RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is the latest installment of the RollerCoaster Tycoon series. With the original RollerCoaster Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 under the development and direction of Chris Sawyer and Microprose, development of the series has been transitioned to England-based Frontier Developments for this release. The basic premise is the same - build a park, make money - but the look is quite different. The graphics have improved greatly since the first RollerCoaster Tycoon back in 1999, and the main selling point with this one is that now you can ride the rides that you create.
The game took a while to install, but it wasn't bad, considering it's only a single disc. The main menu images are Japanese anime-styled characters, introducing the different modes and gameplay types. There are two different modes - career mode and sandbox mode. In career mode, you can pick one of six starting scenarios, each with its own objective. The objectives range from cleaning up the park to make it presentable for your VIP to transforming a beautiful garden park into a success story, complete with a variety of rides to improve park profits. There are also several other scenarios to play which can be unlocked. Sandbox mode gives you an opportunity to build your own park from the ground up. There is no set to goal in sandbox mode, just try to have the best park rating possible. Your funds are unlimited to add to your ability to create an extraordinary park. This mode is excellent for beginners, or for those who just want to build their own park without the pressures of having an excellent park rating or high profits.
In your own park, the options are endless. You can change the elevation, ground texture, add bodies of water, and make themed areas. The themes given to you are generic, spooky, adventure, and sci-fi, among others. The array of rides is excellent, and the individual ride menus allow you to filter through rides based on theme. The roller coaster menu is similar, allowing you to filter through steel, wooden, inverted, or water coasters. This makes searching for ride types faster and more efficient than in previous versions. You can also add in to your ride some animated scenery which will move and make sounds when a ride goes by it. You can pick from exploding volcanoes, screaming dinosaurs, gun-toting cowboys, and even burning oil trucks to add to your ride's experience.
As with most games, the music in the game is nice at first, but becomes annoying after a few minutes. An added bonus here is that if you're really annoyed by the sound, you can change the music to any of the music tracks you have on your PC. And if you get sick of that, then you can just zoom in, as the music fades when you get closer to the park. Frontier Developments has taken the element of sound and allowed players to 'theme' different areas of the park. You can specify different types of music in different sections of your park, or individualize each ride with a different tune. The overall sound is excellent - the screams and the background murmur are realistic, and if you closed your eyes, you'd think you were at a real amusement park.
As previously mentioned, the graphics of the park and of the attractions are incredible - the reflection of the sun on the water and on the steel coasters is unbelievably realistic. The designs for the coasters are well-thought out, however some are less thrilling than others. The information stands and washrooms are genuine and creative looking, and the food and merchandise stands are elaborate in their design. While it adds to the game, something simpler would be more realistic, as Frontier Developments hasn't necessarily aimed for complete realism in all aspects of the title. The options with the food and merchandise stands are great - you can choose what to sell, how much to sell it for, and how much of the condiments and extras are put onto each food item.
One of the new elements in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is the ability to create fireworks displays using the "Fireworks Mix-Master." Whether it's a nightly event, or simply a single show, players can customize these displays by placing fireworks base platforms throughout the park. From the mix-master, you can select which fireworks to launch from which bases, and schedule them using a time-based drag-and-drop system. The fireworks shows are fantastic - you can choose the type of display you want, and pick the music to go with to add to the experience.
You want to attract as many "peeps" to your park as possible, so that they will spend money on food, merchandise, and rides, in order to increase your profit. Start your marketing campaign or your discount coupon offer to attract peeps to your park. The peeps range in age and many can be seen wearing t-shirts with the Atari logos on them. Unfortunately, the peeps are somewhat one-dimensional in appearance, but it's forgiven because of the great graphics for the rides. Many peeps will visit your park - including many VIPeeps, ranging from Kara Oki the teen pop star to politician Clint Bushton, and Mr. Jobsworth, the Park Inspector. Mr. Jobsworth will be walking around your park with a clipboard writing things down to inform you of - like your soft drink price is too high, for example. Make sure you try to see what each peep is thinking so that you know what to improve on in your park. The new peeps also have higher nausea tolerances, so the rides that you built in RCT and RCT2 will actually have riders now.
It's also important to hire employees for your park. Janitors, security guards, entertainers, and mechanics all keep the park together and are as important as the rides themselves. No one wants to visit a messy park or be waiting in line for thirty minutes and then have the ride break down.
The main attraction to this game is that you can ride the rides - all of them. Not just the pre-designed ones, but also your own custom coasters. The graphical detail in this is simply stunning - everything is so realistic, it's breathtaking. The way the sun beams down as you turn upside down in a loop is beautiful, and you can change your view to sit in the front, the back, or the nose of the train. This really is what attracts you to playing the games and to challenge convention when you build your coasters.
One of the big downsides to RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is the interface. Frontier has tried to keep it similar to past titles, but it results in a bit of a frustrating experience. The handles to rotate are opposite of what you'd think they would be - move left to go right, and vice-versa. It's also difficult to rotate slightly due to the three-dimensional environment. You will get used to it after a while, but it does take a significant bit of time to master. With that said, in the most recent update to the game, the interface has been vastly improved from the initial release. Icons are more intuitive, and issues such as difficulty in constructing raised paths have been corrected. Frontier has really smoothed out the flaws of the original release, but they are important to note nevertheless.
After all this, there is still room for improvement: making game stands where the peeps could win prizes would be great for having the peeps return to the park, as well as adding a new stand for you to put in your park. The time system on the game is also slightly skewed - the time goes by quickly, but when the peeps are riding the roller coasters, the rides are in real time. This problem should be fixed so that it doesn't take your peep from mid-afternoon to midnight just to get to the top of the hill on your roller coaster. Another problem that was encountered in the original release was when making your roller coaster, you had to be really careful of how some pieces went together - if they offset themselves by a tiny bit it made the coaster impossible to finish. Even the auto complete feature which automatically finishes your coaster was unable to complete the ride, and you were stuck breaking apart your coaster piece by piece until you found where the error occurred. Fortunately though, this issue has also been corrected in the subsequent updates to the game since its release, which it is important to know for those who generally do not update their games.
It may have a few quirks, but overall RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is an excellent addition to the series. The graphics and sound are phenomenal, and the new designs and the ability to ride the attractions add so much to this game. Its value is in its replayability. You'll never get bored creating and riding the rides, or trying to achieve your goals in the career mode.