Timeless or Showing it's Age?
RollerCoaster Tycoon, Atari, Frontier – three words that in years gone by inspired a warm, glowy feeling among PC gamers. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum was released in 2006, and for many it's the only choice when it comes to theme park simulation. How does it hold up, nearly 10 years later?
For those unfamiliar with the series, RollerCoaster Tycoon puts the player in charge of a fully functioning theme park – from designing the layout, to individual rides, right down to managing staff and merchandise. The ‘Peeps', or visitors, need to be looked after. They need food, they need places to queue and they need to be kept safe.
RollerCoaster Tycoon has never been a simple series. There's a ton of micro management and complexity, some of which is entirely optional, thankfully. Some players will be happy sticking to the prebuilt rides, however the series became popular mostly due to the ability to completely design an entirely custom roller coaster – and this is something that RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 doesn't shy away from.
Players new to the game (or looking to dive back in after a decade's absence) will likely want to spend some time going through the ample career mode, where the goal is turn the fortunes around of several failing theme parks. There are always three sets of objectives – apprentice, entrepreneur and tycoon – which range in difficulty from easy to hard. Apprentice objectives will be something relatively simple, such as ensuring the park is turning a profit or reaching a set number of visitors.
Tycoon objectives on the other hand can take real time and planning in order to achieve. Excitement levels often need to be met, or you may have to stave off the angry bank manager who's riding around on your back, desperate for repayment of a loan.
The platinum pack bundles a couple of add-on packages – wild and soaked packs that allow for the creation of water and animal based attractions.
Release Date: 26/10/2006
Available on: PC Download
Play the Game
Build Your Own or Import
As I mentioned briefly before, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum allows the player to choose between building their own rides entirely from scratch (this applies to roller coasters and a few other types) or importing prebuilt packages.
If you have the time, I would strongly recommend at least trying to design your own roller coaster just once. There's still, after all this time, an immense feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating an epic ride that actually works – and a certain macabre hilarity from creating one that hurls Peeps from the rails!
Once the ride has been built, the coaster cam allows for a simulated ride on your new creation. This is an area where the graphics become obviously dated, but for mechanical purposes it's as functional and useful as it ever was, however there are some clipping issues with the camera, especially when zooming in and out.
The level of detail is quite simply staggering, and it's something that modern game design seems to have, sadly, moved away from in recent years. Fireworks and light shows can be designed and set to trigger on certain actions or at set stages of a ride.
Developers, your customers love this level of control, don't be afraid of it! The success of Kerbal Space Program and the longevity of the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise should be proof enough!
Who Wouldn't Like it?
Those who don't enjoy micro management and looking after budgets. It's not something that can be ignored (unless you intend to spend all your time building custom roller coasters, something which plenty of people exclusively do) in career mode.
The included sandbox mode allows players to build from the ground up, something that will be a welcome addition for the people who load up the career and are instantly disappointed at being presented with an already built theme park – but there's no real goal to it.
Finally, given its age, those that are looking for a game that allows them to build a stunningly beautiful replica of real life parks or imaginary ones are not going to be satisfied by the dated graphics and janky coaster cam.
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum is still an enjoyable game. It doesn't look great by modern standards, especially when stretched across a 1080p monitor, but it is still comparable to Web and mobile games. The price is a big issue, though. It's still €20! I strongly recommend waiting for a sale if you have the theme park management itch.