Roller Coaster Tycoon 2

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2

Written by Ben Zackheim on 11/6/2002 for PC  

As far as vomiting goes, I’m a pro. I might write okay, I certainly outplay the best of you at Bejeweled and I have a bit of a reputation for wielding an unforgiving thumb in Thumb Wrestling. But vomit, I think, is my hidden genius.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are those small things that I have no natural or learned talent for. Such as, oh , say, business.

So who better to review Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 than I?

Rollercoaster Tycoon, the original, was a huge hit. It stayed in the Top 10 for over a year, captivating mainstream and diehard gamers with its intricate micromanagement and construction of theme parks. The graphics and sound were standard for their time but few other games have ever been as addictive (in fact, the only one I can think of is The Incredible Machine series).

Having said that, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 is everything you loved in the original with none of the originality you were hoping for. More on this in a moment.
Like the original you are a tycoon-wannabe, blessed with a plot of land and some resources which will help you build your dream theme park. But don’t think you’ll just be designing fun rides. No way. You also have some hungry little sprites to feed, employees to hire, finances to track and land to buy. The depth of the original is preserved.

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 has five modes to play around with. You get Beginner Parks, Challenging Parks, Expert Parks, Real Parks (based on real Six Flag theme parks around the world) and Other Parks (you have to play to find out what that means). On top of these modes are tools which add replay value that the original Rollercoaster Tycoon was known for. You get the Roller Coaster Designer which allows you to create rides without any pressure. You can also play around with the new Scenario Editor which allows you to create scenarios for friends. I can see this feature adding around 3 years to the game’s shelf-life. There’s a nifty new blueprint mode that lets you design your rides without spending the dough. One of my big complaints as a newbie when the first game came out was that any mistake you made in building was too costly. Click the mouse wrong and you’re out big bucks. The blueprint mode allows me to test stuff out before committing to it. That’s what a real tycoon would do, right? And last but not least, there’s the Track Design Manager which lets you manage your rides. Nice feature.

Newbies should definitely take the tutorial before diving into this timesucker. RCT2 is a micromanager’s dream. You control and monitor everything from the price of a burger to the hiring of staff and the innermost thoughts of your customers. It can get a little overwhelming if you’re just starting out but once you get into the flow of managing and expanding your park there’s no pulling yourself away from the screen.
It’s amazing how fun molding the scenery, hiring the right people, providing the right food, building the right rides, crafting the right paths through the park and creating correct signage can be. You have to keep your customers happy. To track their mood you can look at overall stats for the crowds or focus on each individual to get an idea of how your park is doing. If you get a lot of people thinking the place is too expensive you better lower the prices or make better rides…fast. Luckily you have a lot of cool ones to choose from. Transport Rides get the crowd around the park, Gentle Rides are for grammys, Rollercoasters are, well, do I really have to tell you that? Also included are Thrill Rides (like bumper cars) and Water Rides. The game also includes an R&D feature that lets you track the latest and greatest ride technology. And don’t forget maintenance. Stay on top of things. You don’t want a disaster. Each park needs to reach a certain goal to be considered successful and some are real zingers. Like I said, this thing is an addictive timesucker.

The interface is the same clean and pseudo-intuitive look of the original. There are additions to what you can do, such as color the environs and access more granular park data but for the most part the details and access to them is the same as the first game. All in all I played a deep game.

So all looks good eh? Not so fast…
Pull out the vomit bags. I’ll tell you what you don’t get for 30 bucks. Innovation. This game is a cynical slap in the face to fans of the “series”. I could have written the review above for the RCT 1 and it would not have to change at all. Here we are four years after the original and RCT2 has no additions in the technology arena worth noting. The manual makes some cockamamie claim that the game is rebuilt from the ground up. Yeah? Show me where the consumer sees the benefits of this rebuild? I don’t see it anywhere. The graphics are awful. Awful! Sure they have the charm of the original but that’s because they look like the original. Would it have been too much to ask that the developers put some effort into updating the charm? I understand that games aren’t all about the glitz. And didn’t I just say it’s a fun and addictive game? Yup. But this thing is 30 clams folks. Thirty bucks that your standard consumer works hard for. Thirty bucks he’ll feel cheated out of when he realizes the four years he’s waited have been for an expansion pack under the guise of a sequel.

That’s not fair.

If Infogrames thinks the bottom line is “is the game fun?” then they fail to see the benefits of building trust with their customers. Blizzard could have given Warcraft 2 a couple of new features and called it Warcraft 3 but they opted to try to make a great game, not re-release their old one in a new package. It just pisses me off, is all. In the future, I’ll certainly be on the lookout with a skeptical eye for any Infogrames games that purport to be sequels.

I consider it part of my responsibility as a reviewer to let you know if the game I played is worth buying. No, it isn’t – not unless you’re a diehard fan who must get his hands on the new editor. But for the rest of us casual tycoons I would recommend buying the original for 4.99 at EB World. You’ll get 85% of RCT2 (the addictive part) and you’ll know you got a great deal.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 is a brilliant, immersive, addictive romp of micromanagement fun! Wait, I mean Rollercoaster Tycoon 1…no…Rollercoaster Tycoon 2…wait…

Rating: 7.5 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Ben Zackheim was born Ben Zackheim sometime before 1980 and after 1960 which characterizes him not at all. He's a writer of reviews, comics and screenplays, but aren't we all? Luxuries like food and shoes mean nothing to him. He's married to the most beautiful woman in the world, Robin, who reads all his reviews before he sends them in and says "Are you really going to write that for the public to read?" But I assure her no one reads my reviews anyway, only Charlie's, so it's kind of like a tree in the forest (without the cute little fuzzy things who smell their own poop - wait, then again there is Charlie...) She's a cross between Gillian Anderson and Hillary Clinton, which is a monster I'd love to play in Monster Rancher Advance 2. Photos are available upon request for a small fee. I'm currently writing this bio but have no plans beyond that. View Profile

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