I was walking through Staples a few weeks ago and I saw a demo running of what looked like a really cool game, and I was thinking to myself that it looked like something I would like to try out. A couple days later the Corkscrew Follies expansion pack and the original Rollercoaster Tycoon were plopped onto my desk. This tells me never to go shopping for office supplies with my editor ever again. Since GiN never reviewed the original game, I thought I would try something a little bit different with this review. I am going to review the game and the expansion pack as one product. I will however try and note the enhancements provided by the expansion pack over the original game where ever possible.
To be perfectly honest my first impression of this game was not all that great. I could not figure out how to place any rides, I tried building a new coaster and it crashed, and in general the graphics were not all that great compared to some of the games I have been playing recently.
Once I got over what I would normally consider a steep learning curve (although I would say it was about normal for this type of game), I was in love. It was a tough struggle between my wanting to play Microsoft’s Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings and my wanting to play Microprose’s Rollercoaster Tycoon. This is a little strange for me as I don’t normally go for simulation games like Theme Hospital and SimCity 3000.
Rollercoaster Tycoon is a theme park construction and simulation game. The big selling point for me is that you do not have to pay all that much attention to the business aspect of the game as long as you keep an eye on the bottom line. Now if you are into all that number crunching (yawn!!!) the information is there for you to analyze. This is the second game from Chris Sawyer, who released Transport Tycoon in 1994. The only other game of this type that I am aware of is Bullfrog’s Theme Park, which was published by Electronic Arts a few years ago, and dealt a lot more with the business side of building a theme park.
The basic game consists of 21 scenarios, with five available to start. As you complete scenarios ranging from getting 1,000 guests in the park by the end of year three to building up the park value to 10,000 by year three, other scenarios become available.
The expansion pack increases both the overall number of scenarios and the number that you start with. Even after you meet your goal, the game continues until the time period is completed. But it does not have to stop there, you can continue playing after the time that the scenario is set to end, letting you complete your dream park.
At the time I am writing this review, there are also extra scenarios on the RCT web site. I have not had a chance to download one yet, but they look like a lot of fun. The real challenge of each scenario is the different terrain features and structures that you have to go around when building your park. The first challenge I faced was to build a park on the side of a cliff with very little real-estate to put in the big money makers: the coasters. Some of the locations include a bridge, a series of islands, and my current favorite, a big fortress. You can terraform the landscape, raise and lover the water level, and add and remove a wide variety of trees and other scenery and other theme objects like western, space, Egyptian, wonderland, Roman, and jungle themes.
Once you have the land set up the way you want it, it’s time to add some rides and shops. You start the game with a selection of rides and you have to conduct research to develop new attractions. Your research level can be set at one of three levels. I always set mine to the maximum level, which gives me a new design about once a month and a half or so. The real highlight of this game is the ability to design your own coasters, but I will go more into that in a moment.
The rides and shops fall into six categories. The first category is transport rides and includes those amusement park staples like the Miniature Railroad, the Monorail, and the Chairlift. Each of these rides needs to be laid out and can be as long or as short as you desire and have as many stations as you wish to include in your park. The next category is gentle rides and includes those relaxing old favorites like the Haunted House, the Ferris Wheel, the Merry-Go-Round, the Car Ride, and my favorite Bumper Cars. These are the rides that people can go on when it’s raining and when their stomach is to upset to handle Roller Coasters.
The next category is thrill rides which includes the Scrambled Eggs, the Whoa Belly, the Swinging Ship, Go Karts, the Swinging Inverter Ship, the Motion Simulator, the 3D Cinema and the Gravitron. These rides are a bit more scary then gentle rides and are just one tiny step down from Roller Coasters.
The other type of thrill ride are the water rides like the Water Slide, the Log Flume, the Boat Hire and the River Rapids ride. Just like the coasters, these guys make a lot of money (except for the boat hire) and can all be custom designed. There are also shops that have to be placed like the Ice Cream Stall, the Burger Bar, the Fries Stall, the Drink Stall, the Cotton Candy Stall, the Balloon Stall and the Souvenir Stall. Oh, and don’t forget the Information Kiosk and the Bathroom. I could go on and on here, but I think everyone should have a good idea of the variety of rides that can be built at this point and in some areas I have only scratched the surface.
