At its heart, Ultimate Ride is a roller coaster design tool that lets you create and experience three different types of coasters--wooden, steel, and hanging. In addition to a straight free-building mode that lets you build any kind of coaster without restrictions, the game features what it calls the "imagineering mode," which is a series of puzzle-solving scenarios where you must build or modify coasters to meet certain requirements. Once you've completed a scenario, a new puzzle is unlocked, and the game may award prizes when the completed coaster goes above and beyond the minimum requirements.
Ultimate Ride lets you build your very own roller coaster...
Ultimate Ride is visually pleasing, if only for the somewhat simple pleasure of experiencing a roller coaster from a first- or third-person 3D perspective. Technically, the game's graphics have some rough spots and omissions--if you're a stickler for realism, the lack of couplers between cars and the somewhat blocky and oversimplified 3D objects can be disappointing. Similarly, it would have been nice to see passengers in the cars. The graphics are functional, though, and the multiple camera views and mostly smooth ride animations do a good job of conveying the feeling of being on a coaster, occasionally to the point of bringing your stomach along for the ride--so if you're squeamish, be wary.
The game's sound effects are decent, but the music quickly gets repetitive, even with the multiple choices and styles provided. Luckily, the music can be turned off, and riding the coasters without the music feels far more realistic and gives a greater emphasis to the effects of the coaster itself, such as the clinking sound as cars are being dragged uphill by the chain, or the whooshing sound as cars accelerate around a curve.
Most of the puzzles in the imagineering mode do a good job of giving you a framework with which to build a coaster without restricting your freedom to be creative. Typical requirements include building a coaster that goes through a series of colored rings; maintaining a minimum average speed or duration; or completing a specified series of coaster elements. In addition to fulfilling the scenario's featured requirements, you must also ensure that coasters maintain enough momentum to complete the round trip, and you must also often adhere to safety guidelines that put a limit on the vertical and lateral G-forces experienced by the passengers.
The majority of puzzles begin with a partially completed coaster, and you must add and modify track parts using a fairly straightforward interface. Track parts, such as straight sections, curved sections, loops, and corkscrews, are added to the end of the existing track, and once in place they can be lengthened, shortened, banked right or left, and raised or lowered. If you need to edit a previous section of the track, you can either click on it directly using the mouse, or jump back and forth between parts using the keyboard commands. Eventually, you must bring the track full circle to join up where it started. While the game is somewhat intuitive and its electronic manual gives a good description of all the commands, an in-game tutorial would have made the learning process smoother for those who aren't used to designing and building 3D objects.