Review: RollerCoaster Tycoon 3

I remember years ago playing the original RollerCoaster Tycoon, when it came out, on my Windows PC. It was a long time ago. I remember how all of the characters were just little colored blobs (even when zoomed in). The game was incredibly simple, but was still pretty advanced at the time. There were lots of scenarios and options, and it was pretty realistic as far as the rollercoasters went.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 screenshot 1

I never got the chance to play the second one, but I’ve been trying out the newest version, ported to our beloved platform by Aspyr (who else?). The game is pretty familiar if you’ve played the original, and it improves on the original. Although it is by no means super-advanced technology, it is still a fairly impressive game, but it has a few issues to work out. Crashing is something that seems to happen from time to time, and the game lacks a few options that I expected.

When I first started the game, I had a problem with the game causing my monitor to complain about the refresh rate that the game had chosen for me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to find any option to change the refresh rate. This caused a problem where the monitor would shut off to protect itself, so I couldn’t see the image, and would have to quit to desktop. Well, no playing with my CRT, then, I guess.
I ended up getting an LCD not too long after, so I decided to try again. Works good. I’m still irritated that the custom options I was looking for were not there. The game automatically makes a decision on what video settings it thinks you should have. I’ve never liked it when games did that, because guessing wrong doesn’t work too well if you can’t get to the menu to change those settings.

If you want to jump right into the game, try the “Sandbox” mode. That’s what I tried, and it allowed me to experiment with very little limits.

In a nutshell, this game lets you build a themepark and put numerous attractions in it. You can create your own rides and attractions as well, and it’s very customizable. You are also in charge of the business management, such as pricing and budgeting, and keeping those pesky customers happy. I remember struggling with those details on the original game – patrons would throw up on the paths faster than my maintenance people could clean up. They would then make their way to the burger kiosk, eat a bunch, then ride the rides and throw up some more. Hopefully, that won’t happen as much this time around.

Once I got into the game, I was impressed immediately at the graphics. They’re a lot better than the original, of course, since graphics cards have upped the ante since last time. This game features an engine that is obviously rewritten. It feels a lot different, and has a bit of a different look to it. It still carries a similar feel to the original, but the devs made use of the 3D graphics to give the sims or whatever you call them distinctive looks. Elements like trees, water, and ground surfaces look very nice. The characters don’t look very detailed however, even at the highest video setting. They look okay, but there won’t be any awards in this area. What is neat, though, is how they have personalities that are more defined and varied. You can follow various “peeps” around the map, and watch them react to your rides in different ways.
The colors and feel of the game follow the original, and tend to aim to be even more “kiddy” than before. Since the game is aimed at young children, I won’t complain, but you can definitely tell who the game is made for. We’re talking about bright colors and friendly characters and animation.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 screenshot 2

The music is nice and soothing, but if you like your own iTunes playlist better, you have a nice option available… you can create a playlist with a special name, and click the checkbox in the options menu, and the game will play any songs that are in that playlist, instead of the normal music that comes with the game.
The sound and music generally follow what came before, for the most part. Not much new there.

So, if you know the franchise from the earlier games, then what’s new? Well, they’ve added a feature as part of this new 3D engine – you can ride the rides you create, in 3D. As if you’re sitting right in the seat, a camera will show the ride go around, and you can see it from the rider’s POV, right on your screen. When it isn’t glitchy, it’s pretty neat. It does tend to hiccup from time to time, but doesn’t affect gameplay significantly.
In addition, the game offers nighttime viewing of your park. This means you have to build in lights, but it looks very nice when done. Also at night, you can set off fireworks. Very cool. Try it, that’s all I can say. You can customize the fireworks displays as well.
Those are the things that I found that were new and very cool about this game, and enjoyed playing with.
Also worth mentioning is the new minimalist interface. The old one got in the way quite a bit, so they’ve redesigned it a bit. Nice touch.

One other issue that’s unique to the Mac: throw that goofy one-button mouse away if you want to play this, as the Apple one-button mouse makes it harder to play. Sure, you can do it, but it’s not so fun, because you are then stuck with keyboard combinations. Zooming and panning of the camera is easier to navigate when you have a scroll wheel and right mouse button at your disposal.

A couple of quirks: some kids will run up and down the path over and over, as if they’re brain-damaged. Packs of people will also walk into each other and get stuck, and since they’re walking opposite directions, no one goes anywhere. Weird. Only happened once.

Overall, the game is enjoyable, and its requirements aren’t as hefty as you might think, so most Macs from the last year should be okay. If you have a G5 with a 128MB video card, you can easily turn all of the settings up. Try to have at least 512MB of RAM (1GB is good), and you’ll need a recent G4 or G5, and a video card with 128MB is what I would recommend.
If Aspyr can iron out those last few bugs, this will be an awesome game. Look for any updates on their site for this game, where you can also purchase the game, and read other information about it. It’s a fun game, so I’d recommend it.


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