Roller Coaster Tycoon is a fun ride
(IDG) -- The much-anticipated follow-up to Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon is finally here! For amusement-park junkies and sim nuts, Hasbro Interactive presents Roller Coaster Tycoon. It's everything Bullfrog's Theme Park wasn't and couldn't be.
As a self-described coaster geek, I can only say that my newest addiction will suck you in as much as it did me. We no longer have to wait for good weather or ducats to go ride coasters. Just wish I could keep the noise level down… Neighbors always complaining…
The high of Roller Tycoon is imagining what a coaster could be and then making it reality--albeit in your own sim-world. RCT's isometric view offers multi-landscaped terrains that provide numerous blank slates and already-established beginner parks with which to build and customize. Though I lacked a manual and found the onscreen tutorial none too helpful, the game was easy to play, and I was able to figure out the toolbar icons without much trouble. In fact, given a few screenshots of established coasters from online fan pages (mixed with a little imagination), I created a coaster that begins on the mainland, tunnels beneath a lake bed, emerges from a tunnel on an island, and launches into a series of corkscrews back on the mainland.
Once I had several "baby" parks under my belt, I got serious with a few huge custom parks--flush with new landscapes and all the latest advances (metal-frame coasters, burger stands, information kiosks)--and was able to turn a hefty profit after paying off the initial loan.
Which leads me to the hardest part of the game. Building high-quality coasters or burger stands costs money, and there's a cap on how much money you can borrow. Be careful and prudent in spending, and you'll be rewarded with enough cash flow to keep expanding and improving. If you aimlessly build the biggest coaster at the first opportunity and then run out of money during construction, you'll be forced to dismantle sections at a financial penalty and use whatever funds you can scrounge up to build cheaper ferris wheels or haunted mansions. Your goal is to always have money flowing in and to attract more guests. Once you've got that down, tunneling underground for your rides is child's play.
I ran my simulated parks on a Celeron 300A overclocked to 450MHz with an 8MB SDRAM Matrox G200, and occasionally got the screen to freeze while panning around at a resolution of 1,024-by-768. I also noticed that this happens only when the onscreen image contains a heavy concentration of people and rides. One of the nuisances during these brief lock-ups is that a one-second audio track is repeated.
RCT lacks the visual stimulation of SimCity 3000's shading and textures, but easily compensates for this with plenty of action and realism via "accurately simulated motion dynamics" (as Hasbro puts it): coasters creep up the chain-drawn hills and fly around sweeping curves and down monster drops. Though some of you no doubt demand the realism of multi-polygonal texturing, the developers reportedly took this approach to keep the look of RCT playful and animated. And really, it's better this way. The only call for more realism would be in the inclusion of a front-seat camera, so we could see what our creations actually felt like.
The screams of the nauseated and the music from the bumper cars are never drowned out by a cheesy soundtrack-- there isn't one. Instead, you get all of the ambient and front-stage noises of the park in your immediate location. Nothing beats the "chi-ching" of people plunking down $14 for an umbrella or $5 for using the bathroom at the far end of the park. And as you follow your coasters, you'll hear trains rumbling through the corkscrews and people screaming their heads off. Very nice.
Overall Score: 9.0
It doesn't take a coaster nut to fall in love with this game. If sims are your thing and riding the Riddler's Revenge flips your lid, go out and snatch RCT up when it's released. Rarely do I find a game that keeps me up all night, but this one did. From one moment to the next, I was adding more land; tweaking my on-ride photos; jacking up pizza prices to $8 a slice; shooting my coaster out of the station into a 60 mph negative-G spiral before sending it hurtling into the side of a mountain, surfacing right next to the half-hour wait; and watching every person puke after plunking down 20 bucks. And that was just the first night!
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