RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked!
We're all on the same roller coaster, just in different seats. - Jason Mechalek
Prederick was kind enough to volunteer a review of of the RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Soaked! expansion. Is it both wet AND wild or does it just come out wet? Read the review and find out!
There are not many amusement parks in my life. Not to say that none exist, just that I do not visit them very often. Which is disappointing for me, because I truly enjoy the spectacle of a teeming park with rides galore, eating an overpriced hot dog, drinking way too much overpriced soda, going on overpriced rides and nearly vomiting, along with being harassed by park police for peeing in the begonias. CÃ¢â‚¬™est the vie, as the French say.
So, when I was walking through my local video rental store a few years back, and I stumbled upon a game called Ã¢â‚¬Å“Theme ParkÃ¢â‚¬? for the Sega Genesis, I was intrigued. I rented it, brought it back home, and spent the next week utterly ignoring my homework, playing to my heartÃ¢â‚¬™s desire, creating my own Six Flags over PrederickÃ¢â‚¬™s House. I could never get the hang of designing roller coasters, but Go-Karts, tube rides, everything else, that was my shtick. I did it all with a joy, because, for me, that was about as close as IÃ¢â‚¬™d ever come to the Amusement Park experience on a regular basis. I rented the game so many times the kindly owner told me that for $15 I could keep it, and I still have the cartridge today, in a box with the rest of my childhood gaming memories.
My dearest Dogg Ro-Bear (pause slightly between the Ã¢â‚¬Å“RoÃ¢â‚¬? and the Ã¢â‚¬Å“BearÃ¢â‚¬? if youÃ¢â‚¬™re practicing your Ebonics) recently placed a post in the forums on how the recent Ã¢â‚¬Å“Soaked!Ã¢â‚¬? expansion really completes the Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 experience, and I have to agree. I also have to go into further detail; else this would be the worst article GWJ ever put up.
Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 is another of the sandbox games I love so very, very much. I never discovered the game until the second iteration in the series, but I loved it the same way I had loved Theme Park. And I played it much like I play all other sandbox games, which is to say that I eschew the Ã¢â‚¬Å“challengingÃ¢â‚¬? scenarios that come with the game, and go straight for the open-ended Ã¢â‚¬Å“free-playÃ¢â‚¬? scenarios. I never did, and never will really care for trying to turn a dilapidated park into a profit-turning machine. IÃ¢â‚¬™m more interested in just building a sprawling, glorious center of entertainment, free of any challenges or pre-set goals to achieve. These kinds of games are an escape for me, an escape from freeing the princess, from defeating the evil Space Zygotes, from another embarrassment in an online match. They allow me to experience a release of dopamine that I rarely get in other games.
When I came home with RCT3: Soaked! I was pleased to find out upon installation that it is not a stand-alone game, but really just an extensive add-on to RCT3. Firing it up, I quickly went through the new tutorials on building pools, water slides, waterfalls, and other water-based bits of fun, and quickly was knee-deep in the gameÃ¢â‚¬™s Ã¢â‚¬Å“SandboxÃ¢â‚¬? mode, which is the open-ended kind of fun I desire. The player is given utterly unlimited funds, a huge slate of ground to work with, and license to do basically whatsoever their hearts desire.
Upon christening my park Ã¢â‚¬Å“PredlandÃ¢â‚¬?, I got to putting in rides, concessions, staffing it, and otherwise getting the park up and off the ground. Previously, at a younger age, I was always rather sadomasochistic in my park designs. Staircases lead to nowhere; toilets might be nowhere to be found, and, my own personal favorite, the rollercoaster missing an important piece of track, causing the riders to go flying off into eternity. In a moment born of pure childish homicidal intent, I built an Air-Launched coaster which only had about 20 feet of track directly in front of the station. At the end of this piece of track, was the parkÃ¢â‚¬™s only sidewalk, which happened to be filled with patrons. You can imagine the carnage.
But now I build a park for function, for style. I build it to fit my own desires, and in that light, the game absolutely shines. The sheer amount of your own personality you can put into a park is utterly amazing to me. There may only be a few themes (Generic, Scary, Western, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Atlantis) but with the wealth of options and abilities they put at your disposal, the sheer amount of things you can do allows for nigh-on anything. The aesthetic appeal of your park is entirely up to you. I wanted something with a slightly aquatic vibe, so I placed jumping water fountains all around the pathways, each side of the path flanked by large glass buildings and fountains, before the path turned left, overlooking the massive lake I placed in the park. As I said, you can give it quite a feel your own.
