Release Date: October 26, 2004
Buy 'ROLLERCOASTER TYCOON 3': PC
Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 may not be the game for everybody, but I daresay you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody that couldn’t have at least some fun with it. If you like simulation games at all, where you’re given nigh-unto-godlike authority over your own little world, than this game will amaze you. In this case, your own little world happens to be an amusement park, but you can do so much macro- and micro-management in your park that you’ll never feel that the game is lacking scope. There is so much to do in this game. Who knew running an amusement park could be this complex?
While this lacks the adrenaline-packing punch of an FPS or the crazed clicking of a fast-paced RTS, this is a game you can relax with and play at your leisure. You are given either a preexisting park which you can improve on or a sandbox with which you can build your own park from the ground up. Place paths for your Peeps (virtual guests, like Sims from the Sims line of games) to get around, scenery to liven things up, shops to lighten your guests wallets (on useless souvenirs and junk food), and of course rides! You’re in control, you make all the decisions about how to spend the money you make, what employees (such as janitors, security guards, mechanics, and entertainers) to hire or fire, which rides your park will offer, where they’ll go, and how much they’ll cost. These are just the basics, if you are really into micromanagement you can control things down to as low a level as what colors the rides are, how many Peeps the queue lines should wait for before beginning the rides, and how much cheese and ketchup should the Peeps get when they buy a hot dog.
What amusement park would be complete without Whirlygigs and Zippers, Ferris Wheels, Chair Swings and Bumper Boats! Just about every ride you’ve ever seen is represented in this game in some form or another, and quite possibly you’ll see some you didn’t even know existed (although I’m guessing they probably do, somewhere). These are all well and good and mucho fun, but who goes to an amusement park just for these puny contraptions? That’s right, we want to see the monstrosities that weave around the park looping to and fro and rising as high as the eye can see. We want that edge of your seat sensation, heart-pounding, gripping-the-bar, stomach in your throat mayhem. We want the Roller Coasters!
As you might guess, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 has all sorts of roller coasters. These make up the heart of your amusement park and the soul of this game. The game features a fully functional do-it-yourself roller coaster design kit, letting you build any coaster you want. It even features an Autocomplete button you can press which will automatically make the computer figure out the simplest way to connect whatever you’ve built so far back to the starting station, finishing your design. While it seems like a simple concept, this innovation takes what was one of the most frustrating parts of the previous RollerCoaster Tycoon titles, making your coaster meet up back where it started, and removes it entirely.
Build any style of roller coaster you want, from the classic wooden coasters to the more modern steel behemoths, regular or inverted. When you’re done, turn your design on in test mode and see if it works! You can even take advantage of another new feature of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, CoasterCam, to take the initial ride yourself and see how exciting your creation really is. CoasterCam, which allows you to ride any ride in your park, is another one of those features that you always wished you had in the previous RollerCoaster Tycoon games, and now it’s here.
Another fun offering from RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is the Fireworks MixMaster. Now you can create your own fireworks shows timed to music either provided with the game or imported from your own music library. Choose from about 30 different fireworks and create complex aerial artistry timed to your favorite tunes. While this could have just been a throwaway gimmick, the designers did a good job of implementing this feature, making it easy to use and fun.
The game offers a few different modes of play, nothing sim fans haven’t seen before, such as a Sandbox mode where you are given infinite money and access to everything in the game, along with a completely empty park in which you can build whatever you want, and a Scenario mode where you attempt to complete objectives by taking over control of various pre-built parks and making them better.
In the scenarios you are given limited funds and must manage your budget closely, trying to stay in the black while providing the best amusement park money can buy. Each scenario has three different sets of objectives, apprentice (the easiest), entrepreneur (moderate), and tycoon (hardest). The apprentice objectives are simple to fulfill, usually requiring only basic maintenance of the park already provided, but for those seeking a greater challenge the much harder goals at the Tycoon level will require you to do everything you can think of to succeed.
