RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Review

The “3” in the title of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (RCT3) signifies that it is the third game in the popular series, but it is even more appropriate as this game takes the series into the world of 3D graphics for the first time. The result is more life-like and visually appealing amusement parks, with the same “build your dream park” magic and addicting gameplay that made the series so popular in the first place.

For those of you new to the series, RCT3 is a theme park sim that lets you design, build, and run your very own park. You place the rides, stores, and eateries and select the prices you charge for everything from coaster rides to hot dogs. You hire the park staff and can even customize their uniforms. You create your park’s theme and look, placing fountains, gardens, sculptures, and the like. You can even design your own roller coaster, designing the track layout and adding loops, corkscrews, and all the other features that make coasters so much fun. In short, you build and control everything in your park. Well, except for your park’s visitors, or peeps, that is. Without them, or rather their money, your park won’t survive and you won’t have the funds to build bigger and better coasters. So when designing your park you’ll need to make sure that the peeps are comfortable, entertained, and most of all happy. This is accomplished by providing a variety of rides for all variety of peeps, comfort items such as seating and restrooms, and a number of different things to keep them occupied and in your park spending money.

The view from the top.

RCT3 can be played in both a career and a sandbox mode. In career mode you are presented with a starting scenario and given set goals to accomplish such as reaching a certain number of visitors. The goals are divided into three levels of increasing difficulty. Accomplishing the lowest level goals is usually not too hard to do, and if you do so the game will consider the level complete and unlock higher levels for play. If you want more challenge, you can continue playing until you accomplish the goals at the next two tiers as well. This is a great system as it allows beginners and young gamers access to more of the game’s levels without forcing them to play the same level over and over again without success.

Sandbox mode is a park designer’s dream. In this mode you do not need to worry about such minor concerns as money as you build the park of your dreams. Create a computer version of your favorite park or design your version of the ideal theme park. Be careful, though, this mode can be pretty addicting. The developers deserve kudos for including this mode in the game. Everyone at some time or another would like to be free to build their own dream park, so it is great that this mode is provided so that players do not have to resort to cheat codes or other such methods to play the game in this way.

RCT3 introduces some new features not found in previous versions of the game. Before visitors were distinguished by their likes and dislikes for different types of rides, but RCT3 takes this one step further; this time the park visitors are divided into different age groups as well. Teens will tend to flock to the wild rides, but you’ll need to provide kiddie rides for the youngsters and gentle, mellow attractions for older guests. This is a more realistic touch than before and makes you face some of the same design considerations that real-world designers must grapple with. Of course you can still select any guest that you find in the park to get a feel for what they think of things, which is an excellent guide to what is and what isn’t a hit with the guests in your park.

I’ve always loved being at an amusement park at night and seeing all of the thousands of lights covering the rides. RCT3 is the first game in the series to let you experience this at home too as it has full day and night cycles. The lighting effects are quite good and it is really cool to watch the sky grow dark as your park comes aglow. Night also brings another amusement park favorite – fireworks. RCT3 not only features firework shows, it includes a fireworks show editor to let you customize your display. The interface is a lot like those seen in music mix programs – you select the type of firework you want and place it on the timeline. Each type of firework has its own characteristics such as launch time, delay, and duration, and these are conveyed to you by the length of the firework’s bar as you place it on the timeline. You can’t design your own firework, though, and must choose from a list of those provided with the game. It’s really easy to put together a show and the possible firework sequences are effectively unlimited.