Moving on the my favorite, the coasters. The game is named "Rollercoaster Tycoon" after all. Each track type comes with at least one pre-built track design and I have seen as many as three. As you conduct research on new tracks you can also conduct research on ride improvements. These include new car designs, splash zones, and those areas where they take your picture on a ride.
Actually speaking of new car designs, this summer I was at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia (for those of you that don’t know — it is an amusement park) and we were all in line for the new coaster and talking about our dream ride. What we all thought would be the coolest ride would be one where you ride lying down face first. We thought it would almost be like flying. So imagine my surprise when that car modification pops up for the Single-Rail Roller Coaster. I was so thrilled it made my week.
There are actually 14 track designs included with the original game and more were added with the expansion pack. Some of the original designs are the Wooden Roller Coaster, the Steel Mini Roller Coaster, the Mine Train Roller Coaster, the Steel Roller Coaster, the Stand-Up Steel Roller Coaster, the Steel Corkscrew Roller Coaster, the Suspended Roller Coaster, the Inverted Roller Coaster, the Bobsled Roller Coaster, and the Vertical Roller Coaster. One of the new designs is the Virginia Reel, a friction Roller Coaster. There are others, but I mention that one because I had never seen one before, and I thought it was neat looking.
Along with the ability to design your own coaster you can also now, with the expansion pack, change the color of parts of the track. Now, with the expansion pack you can have different colored sections of track. You set up your base color scheme, which covers the entire ride, just like you always could and now you can add three alternate schemes. Your ride is always the base color and then you go in and select different sections and you can make them one of your three alternative colors. For example, you could have a three loops coaster that is red all over and you make the first loop green the second one blue and the third one, that goes through the first one, orange.
They have also added different colored foot paths and ride cue lines. Another new feature of the expansion pack is the ability to add banner style signs across your walkway. You can change the color of the sign and text and have the banner either say something, or inform the guest that they may not walk that way. I found this handy when I was doing construction and I would often place them across my exit paths for rides.
As you build up your park and as your rides get older, and as more guests enter the park you have to start maintaining your rides, cleaning up after your guests, and guarding your park from vandalism. To combat these problems you need to hire a staff of maintenance men, handymen, security and entertainers. Their jobs are pretty self explanatory so I wont go into detail.
The overall graphics are good, but still pretty basic. Now saying that, you can see the guests walking around and you can see them buying a hotdog and a soda and you can watch them toss their trash on the ground and you just want to throttle them. And you can see when they buy a map you will see them take it out and look at it or if they get sick on a coaster you will see their face turn green. When it rains they have little umbrellas. So when I say the graphics are pretty basic, well they are, but I have no complaints. Everything looked really good. It’s the same way with the sound, each ride has a selection of music that you can pick from and that you can turn on or off. As you look at a ride you will hear that music or if you’re over at the haunted house you might hear a scream. The music is nice, not over stated, and just generally good.
Overall the original manual for the game is really good and detailed, but I did find the expansion pack manual to be a little lite on telling you what exactly they added. But they covered the new color scheme for the rides and the banner signs in some detail. Once I got over the learning curve for this game it was a lot of fun. There is a tutorial, but you really need to read the book.
The one problem that I am having now, and several other people have told me they have that same problem, is that I can set up a really good park long before the time runs out on the scenario. At this point I routinely set up a park, go make dinner, eat dinner and then come back and see how my park is doing with confidence that everything will be running smoothly. At that point I usually have a bunch of new rides and shops to add into my park. It’s all so easy now, I really yearn for a new challenge.
I found this game to be most addictive, challenging and as much fun as I thought it would be watching the demo in the store. I am pleased to give Rollercoaster Tycoon 5 GiN gems.
A demo of the game can be found at www.rollercoastertycoon.com and several bonus scenarios as well.