Remember the days of building your own theme park and charging $5 to use the washroom? The giant rides with screaming attendants and water slides that had everybody leaving with a smile? Well, that is the experience you got when playing RollerCoaster Tycoon, the classic title that had you creating and managing a theme park for everyone’s enjoyment. The retro classic has been re-released on Steam recently, but today we take a look back at the real deal and where it all started with the original release of RollerCoaster Tycoon.
The premise of the game is simple. You start with either a new area or previously owned park and try to make it into the most fun attraction that the world has ever seen. Each new level is different with their own set of objectives and goals to be reached by a certain point so you aren’t just building at your own leisure. You’ll start out small, with a few concession stands and gentle rides and work your way up until you can purchase the big ride like the massive roller coasters and water rides until you can bring in enough people to make your park a success.
There is a level of depth that is added so that the game is more than simply building rides as you will need to know where to strategically place them to have people wanting to ride them and that goes double for food, washrooms, and garbage cans. You’ll also need to hire staff to keep the park clean and ensure your rides are maintained as at a certain point, your attractions will start to break down and guests will start leaving the park. You’ll also need to expand your park consistently and ensure it is easy to get around as to ensure your tourists can go from one end of the park to the other with ease.
It all sounds quite challenging but really it isn’t. The minimal effort needed to play RollerCoaster Tycoon is what makes the game so great. You can play it in the background and go back to it later when you had your fill for one day, but you’ll soon realize as to how easy it is to lose four to five hours in a single playthrough. It is easy to get hooked to RollerCoaster Tycoon and stopping is even harder as you’ll end up wanting to ensure you parks are meticulous and well-drawn out before going to the next.
As an older title, there are technical issues that come with playing RollerCoaster Tycoon, but these were even apparent when the game launched in 1999. Bugs that would crash, erase save data are all present and I’ll be more forgiving today in 2017 for those faults, but back then could have made or brake countless hours of play time. Imagine losing all of your hard work and luxurious park in a mere instant due to the game crashing down, forcing you to restart. It was devastating at the time, but I now see it more like how I decide to go back and tear down a Lego set as you want to restart and make it better than it originally was.
The game went on to receive two expansion packs that added more features and scenarios to the original RollerCoaster Tycoon which only added to the creativity at your disposal. The previous 22 scenarios added an exuberant amount of time to each play through and any new additions were a welcomed addition to the already pre-existing game. With it all said and done, you are looking at roughly close to 200 hours of gameplay and content to go through when adding the extra expansion packs with the original release, making it quite a deep and time-consuming title for something with such a simple idea.
The presentation is simple and has stood the test of time over the years, but not many games can escape time itself and RollerCoaster Tycoon is one of them. Playing this now, on a widescreen monitor with only having the option to do so with the previous settings makes the entire experience looks a tad bit underwhelming as to what it was in its former glory. Still, it looks the part and is still viewable which is what matters the most and RollerCoaster Tycoon doesn’t need to have the graphical fidelity that today’s experiences have to offer to make it enjoyable.
The theme park soundtrack and ride tunes still ring in my ears to this day and while it is mostly positive memories, becomes a bit of sore on the ears after a few hours. Luckily the game allows you to change the sounds and what is and isn’t needed to be heard which gives you the piece of time to think about what to build next without too many distracting sounds. The variety of maps, however, are always pleasant to see, especially those that vary from the basic green turf and offer different landscapes to make them far unique from the rest.
Many retro games that we review here are far harder to come by and can cost quite a penny to play, but RollerCoaster Tycoon was one of the few titles that were accessible for anybody to play when it came out. A promotion with General Mill’s cereal had the game bundled with my Cheerios which was an outstanding deal, to say the least, even though my parents thought these games would give your computer a virus’. The original game has been re-released in many ways over the years, even in 2017, showing off that RollerCoaster Tycoon CD is a real treat.
The series hasn’t fared too well over the years however with each new installment receiving unfavorable scores by both critics and players alike. This, however, makes RollerCoaster Tycoon the pinnacle of the franchise as the original title set up the blueprint for all the following games, even if the series hasn’t favored all too well after the first installment and only proves that there isn’t the need to fix something as long as it works.
RollerCoaster Tycoon is a true blast from the past that everybody has surely had the opportunity to play once in their lifetime. Building giant rollercoasters only begins to describe the fun that is to be had in this simple, yet fantastic idea for a game. It may not have aged as well as many of retro games and surely has a few broken rides, but RollerCoaster Tycoon will always be remembered as a fan favorite growing up and a worthwhile experience to go back to.