This third full RollerCoaster Tycoon game runs on a graphics engine that moves the series from 2D to 3D. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is designed to make good use of its new technology with numerous gameplay improvements and aesthetic additions, such as gradual day and night cycles, customizable fireworks displays, weather effects, and the chance for players to finally experience the rides they create from a first-hand perspective -- a longtime desire among fans of the series.
As in earlier RollerCoaster Tycoon games, players take on all the authority and responsibility of an amusement park manager, directing the day-to-day operations and ongoing development. Virtual tycoons are challenged to manage staffing, pricing, and the design of the park's layout and new attractions, in order to bring in as many paying guests as possible and keep them happy and spending their money.
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 was created by Frontier Developments in conjunction with Chris Sawyer, the creator of the franchise. The Cambridge, England-based studio has demonstrated its qualifications for the task with its expansions for RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, Wacky Worlds and Time Twister, as well as with its family-friendly console games Dog's Life and Wallace & Gromit in Project Zoo.
The original Roller Coaster Tycoon , released back in 1999, was that rare game with the ability to capture the attention of both hardcore gamers and the casual novice. Who knew that constructing and running an amusement park could be so much fun? Chris Sawyer's masterpiece is one of the most popular PC games of all time and for good reason: it's just as much fun today as it was five years ago. This third edition, developed by Frontier Developments, contains much of the charm and the joy of the original and wraps it up in a pretty 3D package, but a surprising number of serious bugs damage what is otherwise a highly addictive game.
The general design of the third game in the series is pretty much the same as it was in the first two. Your job in the single-player career mode is to build the theme park of your dreams by accomplishing certain goals that are presented to you in a given scenario. These goals range from pleasing a VIP who likes to ride coasters with a certain excitement value or a VIP that likes a clean park to keeping a certain number of "peeps" (people) in your park for a specific amount of time.
Each scenario has three levels of objectives, ranging from apprentice to tycoon. Accomplishing an apprentice objective is extremely simple; at times it's as easy as building two coasters. Reaching the entrepreneur and tycoon levels is much more challenging, however. Still, the game cannot be considered overly difficult, which is another reason for its broad-based appeal. The joy you get from playing a game like this isn't because of the challenge; it's just cool to build rides and watch animated people enjoy them. Even if you find the career mode too hard or too easy, you can always play in sandbox mode, where money is no object and you can build as much as you want without the worry of reaching a specific goal.
Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 is a lot like its predecessors, although there are a few new tweaks that improve its playability. The new auto-finish feature is a wonderful addition that allows you to press a button to finalize your custom-built roller coaster if you run out of time or just want to be done with the thing. Building an elaborate coaster takes a lot of thought and a lot of time, and this feature really helps when you get yourself stuck. There's also a fireworks display as well as an editor that allows you to customize the fireworks in your park, which is a nice touch.
The peeps are now personalized so the teenagers, for example, will usually run to the wild and high excitement level coasters, while the little kids will enjoy the gentler rides and the old folks just tend to complain and chase their kids around.
The most obvious change in Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 is the move to a 3D landscape. While some may argue that the switch removes the 2D charm of the original, there are actually benefits to playing the game in 3D. You may now rotate the camera and zoom in and out, and this allows you to clearly see where a new ride or concession stand will be placed. It also clearly shows height and depth; this isn't just a superfluous change, but it really does assist you when building custom attractions.
On a cosmetic level, it looks great. Moving the camera to ground level and surveying your park is mesmerizing. If you have a large park, the new 3D look sucks you into its world more than the old 2D view ever could.
Perhaps the best new feature of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is the Coaster Cam. On any ride, not just a roller coaster, you can take a front row seat and actually ride the ride along with a peep. The camera does a fantastic job of showing you what your "Death Ball" coaster feels like. You may even find yourself rocking in your chair as if you were really on a roller coaster. The game is almost worth the price of admission for the Coaster Cam alone. Almost.
Unfortunately, a lot of the good stuff in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is offset by a huge number of bugs. The game was clearly pushed out the door despite the fact that it wasn't ready for prime time, and the list of bugs is long and varied, from basic stability issues that cause the game to lock up or crash, to coasters that see their excitement value plummet and then skyrocket for no apparent reason. Maintenance workers get stuck on railings, balance sheets don't add up properly (a computer game that can't do math?), and information desks break down. The new terrain editing tools are next to useless because the more you edit and tinker, the more stuff breaks down.
The problems continue: peeps tend to ignore pricing on certain rides; it drives you crazy when they say that they won't pay that much to ride "Whirling Hangover" even when you lower the price to nothing, but they'll sit in line for hours to ride another ride regardless of how much you jack up the price. Even more maddening is when a VIP comes to your park looking for a ride with a "five excitement" and you have several in your park, and he goes to a kiddie ride, gets mad, and leaves and you don't get credit for accomplishing a goal. It just doesn't make any sense. Casual gamers might be able to ignore some of these issues, but some can be game killers.
Soon after the game's release, Atari and Frontier released a "beta" patch that addressed a laundry list of issues, and it seems to help quite a bit. The tragedy, however, is that -- since the game never steers you online -- a lot of players may never realize a patch even exists. There's just no good excuse for releasing a product in such a state, and -- since there's a good game buried in here -- we hate to think of how many people might simply chuck RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 away in frustration.
Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 is prime example of what can happen to a potentially great game that is released prematurely. In many ways, this is the sequel that fans have been waiting for, and the beta patch certainly alleviates a lot of the problems.
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RollerCoaster Tycoon Deluxe, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, Zoo Tycoon 2, Prison Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, Age of Empires III, Sid Meier's Civilization IV, Sims 2, The
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