RollerCoaster Tycoon 2
In recent years, so-called 'tycoon' games have become something of a byword for mediocrity, with the genre extrapolated to cover the most unlikely of subject matters. We've been bombarded with the likes of Zoo Tycoon, Moon Tycoon, Hotel Giant, Beach Life, not to mention the little-known classic, Chip Shop Manager. Derivative nonsense in the main, but one title stands out from the dross, namely the original RollerCoaster Tycoon. Despite being little more than a thinly-veiled homage to Theme Park - arguably the game that started it all - Chris Sawyer’s quirky big dipper ’em up proved a worldwide hit with five million copies being sold.
Following a couple of largely unnecessary add-ons, this is - as all but the most simple-minded will have already guessed - the full-blown sequel. That said, without the addition of the number two in the title, even non-simpletons would struggle to tell the difference.
The Game Remains, The Same
Perversely, Infogrames appears to have inadvertently acknowleged this fact in its promotional material, courtesy of one of the most blatant examples of misquoting we’ve ever seen. A short news story announced the pending game thus: "The original RollerCoaster Tycoon may be partly responsible for the flood of tycoon games that currently afflicts the PC market, but it was nonetheless a brilliant game." Through the magic of the Infogrames marketing department, this was quoted -in reference to RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. Hilarious. You almost have to admire their chutzpah (as well as their 30 grand salaries and company cars).
Nevertheless, RollerCoaster Tycoon certainly was a largely brilliant game. Back in April 1999, erstwhile gimp Charlie Brooker (whatever happened to him?) described it as "ludicrously moreish," despite berating the graphics for being "a bit on the Amiga side. Well, both of those descriptions apply today, because it’s the same sodding game! The same graphics, the same interface, the same rides. Barring a couple of new features and coasters, it’s identical, and at best can be described as a glorified expansion pack.
Thief Of Time
But hey, perhaps you weren’t playing PC games three and a half years ago, and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 allows you to experience that classic gameplay in the modern era. And it’s as disgustingly addictive as ever. Whether starting from scratch, or attempting to manage one of the pre-built parks, it sucks you in and eats up the hours of your life like some giant voracious carnivore.
It really is quite appalling. In the time it can take to get a viable theme park up and running, you could have flown to the US, watched four major motion pictures, or even simply had a good night’s sleep. Instead, all you’ve really done is facilitate the notional entertainment of a couple of thousand pretend funseekers, made a few pretend quid and cleaned their pretend sick off the pretend sidewalk. What’s the point? It’s not as if there's even any tangible reward for completing the scenarios, all of which are available from the outset (along with the option to design your own). Once you've achieved the requisite goals, you’re simply presented with an anti-climactic message of congratulations. You then have the option to carry on regardless, or switch the sodding thing off and get on with your life.
At least with other chronically addictive games such as Championship Manager, for instance, there’s something to show for your efforts when you return to the game, be it playing in a higher division or reaping the benefits of securing the services of a mercurial striker. All you’ve got in RollerCoaster Tycoon (2) is a great big expanse of people eating, drinking, pissing and having fun.
Ice Cream Van
That fun can be administered in many ways, the most effective being the application of unnatural G-forces. Rollercoasters can either be placed in situ ready-made, or painstakingly constructed yourself. The latter option is the more ambitious, but shouldn’t be entered into without a degree of Zen-like patience, as in the frustration stakes it’s like attempting to plait snot.
And compared to the ready-made designs, the coasters you make yourself usually look like something a bunch of drunk scaffolders put together for a laugh. Nevertheless, actually managing to create a working coaster is mildly satisfying, particularly when punters start queueing in their droves to hand over their hard-earned cash in order to ride it.
Squeezing money out of the patrons is by and large the key to success, and it’s amazing how ruthless a taste of big business can make you. Much as I loathe the practice in real life, within the game I have no hesitation in charging guests for what many consider the basic human right of taking a piss. No more than 20 pence mind, I’m not an animal.
Furthermore, at the merest hint of rain I’ll happily whack a pound on the price of umbrellas, and come summertime you won’t find an ice cream for less than two quid. What else are they going to do? Shop around? Yep, the captive audience are at your whim, and providing you can keep them captive, they will begrudgingly hand over the readies. It’s not all about money though, and it’s possible to take pride in your work. It is with particular affection that I recall the day my first monorail opened, transporting guests from one end of the park to the other in an efficient yet leisurely manner. In conjunction with a decent marketing campaign, it proved a roaring success, offering a reasonably priced opportunity to simultaneously see the sights and save your legs.
RollerCoaster Tycoon (2) is a heady mix of flamboyance and practicality, with the big rides augmented by more mundane issue such as paths and litter. The interface can be overtly fiddly though. For instance, raising and lowering land has to be done a (small) square at a time, which is not only incredibly tedious, but irreversible too. There’s also an option to build coasters underground, but this is so fiddly it’s best avoided. And only being able to rotate the scenery 90 degrees at a time, again causes inevitable problems.
Ultimately though, there is enough here for several late nights, and I myself have been party to a couple of 6am finishes. How long the grip lasts is debatable though, and after a couple of lengthy sessions you do begin to get the impression that you’ve seen it all before. And not just three and a half years ago.
Download RollerCoaster Tycoon 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP