Reinstall: RollerCoaster Tycoon 3

Reinstall invites you to join us in revisiting classics of PC gaming days gone by. This week, Jon constructs some fine vomit comets and manages the mess in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.

Article by Jon Morcom

I am one very contented hour into Box Office, the fourth career-based scenario in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and my park rating is falling. I can see no immediate reason why until I zoom into a corner I've been neglecting for a while and see that it's slick with vomit.

The Rotor I've placed there is obviously a bit too exciting for the 'peeps', as the game calls its park patrons, and many have lost their lunch. I locate and pick up one of my janitors, then drop him nearby where he dutifully starts to mop up, sending my park rating off in the right direction again. It's this simple type of tinkering and troubleshooting that makes a construction and management sim like RCT3 such a satisfying alternative to games that are twitch-based or time-critical. So the peeps have had to wade through some puke for a little while; no biggie.

With its colourful amusements and gentle management demands, RCT3 grabbed me from the start. Like its predecessors, it available says it combines micro-management with some basic economic modelling ticking over behind a front-end bustling with delightful mechanical and character animations. It's a game that could warm the stoniest of hearts and is to me what Werther's Originals are to the elderly – something that provides a disproportionate amount of comfort and pleasure... that can fit in my mouth and comes packaged in a small tube. Sort of.

Including its brace of expansions – Soaked! and Wild! – RCT3 provides 39 scenarios and a deeply immersive sandbox mode that's like the best Meccano set you never had. The core game's campaign begins with the tastily-named Vanilla Hills, and ends 18 scenarios later on Paradise Island. In between you're provided with a contrasting range of environments in which to complete objectives that escalate from Apprentice level up to Entrepreneur and finally, Tycoon. The goals you're set mainly require you to increase the value of your park and hit monthly targets for attendances, park ratings and ride-generated income.

To suggest that you're ever under pressure may be pushing it a bit in a game this sedate, but things do get challenging when the terrain of a park is uneven and space at a premium, or when severe financial constraints force you into difficult decisions.

The Soaked! scenarios are incredibly easy: build a pool here, add a water slide there. The Wild! objectives are far more taxing though, requiring animal husbandry and shameless exploitation of fauna to generate income streams. This is where a ruthless streak is useful, as there is an optimum point at which baby animals attract their best sale price, so if you're desperate for cash, you'll need to have no qualms about separating Dumbo from his mum.

The slow, methodical approach to expansion that RCT3 encourages appeals to a sense of orderliness in me that borders on OCD. The joy lies not just in creating an attractive and fully operational park but in digging around in the menus and deciding how to tackle the emergent problems that arise.


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