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Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 PC CD-ROM

Published by Atari
Developed by Frontier Developments
Release Date: Out Now
Price : £34.99

The original Rollercoaster Tycoon was pretty sensational and to date is still regarded by many as the best ever 'Tycoon' game. The sequel, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, just wasn't the same. The reason for this is that the interface had been altered (to the game's detriment) and the expected graphical facelift didn't materialise and it looked exactly the same as the first game. Rollercoaster 3 is now upon us and the much expected graphical improvements have finally arrived too. Let's take a look to see if it can recapture the magic of the first Rollercoaster Tycoon.

The previous games in the series have certainly given value for money and in terms of longevity Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 does not disappoint. There are a total of 18 scenarios in all for you to complete in Career mode. Each of these scenarios has three types of objectives. These are Apprentice, Entrepreneur and Tycoon. Rather than choosing a difficulty before you start the level though you'll simply be able to accomplish the Apprentice objectives before going on to the Entrepreneur and Tycoon objectives. Actually the objectives are the same only better performance is expected to meet the Entrepreneur and Tycoon goals. This is actually a very nice way of doing it and it means that you don't have to restart the whole thing again should you want to try and achieve the higher level objectives. In addition to Career mode there is also a basic Tutorial mode, a Sandbox mode and a Custom Scenario mode so it's quite safe to say that you'll be playing the game for many months to come.

Frontier have also included a variety of tools to help you customise several elements of the game. A Peeps editor allows you to create a custom group of people to be included in your game. If you want to you can literally spend hours giving your amusement park visitors that personalised look. A Scenario editor has also been included so you create your own scenarios. While I'm not the kind of person to spend hours creating my own scenarios I do appreciate a game having the feature because it means that there will be numerous fans sites out there with custom scenarios ready to download which means I get a lot of extra value from the game. The same thing could be said about the Coaster Designer which allows you to create those custom Rollercoasters with no money or time restrictions. Finally there's a Building Designer to create those custom buildings that you've always wanted. All in all it's a very good suite of customisation tools that will keep enthusiasts busy for many months to come.

Perhaps the real surprise with Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 is that apart from the impressive graphics there aren't any other major changes to how the game plays. Essentially building an amusement park is virtually identical to how it was in Rollercoaster Tycoon and if you knew how to make things work in that game you'll be off to a flying start here. Some functionality has been lost though and you can't access those tables of thoughts from your guests. Yes, you can look at their thoughts individually but you can't look at them in informative tables like you could before. Whilst the interface is an improvement on the one found in Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 it's not as user friendly as the one in the original game. There are some good additions here though such as an autocomplete function for rollercoasters. If you get part of the way through designing a rollercoaster and decide you've had enough then simply click the autocomplete button to finish the job for you. It may not give the results you were hoping for but it does a good job. Being able to create your own fireworks display, with the Fireworks Mixmaster is also a nice touch and it adds to the nighttime experience of your amusement park.

It goes without saying that the highlight of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 is the 3D game engine. You may remember the farcical Theme Park World and it's lame excuse for a 3D game engine but that was a few years ago now judging by how good the game looks it seems the decision to keep with a 2D engine for Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 was a wise one, if disappointing at the time. Being 3D means you have much more flexibility over the camera angles. You can rotate the maps and zoom in as much as you like. What is impressive though is that you have several options for controlling the camera and if the idea of spinning the camera round doesn't appeal you can lock it to an isometric view which is excellent. Want to have a go on the rides yourself? No problem and unlike in the aforementioned Theme Park World it does actually look convincing when you do jump on a ride. The firework displays also look spectacular and to take advantage of them you have day and night cycles and your amusement park will light up like a Christmas tree when darkness falls. All this 3D visual glory comes at a price though and you'll need a strong PC to cope when the amount of guests in your park goes into the thousands if you're playing at a high screen resolution. On the topic of screen resolutions it's very disappointing to once again see a game not support the increasingly popular 1280x1024 resolution. What makes it more disappointing is that the first demo for the game did support it (albeit unofficially through editing a text file).

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 is fine for deaf gamers. The tutorials in the game are in text only which of course is great. All objectives within the games missions are in text too and they can be recalled at any time. All other information is also in text so there isn't any obstacle at all for deaf gamers. The game manual contains 70+ pages and it does a decent job at explaining what everything does in the game. This goes some way to compensating for the fairly brief in-game tutorials that have been included. You'll also find some useful tips that will help you to succeed at the game.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 finally takes the series into the realm of 3D and it does so in a rather splendid fashion. Your virtual amusement parks have never looked so good and at last the series has shrugged off the dated isometric appearance that had it's roots in the now ancient Transport Tycoon game. With such a major overhaul of the visuals it's a shame to find the same can be said about the rest of the game though. The interface is better than in the second game but it's still not as intuitive as it was in the original Rollercoaster Tycoon. Much has been made about the game's tendency to be rather unstable but we have to be honest and say that we've had no problems in this respect and the game has been completely stable during our time with it. If you're a fan of the series then you'll be pleased with Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 but probably disappointed as well that more wasn't done to improve upon the original formula.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
Overall it's a good sequel that looks impressive. Veterans of the series will probably have been expecting more to have been changed though.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Fine for deaf gamers.