Review by Tatanya_Brydon

Reviewed: 02/13/06

Everyone's entitled to my opinion

Graphics: When the original RollerCoaster Tycoon came out in 1999, the visuals were highly respectable, if not state-of-the-art. Sadly, there's little improvement in this new release. While there are some minor advances, such as greater numbers of moving parts in more multifaceted structures, more color variation and control, and enhanced animations for both the characters and the scenery, it's generally hard to tell the difference in appearance between RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 and its predecessors. There's still little detail or texturing on anything you see, and grainy murkiness dominates the overall look. Although the game supports a variety of video resolutions, settings such as exceeding 800x600 increase the scope of what you see, but at the same time makes everything too small for the most effective amusement park management. Surprisingly, you're still limited to an absolutely primitive color depth of 8-bit 256 color graphics. With spirited competition from such 3D rendered titles as Disney's Ultimate Ride Coaster Deluxe and Mad Data's No Limits Roller Coaster Simulation, it's unwise that RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 decided to rest on its visual laurels. The dramatic increase in minimum system requirements (the original version required a mere Pentium 90 with only 16 megabytes of RAM) clearly doesn't yield corresponding value in the way of graphics improvements.

Interface: The control in RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 still relies on the mouse, with clicks activating key functions. However, several convenient keyboard shortcuts are available to increase your speed and navigational efficiency. As with the earlier versions of this title, doing all of the necessary tasks isn't always an intuitive process, despite the convenience of the new "game tools" icon, which provides instant access to the scenario editor and coaster designer. The menu and gameplay screens are rather different from what many of us are used to in terms of the locations of where you go to pull up information and activate tasks. Building roller coasters is still tricky and cumbersome, and manually adjusting the terrain is still a real chore. Even with scrolling functions, sometimes it's difficult to see just what you need to observe when you're building. What's needed is a 3D engine that would permit you to get a better look at coasters when you build them. However, due to the large installed base of RollerCoaster Tycoon users, there's clearly a reluctance to make any significant changes in this regard.

Gameplay: The most notable facet of the gameplay in RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, aside from the obvious sense of pleasure afforded by the design of popular and beautiful amusement parks, is its similarity to its predecessor. If you loved it before, and have an unending tolerance for more of the same, then you'll love it again in its new form. The new frills, such as being able to stack objects, are enjoyable, but not revolutionary, improvements. The gameplay limitations highlight several deficiencies that could have, and should have, been included. On the financial management side, one could have hoped for new types of park employees and new ways to make and lose money; on the construction side, one could have hoped for improved terrain and tunneling management; and on the customer appreciation side, one could have hoped for the ability to actually to ride on the coasters. Perhaps most importantly, you still can't slow down or speed up time - as you can in many other simulations - when it serves your needs to do so.

Multiplayer: RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 doesn't have a multiplayer component.

Sound FX: The sound effects were one of the most exceptional features of the original RollerCoaster Tycoon, and that pattern continues in this sequel. It's still incredibly fun to hear the squeals of thrilling excitement and controlled panic from those strolling through the park and zooming around on the rides. As with many other facets of this game, there's little audible distinction between what you heard before and what you hear now; but unlike the graphics, the audio doesn't shows its age.

Musical Score: While the wonderful calliope music in the original release was very satisfying, RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 has an even wider choice of tunes available. You get to listen to a lot more songs, and for each ride, there's a wide selection of different kinds of music. The spatial differentiation of the music, where you hear it get louder as you approach an attraction and softer as you move away, is still excellent.

Intelligence & Difficulty: In RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, you may choose parks reflecting easy, challenging or expert levels of difficulty. The difference in the level of challenge between someone who has played the earlier releases and someone who hasn't is significant. Those with prior experience will already know a range of tried-and-true techniques to meet scenario goals that will be quite effective (since these objectives are exactly the same as before), while those without this experience will have to learn the ropes from scratch. Nonetheless, aided by a decent non-jewel case manual, novices will get up to speed quickly. Moreover, extensive tutorials are available providing animated scenarios that feature step-by-step instructions if you need help with the fundamentals of coaster construction or park management. The artificial intelligence of the workers and customers in RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, never that impressive in previous releases, is about the same in this new offering. In fairness, the success of this product hardly rests on the quality of its AI.

Overall: RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 attempts to walk a tightrope that is so fragile that success is highly improbable: It strives to maintain the familiar look and feel of its predecessors so as not to annoy its huge fan base, while at the same time endeavoring to introduce innovations. The resulting compromise doesn't work, and in the end, there's not enough new content here to justify a standalone release. Those who haven't played the original game will clearly be less disappointed than those who have and were hoping for a lot more. The new scenario editor and coaster designer, along with the wider range of amusement parks, scenery and rides are positive enhancements, but far less than what this blockbuster franchise deserves. This is still one of the best roller coaster computer offerings out on the market today, but this sequel squanders the opportunity for stellar advances and now faces a steep uphill incline to be able to keep pace with the competition.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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