I wanted to build slow, so rather than going whole-hog and putting in a massive roller-coaster to start with, so the first rides I installed were a Ferris Wheel, a Gravitron, and a Chairswing. Opening the doors, people flocked to the new rides, queuing up en-masse for a chance at a few moments of adrenaline-fueled fun. As the Chariswing twirled into motion, I opened up the brand new CoasterCam to experience the ride myself.
I am lucky to say that my computer can run a pretty good deal of the stuff out there and make it look reasonably shiny and nice. So in that light, I have no idea how RCT might look on someone with a 1.2Ghz processor and a GeForce4. However, RCT3 looks beautiful. It looks absolutely gorgeous. It renders your park not as a set of icons, or simple pixels, but as one large, living entity. ItÃ¢â‚¬™s a little daunting to zoom out on your park and realize that there are some 1500+ people walking around, riding rides, buying things and otherwise taking up space in your park. And thatÃ¢â‚¬™s in a reasonably small park.
I probably canÃ¢â‚¬™t say enough about the graphics. Zooming down to ground level and watching as people yip in excitement after getting off a good ride, watching cars tear around the coaster track, or, simply sitting a poolside and watching as your patrons take a dip, it is all lavishly detailed and lushly realized. The lighting deserves special commendation, as it is absolutely top-notch. When the sun sets on your park, pathway lamps and the lights on rides wink on one after another, bathing your park in a eerie glow.
All of this, somewhat unsurprisingly, comes at a price. To really see how lush everything from the Kayaks in the lake to the leaves on trees looks, youÃ¢â‚¬™re going to need a monster of a machine. My 9800XT is no slouch, and it will find itself chugging from all the exertion in trying to render everything the game shows.
Viewing the Chairswing from the perspective of one of the riders, I watch the world woosh around us, as people on the ride raise their hands and scream appropriately. A personal favorite addition of mine to the game is the ability to play music on the rides. If you can convert your Mp3s to WMA files, you can play all sorts of music on your rides, and I must say, the Gravitron experience is more fully realized with Daft Punk playing in the background.
As more people come I expand Predland, adding a large lake where people can zip around on jet skis, a Killer Whale show, and a massive pool. The latter two are both new to the game with the Soaked! expansion, which adds a good number of new rides to the game, but for my money, the pools really, really stand out.
For ten minutes, I slave over the editor, creating a massive, three-tiered pool for my patrons to enjoy. Upon it I place a little of everything, Jacuzzis in the corners, a wave machine, pool lights, beach chairs, diving boards, and my personal favorite, a curving, arcing water slide that drops riders some 50 feet from the top pool, all the way down to the bottom pool, where it empties out. I place the changing rooms, leads paths to its doors and open it to the public, who are all too happy to enjoy it. The pools really are an surprising amount of fun to create, only eclipsed by the gameÃ¢â‚¬™s namesake.
The sheer variety of coasters at the players fingertips here really just allows for nearly anything. If you can think of it, itÃ¢â‚¬™s probably in here. Gigacoasters, Launched coasters, Wooden coasters, inverted coasters, flying coasters, stand-up coasters, even a log-flume, if youÃ¢â‚¬™re a wuss.
Predland needs something to really define it, a ride that will pack the people in for ages to come. A rollercoaster seems fun, but what about two? Yes, dueling rollercoasters should provide all the entertainment anyone needs. Choosing a suspended coaster as my design basis, I begin building, adding basically everything guaranteed to cause excitement and/or vomit in my passengers. An over banked curve here, a S-bend at 70 mph there, and back to back corkscrews for good measure. ItÃ¢â‚¬™s all quite ambitiousÃ¢â‚¬Â… and a little silly. By the time I test the rides, theyÃ¢â‚¬™re clocking in with rather low excitement ratings, and sky-high nausea and intensity ratings. I can understand that doing nine positive and negative lateral GÃ¢â‚¬™s back to back, followed by five negative vertical GÃ¢â‚¬™s isnÃ¢â‚¬™t so much entertaining as it is Ã¢â‚¬Å“AIGHIÃ¢â‚¬™MGOINGTODIEOHGODOHGOD.Ã¢â‚¬?
So, I go back and re-tool the ride. The system used for defining how entertaining rides in RCT3 is can be at times frustrating. ItÃ¢â‚¬™s divided into three simple categories. Excitement (the most important), Intensity (will people need a respirator after this ride?) and Nausea (or are they going to need a barf bag?). All three factor into a rideÃ¢â‚¬™s overall desirability. As intensity and Nausea go up, Excitement generally goes down. Testing your coaster allows you to see all the places where you might be scaring the fecal matter out of your patrons. Perhaps that 150-foot drop followed by the three loops at 95 mph is a bad idea.
