Word has it that developer Chris Sawyer was in the process of designing a sequel to his business shipping simulation, “Transport Tycoon,” when he got bitten by a radioactive roller coaster bug. After discovering his new superhuman ability to avoid vomiting while traveling upside down at speeds in excess of 200 mph, he knew the great responsibility that came with this power was to help those with weak stomachs achieve their lifelong dreams of operating their own theme parks. Thus was born “Roller Coaster Tycoon.”
Hyperbole aside, RCT is one of those games that seems doomed to fail until you sit down and start playing it, at which time you realize there’s an awful lot of fun to be had amidst the drudgery of cleaning up after unruly guests and paying maintenance crews to ensure you don’t kill somebody the next time the operator throws the switch. Simulation games were nothing new by 1999, but Sawyer’s take on them was, and he’s parlayed that early experience into a big ol’ hunk of the high life, with three sequels, six expansion packs, and more to come in the years ahead.
The mechanics are deceptively simple: you need guests to visit and re-visit your parks, and your guests want their diverse array of wants met (believe me, they won’t hesitate to tell you what you’re doing wrong), otherwise they’ll leave garbage everywhere, stop up your bathrooms, and patronize your competition. Each level offers you a different type of challenge: you may inherit an older park needing layout changes and new rides to attract crowds, or you might start with a completely flat, featureless area on which to build from scratch. All the while you’ve got to chip away at your loans and get your books in the black by the time the repayment deadline rolls around in a few game years. Successfully entertain the masses and you’ll unlock a new scenario with a new set of rules and challenges to tackle. Fail and you’ll be plunging toilets with no company save your own bitter tears and the stench of mostly-digested chili fries.
Roller Coaster Tycoon joined the list of legendary simulation titles for the PC thanks to its unique presentation and pick-up-and-play aesthetic, and it remains popular with both the casual and hardcore crowds to this day due to its accessibility and lack of “twitch” factor found in other genres. So what could be better? How about taking your own whirlwind tour of the parks for free? That’s right, as part of a limited promotion, you can score your own digital copy of the original game for no more than the price of a few mouse clicks. Check it out, and tell ’em RetroSeek sent you.
Review by Modern Zorker