MicroProse's RollerCoaster Tycoon is a combination of two somewhat popular PC games: Coaster, an older game from Disney in which you design roller coasters, and Bullfrog's Theme Park, about the trials and tribulations of running an amusement park. Now, Chris Sawyer, the developer behind the very addictive and somewhat zany Transport Tycoon, has developed a brand-new amusement park simulation, with an emphasis on creating funky new roller coasters. Since Theme Park is pretty much the only real competition, RollerCoaster Tycoon has the potential to capture a pretty good niche market - and for the most part, it succeeds.
The premise is pretty simple: You must run a successful amusement park. RollerCoaster Tycoon offers a selection of 21 different scenarios, as well as a tutorial, for building your empire. In actuality, only five of the 21 scenarios are available at start-up - as you complete a portion of the initial scenarios more will become open to you. The scenarios typically involve either open or prebuilt amusement parks, challenging you to accomplish an objective, like achieving a certain attendance or profit goal.
Like many games of its ilk - Sim City 3000, Transport Tycoon, even Theme Park - RollerCoaster Tycoon uses an isometric angle to view the overall map. The map has multiple zoom levels and can be rotated 90 degrees in either direction. A grid is superimposed on the terrain to provide a structured area to determine definite sizes of buildings, sidewalks, lakes, and so on. Manipulating the terrain and building or destroying structures costs money; these costs, along with other amusement park-related costs, are balanced against the revenues brought in by customers.
You have the option of building a number of different structures to please your customers: thrill rides, roller coasters, mild rides, water rides, food vendors, souvenir stands, and even bathrooms. The big rides are the most interesting, and of course, most players will probably go straight for the roller coaster. Laying out the rides and concourses requires some skillful planning - you must place not only the rides, but the queuing area and entry gates as well. Lines for rides that spill out onto the concourse are not good for the moving traffic, and vomit-inducing rides (should you choose to keep them) might need a few strategic stalls nearby. At the outset, you only have access to the basic rides and vendors, but money and time put into research will earn you new types of amusements and technologies.