PAX South: RollerCoaster Tycoon World An Intentional Return To The First Two

When building this latest edition of the classic RollerCoaster Tycoon series, the developers at Atari made a conscious decision. Instead of trying to expand upon the third installment, they instead decided to return to what worked in the first two and go from there. When seeing this title in play, this decision was for the best.

Starting with the graphics, the parks that players can build feel vibrant and alive. The swaying of the trees and the shadows they cast are very convincing. Dynamic lighting is incredibly well done. As the day/night cycle passes, the various light sources react accordingly. Truthfully, while daytime does look good, I think I am going to want to pause and do my planning during the night. Here the Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds all have incredible detail in appearance. The lights on the coasters are amazing, and the way the streetlamps throw other objects into relief is beautiful. Of course, if I only did night, I would be missing out on the convincing daytime reflections in the water…

Getting into play also shows that the controls received as much attention paid to them. Sculpting complicated and detailed terrain is done with a few simple clicks and swoops of the mouse. Custom shaped lakes can be added and removed with ease. Hills and valleys can be cut or pulled out of the ground with little thought. None of this is locked into a grid like older titles, so anything can be created.

The same goes with building the coasters themselves. While the old style of adding premade shapes is in place for those who want that, the new system is much better. Working off of a node system, players can lay track of varying heights and angles. When the player decides to change direction of the track, they can place a node to lock in the previous piece, and then work on adding to it. “Locked” might not be the best term, as it can still be edited. I watched as an incredible complex coaster with half-loops and twists was put together in the span of three minutes. Once all the desired features were in place, a button was clicked to “finish” it, bring the rest of the track back to the station. For those wondering, no. The track does not have to be finished. Horrible acts of coaster created mayhem can still be wrought.

For the “tycoon” part of RollerCoaster Tycoon World, there are so many ways to manage a successful park, with as much or as little information as the player desires. Each visitor has their own specific like and dislikes, tolerances to nausea, and needs. These are generated out of a plethora of options, so each visitor will be unique. It is possible to follow them throughout their stay at the park like a creepy stalker from on high, and they will react accordingly. In my previous experiences with the series, I found that visitors would stand and complain about something instead of moving on. Here, they will react and explore in a reasonable manner.

With the information gleaned about the public’s desires, there are various charts and heat maps to allow the player to make the necessary adjustments. For example, if a particular coaster is making too many people ill, the heat map option can be engaged. From here, it is easy to see where the roughest parts of the rides are and make the proper adjustments. Not only is this a useful feature, but the in game effect is pretty cool looking to boot.

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It can not be stressed enough that with all of these enhancements, this game does feel like old-school RollerCoaster Tycoon. This title maintains the same charm, style and humor of the originals while adding changes to improve ease of use. Atari could have just created a new series entry and done fine with it. Instead, they have decided to revitalize the brand and hopefully the genre as a whole. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some extended playtime later this year.