Retromana: Roller Coaster Tycoon
Ever since the dawn of the theme park, people have said to themselves, “Hey, I can do that!” After all, how hard could it be to slap together a few pieces of wood or metal, drop a cart onto it and push it down a hill? But it wasn’t until the dawn of video games that people actually got the opportunity to try their hand at safely building and maintaining a critically acclaimed amusement park filled with masterful recreations of their imagination. Many tried to create such a game, few succeeded, but only one has been any good.
Roller Coaster Tycoon quickly cemented itself in video game history as one of the best and most addicting simulation games of all time. I can say with almost certainty that it was one of the very first games that I played on the computer for more than a few hours. This game completely took over my life for months at a time as my friends and I would sit for hours on end playing this game.
Some may say, “Yea, big deal. You place some roller coasters in a few spots, charge people up the wazoo, and wait forever for the scenario to end.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. However, that may simply be because I was raised with a mantra that still holds true to this very day, ‘Never, under any circumstances, play a game the way it was meant to be played.’
What is Roller Coaster Tycoon?
Alright, so you have more than likely played Sim City or at the very least heard of it. The concept behind Roller Coaster Tycoon is essentially the same as Sim City, but rather than being tasked with developing and maintaining an entire city, you are in charge of creating a fully operational theme park filled with massive roller coasters, carnival rides, and shops for your guests to enjoy.
The game starts off rather slow and the learning curve is exceptionally high. Although, with the complexity of video games these days, the modern gamer should have no problem whatsoever grasping the controls and concepts behind the game needed to play it properly. You are essentially the God of theme parks, in charge of absolutely every single mundane little detail.
Yes, you get to build soaring skyscraper-esque roller coasters that will flatten the wrinkles out of the oldest of riders, but there is far more to running a theme park than you may think. Before you can afford to build your own roller coaster you must amass loads of expendable cash without taking out too many loans. You have to turn a profit after all. In order to do this you need to start small and entice guests with small carnival rides, balloon shops, and BBQ stands. Once you earn enough cash, you are probably going to be stuck building a pre-rendered roller coaster that has a proven track record of success.
As you amass cash, guests, and notoriety, you must run marketing campaigns to lure potential guests to the park by showcasing a single ride, stand, deal, or the whole park in general. As you advance through the scenarios, the qualifications for completion become increasingly more difficult. You are given about 3-5 game years to complete these objectives and they range from simply making sure your park isn’t in debt to achieving a specific park rating and earning enough cash. These objectives become incredibly difficult to achieve in the later missions because you will soon notice that things start going wrong in the park that require a massive amount of attention.
Your rides are going to break down, so you need to hire mechanics. Your guests have less respect for your walkways and visual aesthetics than a middle schooler as they will toss trash on the ground where they stand and freely vomit at the foot of the exit stairs rather than rush for the nearest garbage can. Thus, you must hire an exorbitant amount of janitors to babysit the walkways. On that same not, it seems like only most morbidly obese people visit your park as your benches will constantly be breaking and require replacement. I’m no structural engineer or anything, but I am pretty sure a well-built, wooden bench should last quite a long time. The options were to either a) constantly replace the benches or b) say screw and let people walk around and be pissed off. Option b is a lot easier.
Finally, if you have that constant nagging urge to landscape everything you come in contact with but suck at doing it in real life, then Roller Coaster Tycoon is absolutely for you. There are thousands of objects and decorations to spread about your park to help you create a place people actually enjoy being. If you are even so inclined to do so, you can adjust the height of the land, place ponds, plant trees, and clear cut forests to make way for new and exciting rides.
By now you may be thinking, “That sounds like about as much fun as a prostate exam.” But, again, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, playing through the scenarios may be a bit of a drag as you constantly have to be wary of how much money you spend, how many people think your park could suck a golf ball through a garden hose, and how much time you have left. Well, I assure you there is still something left for you to enjoy.
sandbox: It’s all in the name
The main reason to play Roller Coaster Tycoon is because of the sandbox mode. This mode is essentially a no holds barred, do whatever you want type of scenario. You have no time limit, you start with a fair amount of cash, and you can choose your park location of choice. However, it should be noted that playing through the main scenarios rewards you with more options and park sizes for use in sandbox mode. This mode is truly where your inner creative and/or masochistic side is going to come out.
Yes, I did complete all of the scenarios simply so I could have more sandbox options. However, the amount of time it took to complete those pales in come comparison to the amount of time I spent mucking about in the sandbox mode. I felt I had this creative urge that I could never quite satiate regardless of how many roller coasters and parks I built. That was probably because of the style of parks and roller coasters I built.
