The range of tweakable elements over which you have control is impressive, and although there are many sliders and settings you may never need to touch, it's just nice to know that you can if you want to.
Occasionally complementing the 'expand and prosper' objectives is a requirement that you pander to the individual predilections of a range of VIPeeps who visit your park. This creates an uncharacteristically painful difficulty spike at Tycoon level in the infamous La-La Land, a scenario that tests you like no other. VIPeeps Joe Sluggerball and Clint Bushton want to respectively visit adventure and sci-fi themed areas in your park, and boy are they particular. RCT3 forums are filled with postings asking how to complete this scenario. The answer: virtually recreate the set of Pirates of the Caribbean for Joe; nothing short of Mars itself will satisfy Clint. Danny Boyle had an easier time of it putting together the Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Running a profitable park is not merely a case of slamming down a few rides and food stalls, bunking-up prices and clicking on fast forward – although it's fair to say that the problems thrown at you are seldom catastrophic. The algorithms driving the AI are beyond my comprehension, but the way RCT3 alerts you to issues you might want to address – either directly through its message console or more subtly through peep behaviour – is remarkable. If a ride is too expensive, they'll avoid it. If there's too little 'excitement' in your park, they'll leave. If your employees remain untrained, they'll let you know that they're disgruntled and quit. Just as impressive is the way in which these behaviours collectively feed into data and graphs you can analyse in the Park Management module. There was more useful, characterful feedback here, almost a decade ago, than there is in 2013's SimCity.
The superb Sandbox mode gives you a blank canvas and cheque with which to create a park based on your impulses or a more orderly vision. The terrain-shaping tools, the manifold scenery options and the arboreal variety in the browser dropdowns give you scope to be adventurous with your layouts and channel your inner Capability Brown, while the versatile Coaster Designer and multifarious readymade rides grant you free-ranging licence to amuse. You're John Wardley with a mouse.
Rather than leave you with your nose pressed up against the toyshop window, RCT3 gives you the key and lets you loose. For a few hours, you're empowered: free to vacillate for as long as it takes to decide what colour overalls you'd like your janitors to wear, or what type of trees to use to screen off your toilets. And besides, what's not to like about a game in which regurgitated hot dogs and fizzy pop can be the difference between remaining a mere entrepreneur and becoming a bona fide tycoon?
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is available for $19.99 on GOG (opens in new tab) .