A colleague asked me an interesting question recently that led me to think more critically about some of my most cherished gaming memories. With this in mind, I decided to write about what I consider to be some of the worst elements of some of my favourite games.
To start off, I’m revisiting my teenage memories of creating thrilling rides and entertaining guests in my own amusement parks in Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (RCT2). I still consider this a fantastic game that offers timeless enjoyment as well as a style and experience that I can happily return to again and again. However, the warm embrace of nostalgia does not excuse some flaws and shortfalls of this eagerly awaited sequel.
From the outset RCT2 had some impressive boots to fill. Chris Sawyer’s first Rollercoaster Tycoon released in 1999 and the two following expansion packs set the standard for amusement park ownership simulation. When this sequel was finally released 3 years later fans of the game expected fixes for many of the problems of the first game. Sadly, RCT2 did not deliver much in the way of innovation, with the core game play and visuals unchanged save for a small amount of improvements and similarly functional additions. This is an evident statement when looking down the rest of this list as the following criticisms could be said for the first RCT as well.
A feature so commonly associated with business and simulation games that was sorely missing from RCT2. Sure, you can pause time but you are denied the ability to construct a new scream machine whilst doing so. I can excuse this for the most part as it would personally feel like cheating. What I can’t excuse is the lack of ability to speed up time when I’ve completed my objectives by the end of Year 1 and I now have to wait 2 game years to complete the scenario.
The existing scenarios in RCT2 often presented some interesting and unique locations to try to create a successful park, but there was always an underlying set objective to the situation that influenced your decision making. The inclusion of a Sandbox mode would have allowed players to freely explore the wealth of options and creative possibilities available. Thankfully a Scenario Editor was introduced which could be used to create a form of sandbox mode, although the amount of available rides and options was unfortunately limited.
Despite the addition of a lot of new scenery and theme objects, the methods for placing and manipulating them remained largely unchanged. When creating complex custom structures or editing terrain it was easy to accidently affect the wrong object or location leading to floating items or holes in the landscape. Most of these problems were caused by the limited isometric view imposed on the player. Camera issues aside, creating believable and impressive structures and themed areas was often a laborious process that required a bit of patience and a lot of skill.
At the heart of RCT2 lies the ability to create your own rollercoaster masterpieces. Some players reportedly struggled with the construction interface which could be unintuitive with some coaster designs but I believe the menu conveyed a host of complex options in an adequate format. My problem during construction was struggling to create a coaster that would fail to maintain speed to complete the big set piece loop I had installed, or worse, would send riders through corkscrews at death inducing speeds. I always wanted a way to test my designs whilst constructing in order to get a sense of speed and avoid catastrophe when forced to test only when the entire coaster was complete. RCT3 would later introduce this feature but until then I had to rely on careful experimentation and experience to try and guess the successfulness of my creations, making this core component a risky venture during scenario play.
Despite these issues, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 still holds a special place in my gaming memories. Every time I visit an amusement park the sights and sounds spark a desire to replay this game and create my own attractions and rides as soon as I get back home. This series has offered a brilliant simulation platform that provides a great deal of control and creative freedom to construct the park of your dreams. It may require some patience as well as trial and error, but aren’t those principles at the core of all business simulations?
I plan to write some alternative articles looking at the best elements of some otherwise disappointing games so please check back for those in the near future. Coming soon….Best of: Trespasser.