Now, before I continue, I feel that I should state a warning. At the time I was obsessing over this game I was about 13 or 14 years old, so take that into account with the following.
Whether or not they were intended inclusions into the game or not, I found some glitches that made playing just that much more enjoyable. The parks were so insanely customizable that you could name everything in the park from the rides and stands to the food and drinks that people consumed.
With a few struggling rides, I figured I would try to entice more people to ride them, rather than shut them down and build new ones, by slapping on a new coat of paint and changing the name to something a bit more exciting. Now, mind you, I was 13 at the time. Everyone loves to ride the Tower of Terror or whatever that ride is called that takes you straight up to the top of a 10 story tower strapped to nothing more than a small banana seat that squashes your manhood before dropping you straight to the ground. Well, that ride was failing miserably compared to my 5 ½ minute roller coaster on the other side of the park, so I felt some drastic measures were needed.
I reassigned the ride to fire the people up into the air rather than drop them. Meh, it worked a bit, but not enough to satisfy me. So as a last ditch effort, I changed the name to ‘The Ejaculator’ and painted that puppy bright white. I couldn’t keep the people off the ride after that. I had to increase the length of the line queues and ramp up the price to a few bucks per ride. That got me thinking. If people loved rides with grotesque names, would they love food with equally as vulgar names? Simply put… yes.
My food stalls were filled with some of the most rancid, vile, filthy sounding food you could possibly image and my employees needed pitchforks and backhoes to rake in all the cash people were throwing at them. To make it better, I was running massive TV ad campaigns on each of these food items and rides. I am hesitant to repeat a few of the names used for fear of sullying my good name, but just think back to when you were 13 and imagine what you will. That was my theme park.
Customization has no limits.
When I wasn’t off getting people to eat turd sandwiches or ride semen themed carnival rides, I was crafting some of the world’s most complex, intricate, and wildly- vomit inducing roller coasters around. The game was filled with insanely well-built, re-created roller coasters for you to use, but what fun is that? The coaster editor is a bit difficult to use, but once you get the hang of it your only limitation is your ability to think.
Often times my rides would require tens of thousands of dollars worth of land modifications in order to get the initial hill to my required height. After that, everything was downhill, literally. Upon completion of your coaster you must first run a test in order to analyze the data and verify that it is functional. My results were usually less than stellar.
Each coaster is rated on excitement, intensity, and nausea. High, low, low or high, mid, low is about what you want to hit in each category respectively. My usual results you ask?
Max speeds of 90mph directly into 90 degree, non-banked curves followed by 15 loops, a series of corkscrews, a quick run up a hill into a plunging tunnel and back to the station sounds like an incredibly sweet ride, but the game said otherwise. My park was generally filled with these types of rides for which only one or two people were daring enough to ride. Needless to say I was constantly hemorrhaging money.
I was always afraid to have people leave my park and tell others of the horrors inside, so to counteract that I placed gigantic DO NOT ENTER signs by the exit and people blindly obeyed the large warning. Now, that didn’t generally make my guests happy, but there is always a way around that. Those who decided to gripe about my lack of bathrooms, cost of rides or food, cleanliness of the park, or anything else in passing would earn a one way trip to the nearest pond. Yes, you can pick people up and relocate them at will.
However, rather than just drop them one by one into the pond, I would create a gigantic square pathway and drop loads of people on it who I felt needed to be banished. After I had amassed enough people, I would change the walkway from stone into water, cleansing the park of their filth all at once. Remember, I was 13…
Finally, if you feel like making the nightly news, you can construct and run incomplete roller coasters, set the price to free, wait for that sucker to fill up with guests and let her rip. I recommend some sort of spectacular ending like a massive hill with a short, incomplete hill at the bottom that sends the cart sailing across the food court and into that god-forsaken, hell of ride known as the Ferris Wheel on the other side of the park. Or, if you are feeling extra naughty, have the cart slowly ascend the first hill and plummet down the other side… directly into the ground or squarely into the queue of waiting guests. Again, the only limitation is your imagination, even if it isn’t as sick and twisted.
Mind you, this following video is taken from Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, but these are the types of fun things you can do within the game.
To really get an idea of what lengths you can go in this series, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3′s improved graphics engine, ability to ride your creations, and video editor, allow you to create blockbuster hits like this.
Roller Coaster Tycoon truly has been the only successful theme park simulator that offers true, unbridled customization and creativity. You would think that the originator of the simulation game, Sim City, would be able to create a game that squashes the competition, but Sim Theme Park was pure rubbish. However you decide to play the game, there is enough here to keep you occupied for years, literally. This series has seen several expansions and multiple sequels. All of which are still installed on my computer to this very day.