What I truly love about the coaster design system is how it rewards you for smart things that would excite people. As an example, the coaster I am building for Predland, once it is no-longer as horrifying, isnÃ¢â‚¬™t scoring as high in excitement as IÃ¢â‚¬™d like. Wonderfully, the game rewards you for using the world around you to your advantage. I add in a diving swoop over the lake, along with a near-miss with the other coaster and a stretch along the sidewalk so low that youÃ¢â‚¬™d swear youÃ¢â‚¬™d kick someone in the head. When I get it all said and done, the excitement is much higher. I really canÃ¢â‚¬™t express the sense of achievement when you push your coaster over the top from just a mundane ride into a white-knuckled thriller. I open the doors and ride along with the Ã¢â‚¬Å“PeepsÃ¢â‚¬?, as the game calls them, on the coasterÃ¢â‚¬™s maiden voyage.
The addition of the CoasterCam is something that, now that itÃ¢â‚¬™s been done (and very well I might add), I canÃ¢â‚¬™t see another game of this type being released without. It really is one thing to build a coaster, and watch it go around in the loops, and it is another to sit in the coaster with other people, to see that first horrifying drop, to see how obscenely close you come to the ground and how those loops must make your stomach feel utterly separated from your body. When itÃ¢â‚¬™s all said and done, IÃ¢â‚¬™ve got a functioning, proper-looking rollercoaster to my name that Ã¢â‚¬Å“PeepsÃ¢â‚¬? are flocking to in droves.
One of the most rewarding and frustrating additions to the game is the fireworks display, and laser light shows. The latter has been added with the expansion, and both allow for you to light up your park at night with a dizzying display of pyrotechnics and/or lasers. The problem, however, is that, as gorgeous as the finished product looks, putting together something that does not look completely slapdash is rather a chore. You can put together a massive, quite long fireworks show if you want, and if youÃ¢â‚¬™re like me, the fireworks will look a great deal more like a random mix of explosions in the sky rather than a fireworks show. You have a huge number of fireworks/lasers to play with, and getting them ready to fire easy with the MixMaster that aids you in this process. ItÃ¢â‚¬™s just making something aesthetically pleasing that can be nearly-impossible. Of course, the rewards of getting it right are a spectacular display, and a bunch of thrilled Peeps.
The Ã¢â‚¬Å“PeepsÃ¢â‚¬? are the people who attend your park. Split up into groups (families, friends, etc.) they are, of course, the lifeblood of your park. TheyÃ¢â‚¬™ll complain when paths are littered, when they canÃ¢â‚¬™t find the bathroom, when thereÃ¢â‚¬™s nothing to drink, and other little annoyances. TheyÃ¢â‚¬™ll also cheer after riding a good ride, and go again and again and again. I have on record one particular man getting on the same rollercoaster six times.
Probably one of my biggest gripes with the game comes from the Peeps themselves. They judge your park based on a large number of things, from how accessible your concessions are to prices and general cleanliness. However, if you do not coordinate, they will gripe about it. This is somewhat frustrating, given that something that would seemingly make sense, like selling Pirate merchandise at a Water Park that is not necessarily pirate-themed will rub these peeps the wrong way, and have them talking about ugly design. This can begin to hamper you as your park gets huge, as certain concessions and rides may not be as successful as youÃ¢â‚¬™d like, due to their not being in theme with their surroundings. If you section off your park, it can be avoided, itÃ¢â‚¬™s still an annoyance. The whining customers wonÃ¢â‚¬™t cripple your park, but a little more flexibility in themes wouldÃ¢â‚¬™ve been nice.
As I stated earlier, I donÃ¢â‚¬™t get to see very many amusement parks. IÃ¢â‚¬™ve only been on two rollercoasters in my entire life. But when I boot up RCT3, and I continue building Predland, I can get that escape, for a few hours, where I can pretend I have an entire Amusement Park of my own designs and wants, all to myself, whenever I want.
Fast-forward five hours. IÃ¢â‚¬™m still sitting at the computer, bleary-eyed, planning out a new sector of my park. I want to put in a Motion Simulator, a Go-Kart Race, a Mini-Golf course and a Monorail, when, the game hiccups, and smashes to the desktop. I groan and curse angrily, and start it right back up. Such is the most ringing endorsement I can give this, that even when it shafts me, I come right back.
As Robear so accurately put it, RCT3 is not a finished game without the expansion pack. But with both, what a fine, fine game it is. ItÃ¢â‚¬™s nice to know that, even with all the big-name flameouts that happen every year, hopefully, there will always be some titles that can give me a consistent escape from all that, to my own little amusement.