Round and round she goes…
One of my most prized geek items is a plaque commemorating the release of Rollercoaster
Tycoon. They had a competition for the press, and by some startling twist
of fate, I managed to win the “White Knuckle Award” for designing the most exciting
coaster in 10 minutes. A proud moment, for sure, especially if your last name
The date on that plaque reads March 19, 1999. The game came out a few weeks later, rose to the top of the PC sales charts and stayed there for a whopping two straight years. It was an undeniable smash hit and revived the ailing ‘tycoon’ genre.
the next few years, we saw a couple expansions and a few other coaster games.
Ride were very good, they both did something RCT did not – go full
3D and allow you to ride your rides. The competition might not have been fierce,
but it was certainly knocking at the door.
So when Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 showed up at GR, I was thrilled. New
graphics! New gameplay modes! A true sequel! Maybe even another plaque! This
would be great.
Uh, no, it wouldn’t. Apparently, Chris Sawyer and his design crew forgot that
video games need to mature with the times, especially when a sequel is released
nearly 4 years after the original. Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 recaptures
the fun of its predecessor, but the difference between the two products is less
noticeable than Classic Coke vs. New
That’s not to say that things haven’t improved, because they have. The most noticeable new addition is a Coaster Design tool that allows you to build rollercoasters in a blueprint mode. This was sorely missing from the original and was not included in the two expansions. It works nicely, letting you choose from a wealth of coaster styles and build them as large or small as you want without any care for costs. You can then save your ride and import it into any scenario, though at that point it will cost money.
Another new addition is the ability to design your own scenario with the Scenario
Builder. Set the goals, the park size, the weather, even the types of rides
that are available to players from the start. It works fine, though it’s probably
only going to be explored by the most die-hard fans.
Part of the reason behind this is the fact that the scenario challenge structure
has been changed. You can now choose from Beginning, Intermediate or Expert
parks without having to go sequentially, which really opens up the game and
allows you to bypass the easier levels if you’re a crack designer. And frankly,
there’s so much gameplay in here already that building your own scenarios seems
a little over-the-top.
By way of a partnership with Six Flags, RCT 2 includes 5 actual Six
Flags theme parks to mess with as well as 25 real Six Parks rides. Want to drop
in the middle of your park? Go right ahead.
while you’re at it, feel free to drop tons of new scenery, new shops and new
types of rides in as well. RCT 2 ups the amount of stuff to play with
significantly, including all the goodies from the expansions as well as some
brand new gear. This time around you can even tweak the color of your scenery,
which leads to a ton of variety when it comes to building big gardens or fancy
However, all this new stuff is marginalized by the fact that the game looks
nearly identical to the original. In other words, it’s 2D sprite city. The developers
purport that the game engine has been rebuilt from the ground up, but unless
you’re a programmer, you’ll hardly notice. The limited color palette and lack
of any sort of remotely fresh textures or technology gives the game a decidedly
old feel…which was the case when the original came out 4 years ago.
Graphics don’t make the game, surely, but we’ve come to expect games to grow
with the times. The menus look the same, the front end looks the same, the gameplay
looks the same, the little visitors running around look the same…heck, even
most of the cheat codes
from the original work in this sequel. The 4-way rotating camera was fine in
the original, but now just aggravates. No free camera movement? Nope.
The outdated look is a monstrous letdown, particularly in the face of the
3D competitors. It also means you still cannot ride your coasters. Sheesh, they
even had a first-person camera when Chevy Chase was riding around in Walley
World in the now-ancient Vacation.
So what we’re left with is a sequel that captures all the fun of the original
without really doing much different. That’s fine if it comes out a year later,
but considering that almost 4 years have passed and we’ve already seen some
expansions, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 is a disappointment. If you’ve never
played the original, then by all means pick up this sequel. It costs a mere
30 bucks and contains all the goodies plus some nice extras. But the true tycoons
out there needn’t waste their money. You’ve been on this ride before.