log flume and river rapids. Of course, depending on the ride, you won't be able to put a loop in a log-flume or a corkscrew on your mini-car ride.

The rollercoaster building is easy to use, but mastering it takes time. You could easily end up building a killer ride that no-one wants to go on because it's too scary. You simply go through the building stage from start to the end, and select the parts to put in, with slopes and turns to steep drops and corkscrews. If your ride is unsafe or too scary in areas, you can go back to parts of your roller-coaster and change it without erasing everything in front of it. You can build with a traditional wooden roller-coaster, but the wooden supports do look an eyesore, and you can't put loops on. Steel roller-coaster allow loops, and there are even variations such as a single rail rollercoaster and a corkscrew ride. Although this sounds easy, when you've packed so much in a small park it's likely that there's going to be many obstacles in the way. Building around obstacles, and trying hard to raise the land and editing other rides so you can get the final turn to the station is one of the fine arts to be mastered in RCT.

Once you've finished your ride, you have to test it. The results you get are in three categories: Nausea rating, excitement and intensity. You want to get your roller-coaster to get a high excitement rating and as low intensity rating as you can. Nausea rating is how likely your guests are going to puke on your path. This doesn't matter too much, but if it's high, be prepared to place lots of loos and handymen near the ride! There's nothing more annoying when building a ride, thinking it's good but it gets an ultra-extreme intensity rating and low excitement, as guests don't like scary rides. Do sympathise with them, chances are you're afraid of heights too.

The landscape is more malleable and flexible than blue-tack. The game is based on game-squares, and when you can raise certain squares, or slope them, etc. Raising land is useful when you want to make your ride/ path go underground, or you can flatten a large area if you want to put a garden there, etc. Then you can change the surface texture to sand or slate or soil texture to rusty metal or brick. If you want you can raise water levels and build ponds if you want to build a boat ride, but I don't highly recommend as it burns a lot of money.

As always, the typical elements of a management game are there. You have to keep guests happy, and doing so boosts your reputation attracting more guests. To keep guests satisfied you have to make sure your prices aren't too high otherwise they'll moan more than a baby, ensure your park is kept clean, and having done that, attract even more guests buy building monster rides. If you make the effort and pay attention to your rides and scenery you can win awards, although you can win bogey-prizes if you're not careful, so don't charge double Alton Towers prices, or guests will run out of money and leave.

However the game does have it's problems, such as the guests flimsy AI or the lack of help when things go fatally wrong in your park, such as guests getting stuck on a path area because you accidentally deleted it. The AI do have a tendency of not knowing how to cross a field and wander round in circles in case they fall more than 3 squares away from a path if they fall off a path when you're rebuilding one. It would also help if they could swim if they fell in the water, but you should be less careful. Having said that, the game does feel repetitive in various ways. Once having completed a park, you still see a long list of scenario's. Although the scenario's do differ well, the objective's are too samey, and not long will you notice most levels about attracting guests. A lack of designs for shops and some of the ride's does also contribute to the repetitiveness but the roller-coasters have various cars and colours to choose from.

The graphics of the game have been very well done, drawn in isometric 3D which works out well. The graphics look bright the looks fairly realistic yet cartoony. The isometric view can be rotated but can get annoying when trying to get to certain part of your park only to find there's many things surrounding it and you can't see it. There are various options to alter effects, such as turning off supports and changing to a view to see underground, which do prove to be useful. The sound effects are excellent, you can hear the crowd and all the effects, and the merry-go-round music surprisingly doesn't get too repetitive even having owned this game for 5+ years.

Although Roller-coaster Tycoon has a long list of unlockable levels, it can get boring after having played through a lot of levels. Although the levels themselves have a lot of variety, the objectives themselves It's good to play in bursts, but if you do get bored don't uninstall it or at least keep your game save as you probably will come back to it occasionally, and you'll have the game finished eventually.

The system requirements of the game are very low. To play this you need Windows 95, 16MB RAM, a Pentium 90Mhz CPU, and 1MB video card, so I don't see how that's a problem unless being retro is your thing. If you play this on XP you need a patch, it's easy to install, no problem.

GraphicsIsometric 3D view looks the part, bright and colourful 8/10
Sounds Good crowd effects, cheerful merry-go-round music 8/10
Gameplay Everything you need for a theme-park management game, not too complex but gets in-depth enough 9/10
Length Each scenario takes hours, a good 40 hours approximately to complete. 8/10

Roller-coaster Tycoon is one of my favourite games I have played. It's fun, it's tricky in ways and it's satisfying building a killer ride `and experimenting with ideas. A lack of themes for certain rides and objectives are a let down and the guest AI can be annoying, and it would've been nice to have the first person mode of Theme Park World, the infinite fun with roller-coasters and parks make this a game that you should buy. There are two sequels to this game, the 3rd game with full 3D graphics, but if you have a low-powered PC or have a fiver to burn then this game you should go out and buy. 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/08/06

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