RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked!
Theme Parks are one of man's greatest inventions. Where else can you go to be scared shitless, made to feel sick, eat crap food, queue for hours and watch fat people trying to squeeze safety harnesses around their guts? OK, perhaps that doesn't quite capture the best points of the world's finest amusement parks, but there's something about those vast, self-contained fantasy lands that keeps us shelling out year after year.
However, the major attraction of most rollercoaster rides is that feeling you get in the base of your balls as you go into freefall - something which no game we've ever played has yet been able to recreate. So it's surprising that theme park management sims are as successful as they are.
Bullfrog's Theme Park was the first truly successful departure from the SimCity school of management. The RollerCoaster Tycoon series has long since picked up the ball, offering a far more comprehensive approach to the finer points of designing and running your own world of fun, and the latest instalment managed to bring the franchise up to date fairly competently. Soaked! is the first in what will presumably be a series of expansion packs for last year's RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and offers plenty for fans of the original to enjoy. Integrating seamlessly into RollerCoaster Tycoon 3's interface, Soaked!'s main selling point is the ability to build water complexes and rides.
The pools have to be built in their own area and accessed through changing rooms, where you can sting your park visitors, or peeps' as they're known, for an entry fee. Laying the pools down is a simple drag-and-drop affair, although this becomes more complicated if you choose to build multi-layered pools complete with adjoining stairways. You can even interact with your swimming peeps by swirling the mouse pointer around the pool to make a whirlpool. The option to design your own water slide is also present, the interface for which is similar to that used for rollercoaster design - in other words, highly customisable but bloody fiddly. Thankfully, there are a few pre-designed flumes on hand if you really can't be bothered to make your own.
The water theme doesn't end there though, as a new range of rides and attractions that can be built away from the pool complexes are also included. If there's a suitably sized body of water lying around unused, you can plonk a whale or dolphin show in it and pay them in fish. You can also set up jet-ski attractions, or slower boat trips for the lightweights.
The best new coaster on offer is the soaker coaster, which comes with water jets for the peeps to fire at the unwitting crowds below them. You can also install water jets at the sides of the paths. If you take over one of these with the coaster-cam, you can actually spray your visiting peeps with the high powered jets, sending them physically flying off the footpaths, and probably cleaning the stench of BO from the less hygienic visitors who perhaps have also eaten one too many portions of curly cheesy fries. Curly cheesy fries... Hmmm...
Mix It Up
The fireworks control panel has also been given an overhaul, known as the MixMaster tool, and as well as setting up firework displays using the video editingstyle timeline, you can now also include water fountain and laser displays as part of your event. Pie sheer amount of tweaking you can do to these shows is boggling - the lasers alone can have everything from their power to their angle adjusted, and you can even get them to display your pathetic efforts at drawing on the sides of nearby buildings.
Do It Yourself
This complexity epitomises the game quite nicely - underneath the sharp and shiny graphics, there's an absolute wealth of options. Practically everything can be customised, but this is RollerCoaster Tycoon's weakness as much as its strength. Sometimes, you just want to sit back with the sandbox mode and knock up a park without a load of hassle like you did in Theme Park. The trouble is that you can't really do this here, as everything takes so much effort. It would have been nice to have been given the option to have the Al deal with the more finicky details, rather than having to micro-manage every employee and every single aspect of every ride.
Of course, there are some people in the world who absolutely love to have this kind of complete control, and if that's you, then you'll be rejoicing at the prospect of sitting through another multi-part tutorial and the new ability (returning from the first two instalments of the series) to build tunnels for your paths and coasters to run through. To be fair, this is the crowd that Soaked! is aimed at. In that respect, it does an excellent job of expanding RCT3 - not only are there the nine new scenarios, but you can also use many of the new features in the existing scenarios, which is a nice touch. Whether it's worth the same money as a day out in a real theme park depends entirely on how much you enjoyed the original game. And whether you've got any friends...
Mixin' It To The Max With The Mixmaster
As well as being able to create spectacular displays with fireworks, fountains and lasers that would rival Disney's efforts, the MixMaster can also be used to choreograph the dolphin and whale shows. Although the interface looks complicated, and in fact takes up several of the new tutorial sections in addition to those dedicated to the tool in the original, it's surprisingly easy to get to grips with. Using the menu of available tricks for your water-based mammals to perform, you simply drop them into a timeline like a video editing tool. Like a cheap hooker, the slippery beasts will then do exactly as they're told for a reasonable rate while smelling vaguely of fish.
If you're really dedicated (or anal enough), you can add in fireworks, fountains and lasers and fire them off in perfect timing with the creatures' crowd-pleasing tomfoolery. Then you can ramp up the ticket prices and watch the readies pour in...
Download RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked!
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP