SimCoaster offers the amusement park enthusiast a chance to manage a theme park from the ground up and while the concept is admirable, execution is not problem-free. Although filled with a mix of goal-inspired tasks, challenges, coasters, carnival rides, and people management, the game never achieves that feeling of true realism sought by simulation fans.
The irritant most immediately noticeable is the weird "helper," a spherical blue being with a bland but cheerful mid-western woman's voice, who materializes in the lower right-hand corner of the screen every 30 seconds. Whether it's an emergency, such as employee revolts or rides breaking down, or a park shortcoming, like lack of food vendors or high prices, this munchkin is always there.
The problem is not merely cosmetic and messages delivered by this weird little helper sum up the general feeling of the game -- dull. During gameplay, you're constantly bombarded with advice like "Build a training room and educate your staff!" or "The bathrooms are getting messy. You should make sure a janitor is patrolling and have him stop in." You must constantly consult with the president, the human resources department, the accountant, and anyone else with half an interest in park management -- but the name of the game is SimCoaster, not SimBusiness 101.
Despite the many challenges that test your park-managing abilities and spice things up, such as "Hot Dog over-stock problem," "Customer Satisfaction Drive," or the "Employee Satisfaction Drive," most are tasks that competely fail to trigger any excitement.
The theme park isn't without some interest, though, as the tracks of the various coasters can be bought pre-fabricated or designed in nearly any ridiculous, loopy, vomit-inducing way imaginable (and there are copious amounts of vomit, which adds a bit of realism only true sim players will appreciate). The simpler rides, like the Ferris Wheel and free-fall machines, are all pre-fabricated, but have unique appearances designed to reflect various theme sections of the park.
Goals are arranged nicely, as you progress through several areas (beginning in the Land of Invention) by completing certain challenges before gaining access to other areas like the Polar Zone and Arabian Nights. Each theme area is divided into several sections, which are unlocked in a similar way. The succession of locales opening up for development generates a nice sense of expansion.
The final problem, though, is the game's absurdly easy nature. It takes no time at all to expand your park to crazy dimensions, and most of the challenges are quickly dispensed with. The chance to make huge piles of computer money so easily is actually a bit embarrassing to the sim entrepreneur. Unfortunately, SimCoaster never really achieves a sense of urgency or player immersion found in similar games.
Graphics: Each ride has a very well realized visual concept and the carnival atmosphere is unmistakable.
Sound: The constant harangue of the "helper" is enough to make you leap off the tallest coaster. Ambient sounds are decent.
Enjoyment: Endlessly expanding your amusement park empire is an essentially fun activity, but the speed in which you can do so in SimCoaster dampens the challenge.
Replay Value: The potential for building differently designed theme parks guarantees several replays.
People who downloaded SimCoaster (a.k.a. Theme Park Inc) have also downloaded:
Sim Theme Park (a.k.a. Theme Park World), SimCity 4, SimCity 3000, Zoo Tycoon, Theme Hospital, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, SimSafari, SimTower
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