I can see both modes appealing to different types of players – Sandbox is great for people who don’t want to be told they can’t do something, and Scenarios are fun for people that like to surmount obstacles and progress through the game. Scenario mode also allows players to unlock new parks and rides, rewarding the player for doing a good job.
The fun in this game is all about building a park and watching your Peeps run around having a good time. There’s a lot of variety, allowing you to build just about any park you can think of. You even can do theme parks based upon such genres as sci-fi, haunted park, and Wild West. This game is about relaxing and having fun. It is the type of game you could pick up and play an hour here, an hour there, whenever is convenient. You can save at any time and pick right up where you last left off, and generally there is no real time limit or clock you have to beat.
The game isn’t perfect, however, and there are some pretty annoying problems. Although you can click on the Peeps and see what they are thinking, it can be very difficult to gauge exactly why some rides are popular and others are not. Sometimes a ride that’s been hot stuff for weeks will suddenly lose popularity for no apparent reason. Occasionally, you’ll have situations where half the rides in your park get no business at all, and it’s hard or impossible figure out the how or the why, let alone solve this problem. Here’s hoping for a patch or something to address these issues, which mar what would otherwise an amazing title.
The controls take a while to get used to. Everything is rendered in 3d, and you have freedom of camera movement in just about any direction you like. Some views, however, are much better for building your park than others, so you’ll find yourself spending most of your time looking down from above at an angle in the standard isometric perspective. This is where things can get annoying, because it’s hard to find the fine line between seeing things close enough to place small items likes paths and scenery precisely, and being far enough away to maintain the big picture and make sure you’re putting everything where it should go in relation to what’s already there. Fortunately a variety of preset camera views is provided, but it can take some getting used to before you’ll master it completely.
Practically every object in your park is selectable, and selecting objects open small circular windows in the bottom corners of your screen where you can view and edit the various properties and settings for that object. This is good on one hand because it maintains a low footprint on your screen, not obtrusively blocking your view, but comes at the cost of ease-of-use since the menus are small, and it can be difficult to get to the setting you want until you learn exactly what each tiny button does.
Graphically this game is top notch for a sim. Everything is rendered in 3d with fully dynamic lighting and a day/night cycle, and if you have a top-of-the-line system with a great graphics card the game is going to look phenomenal. Even on lesser systems the game looks good, which is great considering the fact that everything in the game can be viewed from as far away as about a thousand feet overhead to close enough to see the letters flowing across the marquees of the ride queue lines. You can twist and turn your camera anyway you like, your park is going to look correct from every angle. The fireworks shows are spectacular, and look about as good as it gets without being there in person.
Soundwise I was equally impressed. If you told me they sampled the sound effects by taking recording equipment to real amusement parks, I’d believe you. The roller coasters grind or creak or squeal as they creep up the chain, the Peeps riding them scream and holler as they are being dropped a hundred feet in a blink of the eye, much like you’d experience on the actual thing. Positional sound is very well done, zoom in down to the Peep level and it’ll sound like you are standing in the middle of practically any amusement park in the country, and you’ll be able to tell which rides are nearby and what direction they are in just by listening.
The music tracks that come with the game are a bland, standard fare, which would annoy me except that the game lets me import my own music! Not only that, I can use my imported music as the music for any ride in my park, or even for my own fireworks displays. Finally I can create a roller coaster that plays For Whom the Bell Tolls, guaranteed to thrill any Peep brave enough to ride.
This game gives you more control over your park than ever before. It takes all the elements that made Roller Coaster Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 fun, and expands upon them, moving them into 3d and adding great features like the Autocomplete for roller coaster building, CoasterCam, imported music, and Fireworks displays. This is what a sequel should be – they aren’t trying to reinvent the genre or completely change how the game is played, they are taking what worked before and adding logical next-steps to it, making it better and fuller. If you liked any of the RollerCoaster Tycoon games, or just enjoy fun, relaxing sims, get this game.
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